Keeping Up with the Coronavirus: Can Influencers Fix What They Ruined?

Keeping Up with the Coronavirus: Can Influencers Fix What They Ruined?

The decade of selfie sticks, foodstagrams and travel influencers is over. Gazing into an uncertain future, in which “facemask” no longer equates to “skincare routine”, we explore the changing role of influencers, the future of virtue signalling and say: bring back the fedoras already.

Disclaimer: #NotAllInfluencers. While we at SUITCASE have been
honoured to work with some of the best influencers in the business
– sparky young creatives who use their platforms to call out
injustices and confront awkward conversations – the teenies
signalled a tidal change in our travel habits, for the worse.

It was the decade of selfie sticks and foodstagram. Everyone
wanted to be a travel influencer – consciously or not, myself
included. Trips became fodder for my own insatiable narcissism,
pointless if not bookended by much-liked before and after Instagram
posts (and a trickle of updates in between).

Trips became pointless if not bookended by much-liked before and after Instagram posts (and a trickle of updates in between)

Yet double-tappable content comes at a price. Financially, yes.
Ecologically, too. New Year’s Day was a real baptism of fire this
year, as flames ravaged Australia’s forestry. I’m not
naive to the role I played in this destruction. As I raced against
the Instagram scroll to fill my grid with irresistibly snackable
snapshots from all four corners of the globe, I smothered difficult
questions about global warming and carbon offsetting with my
pug-print travel pillow. Of course, keeping up with the Kardashians
takes its toll mentally, too.

Forgive me for making the understatement of the year, but change
is afoot. If the coronavirus has done anything so far, it has
brought the perils of selfishness closer to home.

It’s easy to assuage the guilt of buying a plastic carrier bag
when you’re 12,000ft above the seabed or to flippantly overlook the
cardboard recycling bin when you’re too far from a rainforest to
hear a tree fall. Sorry, Greta. But when sourdough pizza with pals
equates to neighbours on ventilators, it’s remarkable how quickly
you relegate your own selfish urges.

Earlier this year, bushfires ravaged

To survive in this new world – one in which “face mask” no
longer means “skincare routine” but “daily survival mechanism” –
travel influencers, as we know them, will have to undergo their own
metamorphosis. I’m loath to reel off that galling aphorism “it’s
not about the destination, it’s about the journey”, but I just did,
so there.

My prediction? By 2021, Instagram will be about the people, not
the journey. It will be less about pursuing our own agendas and
more about weaving ourselves into the weft of a global network so
that if (hypothetically) some kind of Black Mirror-esque murderous
virus were to (speculatively) percolate through every crevice of
our communities, we might have the collective knowledge stop it in
its tracks.

Prepare for a new wave of disgustingly ethical virtue signals:
#ConnectAndProtect #Togethergram #Ecogasm. I’m feeling nauseous
already. Please, bring back the fedoras.

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hands up. Who’s had enough? The coquettish downward
glances. The hotel breakfasts dangerously splayed on white
Egyptian-cotton bed linen. And quite possibly the most offensive of
all: the wide-brimmed fedoras.

Last Thursday, as I twiddled my flaky, quarantine-dry thumbs for
the 349th time that morning, an influencer of average-level fame
accumulated thousands of likes and the related royalties for
prostrating herself on the stairs of a five-star London
hotel. It was a #throwback, of course, but it just didn’t land
quite right.

As the
continues to spread, it has been fascinating to
watch capitalism bend to its dictates. Restaurant chain Leon is
pivoting from being a lunchtime pit-stop to a series of pop-up
mini-marts, peppy celebrity gym instructors have muscled their way
into our homes via our laptops (worse things have happened) and
high-street breweries such as BrewDog are serving people what they
really want:
hand sanitiser
. For a certain type of influencer, rebuilding
the wheel is less straight-forward.