Sorry, But The "Deinfluencing Trend" Is Just...Influencing

The best influencers have always talked about things they liked or disliked. That’s literally what influencing is!

An influencer holds up skincare items in TikTok screenshots

This is an excerpt from BuzzFeed News' culture newsletter, Cleanse the Timeline! You can subscribe here.

Hi, and welcome to Like and Subscribe, Stephanie McNeal’s column about the accounts and trends she just can’t stop following on social media.

In a video posted last month, TikToker Alyssa Stephanie made a declaration. Hands clasped in front of her, she proclaimed: “I love the deinfluencing trend!”

“Here are all the things I will deinfluence you from buying,” she said in her video, which now has more than 5.5 million views.

Her recommendations? Skip the $600 Dyson Airwrap; ditch the pricey hair oils and Supergoop sunscreen. They aren’t worth it, she says.

Alyssa is one of the countless influencers who have hopped on the “deinfluencing” trend. “Influencers are doing something very un-influencer-like: Telling followers ‘don't buy this!’” HuffPost proclaimed. “Gen Z and millennials are rejecting consumer culture on TikTok and ‘de-influencing’ to protect their money,” Fortune reported. “Forget influencers. 'Deinfluencing' is now a thing,” CNN said.

But while these influencers are hashtagging their videos #deinfluencing, what they’re actually doing is just…influencing.

Let’s go back to Alyssa’s video. Yes, she tells her followers to skip the $600 Airwrap, but right after that? She tells them to buy a different product instead.

“Save your money, go on Amazon, spend $30. You’re welcome,” she said, showing off the Conair roller set she uses on her hair to get shiny waves. 

This is not a knock on Alyssa; her video is great. But she’s still influencing. There’s nothing “de” about it. 

Influencers are meant to be the “smart friend in your pocket,” who have the best tips and tricks for living your best life. The best influencers have always talked about things they liked or disliked. That’s literally what influencing is!

I can hear the critics now: But influencers all shill the same products because of sponcon, and deinfluencing is fighting back against that. Sure, some influencers do just sell anything for a buck. And many products do become cult favorites on TikTok or Instagram because of heavy promotion by influencers.

But does that mean those popular social media products reach that status because all the influencers involved are being paid to promote them, and don’t actually like them? No, it does not.

Let’s take the Stanley cup, a travel tumbler that many deinfluencing videos use as an example of an overpriced, social media–famous product that you don’t need to buy. The Stanley cup actually became a viral sensation organically. As I reported back in 2021, its popularity stemmed from one of the women behind a recommendation account called the Buy Guide, who plucked this utilitarian, no-name item from obscurity and turned it into a status symbol. The company had to scramble to catch up with demand.

Some influencers love the Stanley cup and some don’t; some think it’s overpriced. Whatever they think, telling their followers their opinion is, again, influencing. In fact, sharing their genuine thoughts is why so many influencers are able to build their careers and maintain them. I follow several influencers who have never steered me wrong: If they recommend something, I buy it. If they say skip, I know to stay away. 

Deinfluencing is a fun trend and TikTok buzzword, but the media’s embrace of the term illustrates some misconceptions about influencers. It doesn’t spell the end of the industry at all — it’s just another version of the same thing. 

Just check out Alyssa’s comments section, which is full of people begging for links to the items she mentions in the #deinfluencing video.

As one commenter wrote: “Now I will buy everything.” ●

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