Ethical Influencing: Why Bloggers Need To Do Better

Fur, tea that gives you the shits, toothpaste that rots your teeth, apps that don’t protect against STIs – the list of endorsements from bloggers and ‘influencers’ that are or could be potentially harmful is growing.

But is it time for influencers to be more careful about what they’re using their influence to sell?

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It’s fairly obvious that the recent scandal over an Instagrammer promoting real fur on their page is what has inspired this article.

Said, ‘Grammer’ or ‘Influencer’ (not using the word blogger as that involves writing text longer than an affiliate link) has come under fire for not only posting a photo where she is wearing a real fur coat but then also deleting all comments protesting her choice and then going on to post further photos wearing real fur.

The sad thing is that not only did she choose to wear fur and take a photo – it’s that over 20,000 people have liked the photo, with hundreds commenting on how much they love the same jacket.

Influencers have influence. As wanky as the moniker is, they do. So when they pose like Kylie Jenner and show off their gorgeously aspirational lives, their followers are influenced to copy them.

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It IS an influencer’s responsibility to think about the ethics of whatever they are promoting. It IS their responsibility to think about what message they are sending their often impressionable audience. It IS their responsibility to ACTIVELY not promote harmful products, like real fur.

In 2017, WHY would you accept to promote such an item? When there are plenty of other options out there?

But it’s not just fur that’s the problem.

Not long ago, there was a controversy over a family planning app that was being touted as ‘contraception’ in paid for ads by bloggers.

Whilst some were enraged over the terminology, others were wondering  why anyone would promote such a thing. Especially when their audience was thought to be in their early 20s and not necessarily the target market for a family planning app.

With the promotion of this sponsorship, my worries didn’t lie with the ‘is it or isn’t it contraception’ question, more that some of the influencers had taken the street-wiseness of their audience for granted.

Whilst some of their audience, with their head screwed on (like me) saw the ad and thought, ‘ooh I might check this out because FUCK THE PILL and I’m clean in the downstairs department’, others may have taken the ‘contraception’ word for granted, downloaded the app, sucked on the thermometer and then sucked on a random dick without any further thought to STIs.

The controversy, this time, could’ve been avoided with a little bit more awareness raising around the purpose of the app and a little bit more thought towards their influence of their audiences.

And what about the slew of other questionable products being touted across all platforms?

We only have to blink through one day’s scroll of Instagram to be inundated with Tummy Flattening Tea that only slims you down by making you shit yourself.

Or a face-mask that is so harmful for your skin that it effectively rips it off as you peel it off?

Or those toothpastes that have been proven to make your teeth MORE sensitive whilst not even offering a shade or two whiter?

What is the influencer’s thought process here?

Are they now so far removed from their audiences, that they don’t even care that the products they promote can be actively harmful, as long as they can make a quick pay check?

Am I being unfair though?

For every influencer that is anti-fur, could they be pro MAC or companies that test on animals?

There are certainly bloggers who were anti-contraception app but pro designer leather handbag.

So where is the line drawn? Can we be ethical about fur but turn our heads to the side when selecting our newest perfume?

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Products tested on animals, leather accessories, clothes made by children for 8p an hour in sweat shops.

These are all things often unwittingly promoted by influencers who love to show off what they’ve bought, review what they’ve been given or share what they’re favouriting at the moment.

So am I (hypocritically) saying that all bloggers need to be 100% ethical at all times?

No. Because I know this isn’t realistic.

Whilst we can control our own ethics, we can’t control other people’s.

Whilst we know that promoting real fur is abhorrently wrong, we can’t force other people to see things in the same way.

And whilst we would never promote fur, can we really say we’d never promote a fast food restaurant or our latest Primark buy?

So what can we do?

Develop Our Own Code of Ethics

I woke up one day and wanted to be a totally cruelty free, ethical, vegan at the click of my fingers. I’d watched so much Cowspiracy, Blue Planet and What The Health? to think that living my life the way I was living it was anywhere near ‘right’.

But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give up everything – the Nando’s, the Starbucks takeaway cups or the ASOS spends.

Whilst I had all of the tools to lead a completely ethical life, I had none of the will-power or execution. And I know it’s a shitty, weak effort BUT I DID DECIDE TO MAKE SOME CHANGES.

For example – I drastically cut down my meat intake, I drastically increased my recycling efforts and I began donating all of my old belongings to women’s shelters rather than throwing them out.

I also started to make the switch to cruelty-free beauty products and I haven’t bought a product tested on animals since February (or my last Jo Malone splurge).

I decided that whilst I’m unable to do it all, that it shouldn’t be my excuse to do nothing at all.

So I decided on the causes I could get behind and to support them. They include;

  • Special Needs Education and Awareness
  • No Leather
  • Cruelty Free Make Up (however sometimes I fuck up because I haven’t dug deep enough into a company’s practise which I endeavour to do more of)
  • Unfollowing all influencers with shitty ethics

Perhaps your causes could be; veganism, recycling, anti Lena Dunham, LGBTQIA+ or Cancer Awareness – whatever you are most passionate about.

And then once you have your causes SHOUT ABOUT THEM.

Unfollow those who go directly against your ethics.

Raise awareness for your issues through your own blog and platforms – hey if one influencer, with a million followers wants to be ‘pro-fur’ then why don’t you and a million others use your platform to be ‘anti-fur’?

Retweet and share posts from people who ARE smashing the ethical life. When they raise awareness about topics you want to get behind but aren’t quite the expert on yet, promote their words until you find your own.

You’re making a start to live a more ethical life – GET YOU

Finally – If You’re An Influencer, How Can You Do Better?

Next time an ‘exciting email’ lands in your inbox, perhaps ask yourself a few of these questions:

  • Are my audience going to genuinely like this product?
  • Can it kill or potentially harm them?
  • Has someone (even an animal) been killed or harmed in the making of this product?
  • Is it potentially dangerous to consume or use?
  • Do I really need the fucking money that much?
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