Scroll through social media, and you’ll see influencers throwing products at you left and right.
There’s TikTok’s newest “It Girl” Alix Earle posting her “Get Ready With Me” videos. And major beauty brands sponsoring influencer trips, including Tarte’s recent #TrippingwithTarte excursion to Dubai.
GWI, an audience targeting company for the global marketing industry, reports that the number of consumers searching for products on social media has risen 43% since 2015. So, no matter where you look, there are people constantly telling you what to buy, what to wear and who to follow.
But the tables are turning — or at least they seem to be. Enter: the era of “de-influencing.”
The hashtag #deinfluencing has racked up more than 76 million views on TikTok, sparking a bigger conversation about overconsumption. In the videos, creators are telling the truth about everything TikTok made them buy —and more often than not, urging people to think long and hard before they fall victim to the hype.
“I am here for de-influencing. This is my favorite trend of all time,” one TikTok user says. “I can’t believe we as a collective are finally admitting that overconsumption is getting out of control.”
Content creator Josie Bullard tells TODAY.com that while this trend is scary for people like her in the industry, it also shows how social media will always be a space for anyone to share their experiences and stories.
“I feel like a lot of people, especially Gen Z, they’re a generation that wants to rebel against this like perfectly curated world that has been social media for the past decade,” Bullard says. “And so, I just think this is kind of their way of expressing that and also trying to fit into this like ever-changing world of social media.”
In her eyes, the de-influencer trend is rewriting what it means to be an influencer, paving a new path for how we view social media and offering an antidote to throw-away culture.
What exactly is de-influencing?
De-influencing is exactly what it sounds like: Content creators encourage people not to buy or use something.
Kahlea Nicole Wade, a brand collaboration coach and content creator, tells TODAY.com this trend is multi-faceted. There are people telling others not to purchase something just because it’s trending, while exposing creators’ lack of credibility.
This matters because historically influencers have, well, influenced many people to shell out their hard-earned cash for makeup, hair products, home decor and more. But it varies from generation to generation: 44% of Gen Z makes purchases based on recommendations from influencers, while only 26% of the general population have bought something an influencer’s suggested, according to Marketing Dive.
In turn, Wade says the de-influencer movement is helping people — Gen Zer’s, especially — reclaim their power.
“It’s having people question who to actually trust,” Wade tells TODAY.com. “So, I think a lot of creators in the short-term are really trying to boost their online credibility by saying, ‘Well sure the products that everyone thinks are so great but they’re actually not, you should get this instead.'”
Social media users are reacting to the trend in positive, and also not so positive ways. “It’s not “de-influencing” if you’ve got affiliate links on… cough. tiktok. cough,” one user wrote on Twitter.
Even brands are chiming in. “sooo #deinfluencing … y’all still like me tho right,” the makeup brand Urban Decay wrote.
Why are people hopping on this trend now?
There are a couple reasons why de-influencing is taking off right now.
Recent influencer controversies may be to blame.
An example: TikToker Mikayla Nogueira, who was recently accused of wearing fake eyelashes in a video for a L’Oréal brand deal. While Nogueria has yet to address the controversy, it has caused people to consider if you should actually trust what influencers say — and show.
TikTok user @rawbeautykristi took to the platform to remind people that influencers promote products largely to earn a living.
“Take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt but also for influencers, no amount of money, virality or notoriety is worth risking your credibility,” she wrote in the video’s caption.
“”It’s SO HARD to turn down $$ or say no to brands but we HAVE TO. It’s our one job to have nothing but integrity and honesty. 💯. Yes it’s “just” mascara, but the deterioration between reviewer and viewer is such an unfortunate outcome of deceptive marketing.”
It’s also possible that the average person is starting to see how unrealistic the influencer lifestyle is.
“I feel like for a long time, it’s been all about kind of showcasing this like lavish lifestyle, something perfect, something maybe like a little bit out of reach or unattainable and it’s been very intriguing for people to want to follow along. I just feel like people are starting to crave something a little bit more real, authentic and relatable,” Bullard says.
Not to mention these videos are a direct response to the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt trend.
Chris Beer, a data journalist at GWI, tells TODAY.com that data suggests this new way of thinking may be linked to the current state of the economy. “The economy is in a very different situation. People are now thinking like ‘I don’t actually want to stand out as much when you know friends of mine are being laid off’ or ‘I can’t post this stuff on social media because it might be seen as insensitive,’” Beer says.
Things have changed since the early days of TikTok when many of us were stuck at home, finding comfort in content creators and as a result, buying any — and every — product they hyped up. Now, people seem to be moving away from more aspirational, expensive purchases to items that are cheaper and more functional.
What kinds of things are people de-influencing?
In short, everything and anything.
And some TikTok users are even taking this opportunity to share their honest thoughts on the products that they bought based on an influencer’s recommendation.
TikTok user @basicofcourse says she doesn’t think you need anything that you hadn’t even heard of 30 seconds prior. “A t-shirt isn’t going to change your life,” she says.
Then there’s @valeriafride who says that if she sees something go viral, she’s not against returning items that she doesn’t actually like.
“I have tried so many products. So here are the things I think are worth and deserve the hype and the things that don’t deserve the hype at all,” she says in a TikTok video.
How will de-influencing affect brands?
The influencer market is on the up and up — but it’s unclear how de-influencing will affect it (if at all). It went from a $1.7 billion industry in 2016 to a $14.6 billion industry in 2022.
As a result, 95% of brands have turned to social media influencers to promote their products.
“You know (an influencer) is anyone who’s an opinion leader online. Based on what is in our research in interested in celebrity news, celebrity culture, standing out, we see evidence that interest in whatsoever these influencers are wearing is going down over time,” Beer tells TODAY.com, adding that GWI found that interest in what influencers wear has decreased by 16% since 2020.
Wade says brands are becoming more considerate about who they’re hiring to promote their products.
“I also think they’re going to consider the risk factor. If this is an influencer or a creator who’s known to talk about de-influencing products, are they willing to take the risk to send a product to them and have them review it and talk about it,” Wade adds.
What does this mean for the future of influencers?
Nobody knows for sure, but Wade says we’ll likely see more influencers turning down brand deals that don’t align with their interests.
Amid the uncertainty of the industry, content creator Tayla Santos is tapping into other creative outlets, “whether that be working with brands in person, as opposed to social media, going in and doing shoots with the brand, as opposed to shooting myself.”
“Because I do feel like there’s going to be a shift. I just don’t know which way it’s going to shift yet,” she tells TODAY.com.
When Santos found out about the de-influencer trend, she started having conversations about how the industry is oversaturated with the same type of influencer and goods. This led her to film and post a TikTok on the subject.
In her video, she breaks influencers into two groups: those who genuinely influence people and those who’ve been influenced themselves.
“With people who are influencing because they’ve been influenced, it’s just continuing the cycle. We saw this person wear the mini Uggs. So, then person B goes and buys mini Uggs and wears it on their TikTok. Now person C goes and it’s just a cycle,” she says.
Bullard, like Santos, is preparing for change — one that she hopes brings more diversity and unfiltered moments to our social media feeds.
“I think the people who have been these influencers, who have been very aspirational to people like in the past, I think their survival will kind of depend on their ability to adapt,” she says.
“Can you show us another side of your life? Can you show us a deeper look into who you are in your passions and what you love instead of just trying to like to sell and shove products down people’s throats?”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:
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