Beware of influencers

With the rise of the internet and the polarization of United States politics, many Americans have come to rely on a series of media figures to engage with politics, society and culture.

These figures label themselves many things, from politician to journalist to thought leader, but they are commonly described as influencers, specifically professional political influencers.

These professional political influencers rely on a series of skills regularly employed by journalists, columnists, politicians, corporate brands and pundits.

Their content may consist of live streams, reaction videos and tweets about whatever’s in the news, the latest political controversy or good old fashioned drama.

Many Americans, who are busy with their personal lives and inundated with social media, lack time to learn about politics outside of short sound bytes.

Because of this, Americans have come to rely on these influencers to catch them up on important news and what they’ve missed throughout the day and week.

On the other hand, becoming a professional political influencer is now a viable career option for those inclined. These influencers are flushed with money from donations, crowdfunding platforms, monetized views and sponsorships.

Oftentimes, these influencers have stuck their brand to whatever political stance they hold — left, right, center or something else — and deviating from that opinion can lose them support from fanbases.

Similar concerns are present for politicians seeking votes and grassroots journalists seeking basic financial support.

Because of this, it’s hard to tell whether these influencers and the politicians they support personally hold the opinions they say they do.

To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter. Actions speak louder than words, and words speak louder than thoughts. The potential harm or benefit of the policies influencers advocate for is the same regardless of whether they support the policies or not.

However, it does matter. If the only reason an influencer advocates for a politician or policy is because it’s profitable, that means their views might follow the money, whether it be following sponsor’s views or catering to their base.

These influencers’ content is usually lazy. Reaction videos to the latest event or controversy do not require any research, originality, thought, careful analysis or planning. They just require some charisma and experience with a computer.

Keep in mind two questions when seeking political analysis and opinion from an influencer: How much work goes into forming their opinions? And how willing would this person be to express an opinion their viewers and supporters might not agree with?

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