Discussion | Why is Influencer a Dirty Word?

Rachel Emily on a bench in a white dress reading Meghan Markle's Vogue Issue with pastel coloured balloons in the background

Another of the topics of my instagram stories discussions was about why influencer now seems to be a dirty word. In my polls 76% said they thought there was a big stigma around the term with 43% of people saying they can't stand it.


I went to a social media talk/meet about Instagram, mainly for people who work for brands, and when I walked in I was warned not to introduce myself as an influencer because it was looked down upon and I'd be judged. So instead I sat quietly and tried to ignore the topic altogether. I shouldn't have been made to feel like I didn't belong just because of how I would have defined myself.

Rachel Emily holding pastel coloured balloons in a white dress by the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

What is an Influencer?

According to the three definitions on the Urban Dictionary an influencer is:

1. Someone who uses the term to make themselves feel famous and more important than they are.
2. Someone who lacks intelligence and is followed by tons of idiots who don't think about it
3. Someone who buys followers and likes on Instagram to get free products who fall into the trap of their fake fame. 

Personally I prefer the Oxford Dictionary definition of "a person or thing that influences another."

When I was in Amsterdam there was a campaign for Mother's Day there on a shop window that said "mum - your first influencer" and they were totally right. Everyone has someone in their lives who has influenced them from probably before they can remember. They weren't/aren't in it for the freebies or the likes.

Being an influencer doesn't have to mean influencing people to buy something that they probably don't need or can't afford. You could influence someone to change how they perceive something, or how they act. Maybe you'll influence them to become more sustainable or rethink their ethics? It doesn't all have to be charcoal toothpaste and laxative tea.

It still surprises me that in my polls 71% wouldn't class themselves as an influencer, especially because some of them have influenced me.

Rachel Emily Laughing at the floor with the pastel balloons

Is there a better term?

So if influencer is a bad term - then what's the alternative? 

One of the messages I received as a result of my stories discussion is that influencer is too broad a term. It covers people with extraordinary talent and people who are maybe just winging it. The term doesn't consider the time, effort and passion that everyone has. 

For example...
there is a certain show returning soon where people live in a villa from any duration from a day to eight weeks and when they come out they are an influencer, even if they don't have the passion for it. They post a snap against a plain white wall in their undies holding a product in exchange for money.
They are an influencer because some people will go out and buy that product. 

I mean don't get me wrong I love the show and become attached to the people on it but I doubt they have a passion for charcoal toothpaste. 

On the other end of the spectrum there are influencers with incredible feeds and strong passions for their niches who are being overlooked because they haven't had the platform of a very famous Spanish villa. But the same term still applies. 

The main term I see and hear people using at the moment is Content Creator which I guess still applies. If you're creating content then it's a fair term to apply but doesn't it have the same connotations and broad brushstroke as Influencer? 

Yet, it's not seen as dirty. 

Maybe it's because it hasn't been tainted yet. Although the Urban Dictionary is equally as unkind defining it as "a fancy word for a YouTuber that tries to sugarcoat the worthlessness of the profession". But the term hasn't had it's 'hot' moment where people hear it so often they get bored.

Rachel Emily laughing within some pastel coloured balloons

Why do it?

Personally, I'm still proud to call myself an influencer as I know that I have influenced people.
I'd also class myself as a content creator because I create content that I post on the internet. But I'd like to pride myself that I'm in this because I enjoy it - not because I want to become "famous" or get loads of freebies. Although that being said if someone wants to give me a place on Strictly because of it then I'm totally game for all the sequins, glitter and fake tan they can throw at me.

In my post about taking a break from social media, I address that I took a break because the enjoyment was gone. If I work with a brand or do something - it's because I enjoy it and that I would genuinely go out and spend my own money on that item/event. I'd also only recommend a product or event, if I would go out and recommend it my closest family and friends. 

What do you think about the term influencer? Would you use Content Creator or another word instead? Let me know in the comments below.

Rachel Emily in a White Midi Dress with Pastel Balloons by the Bristol Suspension Bridge Jumping

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Photography by Kayleigh Gresty