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It’s Become A Lot Easier For Famous Internet Teens To Transition Out Of Their Good-Kid Image

In this week's newsletter: Why Amazon sponsoring influencers' effort to give back to delivery drivers is troubling, and how internet stars are able to grow out of their family-friendly image with a lot more ease than traditional celebrities.

Posted on December 18, 2020, at 7:00 a.m. ET

This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.

Amazon’s campaign to turn delivery driver thank-you baskets into sponcon totally sucks

The past couple of holiday seasons, a sweet and fun trend has been growing on Instagram. People put out a bowl of snacks for their mail carriers and delivery drivers, as a way to say thank you for their hard work during a busy season.

I posted about this trend and its growth on my Instagram account, and a few people told me this has been a tradition offline for decades, primarily in the South. However, I think it is clear that Instagram and influencers have popularized it. I love it! I think it is a really sweet gesture, and of course, makes a great post.

After I posted about it, I got a message from a follower (thank you!) directing me to a new twist on this trend she had noticed. Influencers are now posting about these baskets as part of a paid campaign...with Amazon.

Amazon partnered with several influencers to turn these gift baskets into #spon (Amazon partners with influencers all the time, if you were wondering). A spokesperson didn't comment when asked how they came up with the campaign.

“If there is anyone who deserves a pat on the back it’s the men & women who make sure our packages are delivered on time. #ad It’s been such a trying year for all of us, so to give a little something back, I partnered with @amazon to put together a fun care package of essential safety items as well as some treats as a small token of thanks for the drivers who are delivering my packages during the busy holiday season,” influencer Kyle Boen wrote in his ad copy.

He told me he felt “great” about participating in the campaign.

“We’ve all faced so many challenges and setbacks this year, and I especially feel like our frontline workers have dealt with so much,” he said, “and to give back something even if it’s just small to say how thankful we all are for their hard work and dedication.”

I’m sorry, but Amazon’s participation in this sucks. Let me be clear, I do not think it is bad that influencers are taking this partnership. (Again, if you didn't hear me...I DON’T blame the influencers!) I think it makes total sense for them. I am sure many of them would do it anyway, and so they are integrating sponsored content into their feed in an organic way, which is what we want them to do. It’s a win-win, and they get to make a delivery driver happy to boot.

My issue is with Amazon, which has a long history of delivery drivers accusing the company of exploitation, “disturbing work conditions,” safety issues leading to injuries, and more.

Delivery drivers are not Amazon employees, but rather contractors who work for small delivery firms the retail giant partners with. A 2019 BuzzFeed News investigation found that the company, through its network of contractors, created a “super-pressurized, chaotic atmosphere” with deadly consequences. In response to the allegations in that story, Amazon told BuzzFeed News “it is proud of our strong safety and labor compliance record across our transportation network of employees and contractors, and we continue to drive improvements that benefit our transportation providers, our customers and the public.”

In September, Amazon cut ties with several of these small delivery companies, meaning about 1,200 delivery workers lost their jobs, according to CNBC.

In light of all of this, this ad campaign seems out of touch by the tech giant at best, and cynical at worst. Amazon delivery drivers are not only facing the normal stresses of their jobs, but are doing so in the middle of a pandemic, a huge amount of packages being sent due to said pandemic, and the effects of dealing with a struggling Postal Service.

So, to thank the drivers, Amazon is...paying other people to put out a basket of Twix bars?

I suppose behind the scenes Amazon could be doing a bunch of things to show its delivery contractors appreciation for their hard work, and this is just the icing on the cake. When I asked Amazon to comment for this article, a spokesperson directed me to blog posts describing how the company has thanked its employees for their work over Black Friday by paying out bonuses, which the spokesperson confirmed included delivery drivers. They also sent a blog post detailing how customers are thanking their drivers, some of whom are cheering customers up with dances.

In PR, perception is everything. And from my vantage point, it seems like Amazon would rather co-opt a fun holiday tradition sparked by actual appreciation and generosity for its own gain than do the heavy lifting itself.

Bah! Humbug!

—Stephanie

It’s become a lot easier for famous internet teens to transition out of their good-kid image

@bethmota

cheers to finally having some self lovinnn 🥰 inspired by the queen @laurdiy ‘s version of this #fyp #bethanymota

♬ wasted potential - chillytunees

Some of the biggest celebrity scandals I recall growing up involved young celebrities ~going bad~.

When Christina Aguilera came out with “Dirrty,” when Selena Gomez took a role in the god-awful Spring Breakers movie, when Miley Cyrus dramatically decided to wear less clothing for a few years — these were all moments documented as scandals as opposed to young women wanting autonomy over their bodies.

Society and the media made it really difficult for young celebs to grow up publicly. They were shamed and ridiculed, and people seemed to want them to maintain an unnatural “good girl” image forever.

The discourse at the time also lacked the total awareness that most child stars had lived a full life where their public image, and their sense of self, had been created for them by adults with a marketing background. So their “gone bad” changes weren’t necessarily authentic expressions of themselves as much as they probably were a rebellion against how controlling the industry had been about how they should dress and behave. That’s why a lot of child stars swung very far the other way.

In any case, this week, a recent TikTok trend made me realize some incremental amount of progress we’ve made for internet stars who are going through similar phases today. YouTuber Lauren Riihimaki, aka @laurdiy, posted a video with a title card that reads, “Watch me grow out of my family friendly YouTuber phase.” She then created a slideshow of images of herself over the years showing changes to how she dresses and poses.

“And that’s on finally feeling like I can act my age,” she captioned the TikTok, which has gone viral with 4.6 million views.

@laurdiy

and that’s on finally feeling like I can act my age ✨

♬ wasted potential - chillytunees

The video inspired Bethany Mota, one of the internet’s first famous personalities who began vlogging when she was a preteen, to make one as well. She posted a similar slideshow of so-called family-friendly images versus recent images.

These struck me for a number of reasons. First, while the photos showed noticeable changes to how Mota and Riihimaki looked over the years, they were also softer and more gradual changes than what I remember seeing from traditional celebrities. The most notable difference between these YouTubers reclaiming their public image and the child stars that we grew up with is that they have had more control over their careers.

Of course, for how successful Mota and Riihimaki have become, there have been teams of adults in their lives who have helped shape and direct all aspects of their public personas. However, what’s key is that Mota and Riihimaki started their careers on their own terms. YouTube was not a proven concept at the time that they began posting and experimenting, so they were able to dress and behave how they would have naturally in the early years. After all, the appeal of influencers over traditional celebrities is their perceived ~authenticity~.

Young influencers, especially young women, face similar pressures of maintaining a PG image because their fanbase is so young. But because they don’t have as many industry hands on them, they probably don’t feel a need to rebel as hard against that good-girl pressure.

I also think we’re entering a new era in which these kinds of changes are seen more as a symptom of being human, as opposed to scandalous.

Here’s to building on that progress, and letting influencers live, and put on and take off as many pieces of clothing as they want.

Until next time,

Tanya

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.