I fell in love with a social media influencer. I could say there are three people in our relationship but I’d be lying. There are 63,423.
Imagine a world in which your partner’s private life is his professional life: with thousands of fawning acolytes all vying for his approval, all competing for online traction — a traction that comes from your other half’s thumbs. His fingers hover over the phone rather a lot, giving updates into whatever he’s up to. It’s a little disconcerting.
Life with an influencer can be challenging. Every trip must be documented, every meal photographed prior to consumption. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have prematurely reached for a morsel only to have my hand slapped away so that the plateful in question can be snapped. Did we order for us — or his followers?
Work trips abroad for social media stars are often chaperoned. This means being escorted by what most men in their fifties might call a ‘hot chick’. It is not so easy to watch your man — the person you reprimand for forgetting to wash up — being wined, dined and mercilessly flattered by a group of mortals with fewer ‘likes’.
The most terrifying thing about dating an influencer is that his past life has already been well documented. Every dinner with his previous lover has been catalogued and every excursion filmed. You simply must resist the temptation to look.
I was told of an influencer who organised a glamorous and Instagrammable photo-op birthday party for her partner months in advance on the assumption that she would attend. But the couple broke up and her replacement went in her place. The influencer in question was too scared of being blocked by her now ex to make a fuss, since he had a much bigger platform online. To an influencer, the pain of a broken heart is as nothing to the possibility of being excluded from larger circles of digital influence.
Influencers are today’s ad agencies, so product press launches are staged for Instagram and often feature huge bunches of costly flowers, ridiculous straw baskets bounteously filled with unctuous cheeses, gingham tablecloths, flags, flutes, champagne, truffles, expensively heated rooftop bars and as many pretty-looking influencers as a good PR firm can muster. Attendees are not paid but are sucked up to.
There is also a sort of unspoken reciprocal bond. A good relationship with a well-placed PR firm will reap dividends in the form of free press trips abroad to high-end hotels and restaurants, with Insta-worthy day trips on tap. These won’t pay the ever-rising electricity bill but a good profile will open the door to other paid gigs. It’s a hustle with which journalists are familiar, but journalists do not command anything like the flattery and (eventually) fees that influencers can. Exposure is the new currency.
But the downsides are considerable, especially if you happen to be the poor sod in a relationship with an influencer. (My fellow has of course banned me from using his name in print.) In a job, you sell your work. On social media, you sell yourself.
On Instagram, constancy (aka addiction) is rewarded, and to grow your following you must engage ever more frequently. Hamsters in Perspex balls have more dignity than these Instagrammers who tell you what they ate, drank, saw and liked. The most off-putting aspect is the almost soft-porn replies of would-be influencers, desperate as they are for reciprocal fake enthusiasm in exchange. ‘Yumm [face-lick emoji]’/, ‘Yaaas! I love it when you post’ etc.
There is obviously a place for social media. Like it or not, it is part of our lives. Yet how do we train ourselves to treat it as a willing slave rather than a cruel master? More pressingly for me, is it possible for a relationship to flourish when one half spends the vast majority of his time looking back at himself through an Instagram filtered lens?
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10