Social media influencers face daily attacks online from women whose “sole mission is to ruin our lives”, an Instagram star told MPs today.
Em Sheldon, who has more than 117,000 followers on Instagram where she documents her lifestyle, said there was a “very dark side” to the influencer business.
Sheldon, 27, said: “I am very concerned that there will be more suicides and more depression because in which other industry are you allowed to be constantly, relentlessly attacked every single day just for existing?
“People hate influencers. They are so angry at us making money. It could be something crazy like just me walking my dog and people are just so angry.”
Sheldon claimed that the abuse predominantly came from adult women. “These are grown women with actually very good jobs and seemingly very good lives who are doing this,” she said.
Sheldon was speaking to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who are conducting an inquiry into the “growing power” that influencers have on social media. There is concern about a lack of transparency around their promotion of products and services online.
The inquiry is considering whether there is sufficient regulation around how influencers advertise products to their social media followers, and is also examining what role they have on media and popular culture.
An influencer is generally considered someone who has the power to affect the buying habits or actions of others by uploading content on to their social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube. An example could be a fashion blogger mentioning their favourite sportswear brand in an Instagram post.
Sheldon said that abuse towards influencers tends to increase when they start to advertise more products and make money through their social media presence, with the abuse predominantly coming from adult women rather than teenagers.
“They don’t like that people are making money,” she said. “There is a whole dark space of the internet where people sit all day, every day, literally writing about us. It’s crazy, because these are grown women with children; these aren’t 15-year-old girls … They say: ‘Right, I am going to ruin this person’s life, I’m going to destroy that business.’ ”
Sheldon added that other influencers she had spoken to about the problem have had to call the police because of people being “hell bent on finding their addresses, finding how much people pay for their houses”.
She added that there is an assumption that because a person is putting their life online they “deserve” such attacks and are not seen as real humans.
While Sheldon did not say where the attacks come from, the gossip forum Tattle Life is often cited as a platform where influencers suffer some of the worst abuse.
The online forum largely focuses on the lives of influencers and other celebrities who are very active on social media and was founded in 2018 with the aim of holding to account Instagram influencers and YouTubers who financially profit from sharing content.
While the platform’s administrators say the site has a “zero-tolerance policy” for messages containing threatening behaviour, hate speech or harassment, the site has been widely criticised for creating a platform which allows users to bully influencers.
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