This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News' newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.
There are only two constants in life: death, and people who try to capitalize on a crisis.
They pose on a beach for hurricane safety, they pose shirtless for the California wildfires, and I’m sure if this technology had been available during the Chernobyl disaster, people would have taken power-squat selfies flashing that Fila chunky dad shoe...oh wait.
Now, they are now fighting to save the Amazon rainforest with the almighty power of self-promotion. Influencers and wannabe influencers are raising awareness for a cause greater than themselves...by focusing on themselves.
Take this Instagrammer’s completely unrelated, but also very on-brand, Amazon tribute photo of herself.
In the caption, she wrote: “The Amazon Rainforest has been burning for 3 weeks straight and we’re only finding out about it now. Even #SaveSpidermanFromSony has been reported more by the media than #PrayforAmazonia and it’s absolutely shameful.”
Then there’s this young man’s photo shoot of himself in fun socks and Adidas sneakers that was slid right into the #PrayforAmazonia hashtag. I don’t know about you, but both my hypebeast and tree-hugging sensibilities are tingling.
Here, I think, is the hilarious and sorta inspiring logic behind these posts: The Instagrammers want to stay on brand and they want to join the do-gooder online brigade. They want to give a little to it while giving a little to themselves. They want to conflate their ego and the cause. Efficiency! I can respect it. It’s a tenet of all good, effective advertising.
Is this activism? Is it narcissism? IMO, it’s a very familiar concept just settling into new mediums. Honestly, this is art. It’s activating real human emotions to sell you on an idea that benefits influencers’ engagements, profitability, likability, and, sure, the dying planet. It’s consumerism. It’s Unilever’s Dove campaign, but selling us on, well, themselves.
Judging by the comments, most people don’t take too much of an issue with all this. (If you’re asking me, like Dove’s opportunistic “Real Beauty” ads, it’s smart for business and morally muddled.) But resentment is creeping in. Just like the Instagrammer in orange above, who was confronted with so much pushback that she decided to delete the post.
And now a palate cleanser: Plant-based Instagram accounts
Wow. OK, that was a lot. I want to present this to you as a digestif: popular plant-based accounts! Life! Real nature with not a thirst trap in sight!
These are not huge accounts targeting vegetarians and praising vegetarian diets — there are plenty of those. These are accounts filled with photos of plants, harvests, garden animals, and enviable green-thumbing.
Sure, this is also hyperrealistic and aspirational — even plants need to hit their angle and find their filter on Instagram. But isn’t it so soothing to scroll through?
Until next time — and in all seriousness, reusing, reducing, and recycling does contribute to larger conservation efforts — please like, subscribe, reuse, reduce, and recycle,