The age of the influencer

June 05, 2024 - 18:07
The things they share often come from a place of passion, something far more noble and honest than gatekeeping or taking smug pleasure from being 'in the know'.
The people have spoken: WhereInVietnam run an annual vote to see the best that Vietnam has to offer. — VNS Photo

By Alex Reeves - @afreeves23

They are inevitable. Whether we view them positively, negatively, objectively or subjectively, they are here and they aren't going anywhere. Being a 'YouTuber' is now more common than wanting to become a footballer, a social phenomenon none of us predicted when we were watching grainy jump scares and cat videos that looked like they'd been filmed on a microwave.

Do I want to be told how to live my life by someone who seems so out of touch with reality that I doubt they know how to operate a screwdriver? No. Is seeing people’s entire personality become a walking talking advert a little disconcerting? Yes. Do we like to whine about people with the confidence to follow their dreams? Guilty. Armed with a pinch of narcissism and a selfie stick, you too could be getting laughed at by normal tourists, if you're brave enough.

That being said, I think influencers, in general, get a really bad rap. The audacity of writing opinion pieces and critiquing influencers is far from wasted on me. It's a broad concept, they are social figureheads, entertainers, guides, dare I say, even journalists in their own way. The things they share often come from a place of passion, something far more noble and honest than gatekeeping or taking smug pleasure from being 'in the know'.

They are also a very big part of the expat/migrant (choose your pronoun) experience, advising us, connecting us and showcasing the best, and worst of life out here. My first experience of this when moving to Vietnam was Hanoi's Weatherdude on Facebook. He interprets meteorological forecasts and data before delivering them to us in humorous and candid posts to keep us and our weekend plans dry, it's a public service of sorts and one that’s appreciated.

Klair Simpson runs ‘glutenfreehanoi’ on Instagram, again here we have someone who has a passion or in this case found a struggle and rather than let others suffer has decided to do something about it, making the transition to a culture that's not particularly allergy conscious a lot smoother and tastier. She recently won the award for influencer of the year in ‘Where in Hanoi's’ annual 'People's Pick Awards' guide, for the service she offers her followers.

'Where in Vietnam' is an Instagram concept with two sister pages, 'Where in Hanoi' and (yep, you guessed it) 'Where in HCMC' that constantly look to highlight the best of the cities, the creative endeavours of the people who live there and the events that bring our urban jungles to life.

The awards that they have run and created a guide from allow the people to speak and vote for their favourites, thus democratising the 'influencer' process and quite literally giving the people what they want. This form of influencing is community driven, informs and supports local businesses with exposure provided to everyone involved.

If this is still influencing then it's a form that I can get behind, a million miles away from the self-important posturing that leads to the negative generational rhetoric that we often hear. Some will always prefer hunting down their own favourite spots rather than following the hype but it's important to remember these things aren't mutually exclusive. In a world that feels increasingly polarised by its own digitisation, this brings people together and allows people often a long way from home to feel part of something. - VNS