De-influencing, or the act of convincing people not to buy something in an apparent attempt at combatting consumerism, shot to fame on TikTok last week. Since going viral on TikTok, the term has already amassed 59.2 million views, resulting in countless similar videos.
Creators have flooded the platform with videos of them 'de-influencing', sharing products they have either bought or been gifted, in the hopes of persuading their audience not to buy them. As a stark contrast to the usual consumerism-fuelled influencer culture, the trend has been praised for challenging materialism and encouraging people to think before they splash their cash on viral products, mostly in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle worlds.
It's of little surprise that the term resonates with so many people. At some point, we've all bought into hyped products, only for them to languish at the bottom of our beauty drawers, never to be touched again. Many creators have praised the deinfluencing trend for promoting conversations about over-consumption, and often, rather optimistically, for transforming us into mindful consumers.
"I don't know about y'all, but I am loving this de-influencing trend," one creator says, before rattling off why she didn't like a particular concealer (which she claims gave her cystic acne), pimple patches ("there are so many better options"), and a contour stick, which is apparently, hit or miss.
At first glance, it all makes sense. After all, what could possibly be wrong with telling people where they should save their cash? De-influencing seems to be the antithesis of traditional influencer culture, which in some cases look like thinly veiled sponsored content. And for the most part, TikTok agrees. It's extremely difficult to find any criticism of the term, with commenters praising influencers for their authenticity. "Ugh, this trend influences me even more," one commenter writes.
It's not about mindful consumption. It's not about sustainability. It's simply influencing rebranded for the recession era.
Over ten-plus years of engaging with influencer content, we've learnt to be savvier with noticing when they're trying to sell us something, but this is the first time we've been told not to buy something. So, why are so many influencers suddenly separating themselves from the job that pays their bills?
After years of being told to "Buy this eyeshadow" or "Wear this shapewear", we're emerging into a new world, where more people are beginning to re-evaluate who they trust online. The lines between authentic recommendation and marketing are increasingly blurred, as well as the fact that we're likely on the precipice of a looming global recession. Consumers are paying more attention to where they're spending their money, what's stocked in their cabinets, and who is telling them to buy what. Many are no longer interested in seeing how affluent and immaculately groomed women are living.
For a long time, influencing has needed to evolve. And in my opinion, it already has.
While it might seem like de-influencing is addressing a problematic history of overconsumption and materialism, there might be something else beneath the surface. It's not about mindful consumption. It's not about sustainability. It's simply influencing rebranded for the recession era.
Here's my take: in an attempt to tackle a growing trust issue amongst consumers, influencer culture has begun to monetise something new: toxic authenticity. In an act of self-preservation, many creators have been forced to differentiate themselves from other influencers — in this case, those who convince their audiences to buy expensive hair tools and pastel water bottles. They use their relatability to present themselves as allies, by showing that they don't want their audience to waste a buck or make the same mistakes they've made in the past. But their attempts to relate to us and convince us that they too are victims of consumerism don't feel authentic to me. Many of their pockets have been lined by the purchases they told us to make, which now sit at the bottom of our drawers (if I'm honest, my drawers). And for all we know, their act of anti-selling may just be lining their pockets even further.
In a follow-up video, the same creator exposes a key flaw in the de-influencing trend. "I just made a de-influencing video, so now I'm going to influence you on what you should replace it with," she said. She doesn't just want to tell us what products are shit — she wants to tell us what we should be buying instead.
Can you even call it de-influencing if you're just encouraging people to buy different products? It's my belief that this anti-haul cultural trend is just more capitalism. Because after all, influencers still need to make money — and this is just a recession-proofed way of tailoring it to a more money-conscious audience.
Let me be clear — the problem is not in women creating successful and lucrative careers as influencers. The problem lies in some influencers attempting to diminish their roles as purveyors of consumer culture. 'TikTok Made Me Buy It', fast fashion clothing hauls, #ad, viral products, dupes and now, de-influencing — our obsession with things isn't just a quick fix that can be undone with a lazy, contradictory de-influencing trend.