Influencer quits social media because of backlash

An influencer in Australia, Jessica Sanders, has deleted her Instagram account. She received criticism after wearing a USA flag bikini on Australia Day.

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Abi Ortega
June 7, 2021 9:59 pm

Another casualty of social media. Jessica Sanders isn’t the first and she certainly won’t be the last.

Anyone who is widely followed on the internet will have moments when they think about quitting the platform they are on. On the face of it, everything looks great. You post fun photos and videos. You earn more money than you could ever have imagined. Opportunities land at your feet from all sides. And this all happens in such a short space of time. So why think about quitting?

Online trolls and hate comments. Just like Jessica Sanders did, you can delete and ban these trolls. But when you have such a large following, perhaps in the millions, then it is harder to control.

Some personalities have used the online hate to their advantage. Jake Paul is someone who immediately comes to mind. A YouTuber who started his channel in 2014, Jake Paul has dabbled in acting, rapping and of course, vlogging. He has over 20 million subscribers on YouTube. Every video he uploads is met with negative and hateful comments. Recently he has used the hate to get into boxing, having fought former basketball player Nate Robinson and former MMA fighter Ben Askren. Jake Paul knows that a large chunk of his audience watch his fights because they want to see him get knocked out. But so far he has beaten the odds and won all his boxing matches. Although he gets a lot of hate, he thrives on it and uses it to secure more opportunities.

For some internet personalities with large followings, online trolls can become hard to ignore. Charli D’Amelio is the most followed user on TikTok. She has a massive 117 million followers. Miles ahead of the second most followed user, Addison Rae who has 80 million followers. Although Charli’s rise has been meteoric, she almost decided to quit TikTok because of the negative comments she gets about her appearance. Let’s not forget that she’s still a teenager. As adults we can navigate comments like these and see them for what they are; trolling. And even then, it is tough going for an adult. But Charli is still a kid. Fortunately she has a strong support group who can let her see it from a different perspective. She has kept going and is learning to live with it as an inevitable part of internet fame.

Not all influencers have the support they need to manage moments when things turn sour. Perhaps this was the situation with Jessica Sanders, who felt the only option was to deactivate her account when the heat got too much.

Jason Ng
June 8, 2021 11:44 am

I can sympathize with Jessica Sanders. Her intention was clearly not to offend. When we were in lockdown because of the pandemic I tried my hand at some YouTube content creation. I have written about how stressful it became for me from the production side, but there was added concern from the audience side.

I made some videos talking about cultures in other countries. My videos weren’t political or pushing for a particular agenda. They were more about traveling and experiences of tourists in those countries. Some of the comments I received were so ignorant without any understanding or respect of other cultures. What angered me was the one-line responses that attempted to insult or make fun of the cultures I was talking about. How can you listen to a video for 5 minutes and then respond with an irrelevant, disrespectful comment that takes 5 seconds to post?

I could have ignored the comments. I responded to some and deleted others. One thing I’ll say is that if you are putting content out there, whether on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok, you should be prepared for challenging comments. I got some comments that I thought were from trolls, but instead of responding in the same manner that they commented, I decided to challenge back respectfully. Some actually responded politely and became more accepting of my points.

So what I can draw from my experience is that Jessica Sanders would definitely have got some insulting troll comments. But she also would have received legitimate comments challenging her. Instead of just deleting the comments and banning users, it would have been a useful exercise for her to engage with these users in a calm and polite manner. Their responses may have surprised her.

On one side I see Jessica’s post as innocent. But then again another side of me thinks that she did deserve to be challenged, not hated, on her post. Australia Day is controversial because it is associated with colonization. Some Australians say a more appropriate name for it is ‘Invasion Day’, the start of what would lead to atrocities against the indigenous aboriginal population. If Jessica wanted to create a celebratory post about it, she should also have been aware of what the day stood for.

Alex Bakalov
June 7, 2021 12:49 pm

You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

This quote from the Dark Knight accurately describes the experience of a social media influencer. One day you have thousands of followers liking your posts and commenting positively, and the next day everyone is against you.

The action that turns everyone against you can be a small mistake or misunderstanding. The blowback, however, can be intense. In the case of Jessica Sanders she wore an American bikini for an Australia Day post. An innocent error or maybe not even an error at all.

Sometimes I feel that the hate comes not from the ‘error’ itself but from the opportunity to put down someone who appears successful on social media. Jessica posted an IG story saying she “had a good blocking sesh” and called out the behavior: “Because I am wearing an American bikini this gives people the right to say negative things about me and claim I am stupid.

I am by no means a fan of influencers – I don’t follow any Instagram influencers myself – but the balance is highly skewed between a poster and a commenter. An Instagram post for an influencer could take hours to produce. Getting the right outfit, location, lighting, angles, photography settings. These all take time. But if you overlook a detail, your post becomes offensive. And in response, the hate comments only take seconds to write.

It looks like the hate has died down. Jessica has explained herself and her account has been reactivated.

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Paulina Klaman
June 8, 2021 2:43 pm

This situation exemplifies the facade of social media. All looks great on the outside, hiding the fact that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to portray this image. I just went on Jessica Sanders’ Instagram account. It hasn’t been deleted. Or if it was deleted earlier, it has been reactivated. There is little sign of the backlash. Almost all of the attacking comments have been deleted. It is almost as if the backlash never happened.

This is social media through and through. The content that influencers push out is heavily processed. So are the comment sections. Instagram took action on 5.5 million pieces of content that violated its Bullying and Harassment Policy in Q1 2021, up from 5 million pieces of content in Q4 2020. Somewhat revealingly, 78.6% of bullying and harassment content was found and flagged by Instagram’s systems before they were reported by users. Maybe an indication of how much trolling there is?

For me this reveals how highly altered the comment sections of influencer accounts really are. , you mentioned Charli D’Amelio wanting to quit TikTok because of hate comments. When I go onto her TikTok page, I don’t really see anything too bad. Now I realise that’s because either her or her team are deleting those comments or they’re reported for violating community guidelines.

This is the hidden side of social media. Knowing this brings greater understanding of why many influencers burn out. Having to continually produce new content while also managing your emotional wellbeing in the face of numerous troll comments is not easy. Once again we see that there is reality, and then there is social media.

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