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Jet Setting Influencers Working Hard or Hardly Working?



The UK entered our third lockdown on January 5th, after the majority of us were in tier 4 - both with the same policy of simply "stay at home." Currently, "you can only travel internationally where you have a legally permitted reason to leave home," which includes essential work and urgent health reasons. Among this, many influencers have been jetting off abroad to escape the restrictions, claiming that their travel is an essential work trip. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has stated that "people should not be going for parties or long weekends in places like Paris or Dubai." The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, also spoke to Parliament on the topic, saying that, "we see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world they are in...going on holiday is not an exemption and it's important that people stay at home." Is it essential for influencers to work abroad or could they realistically work from home? What are influencers' intentions behind travelling abroad? What's worse: their attempted justifications for travelling or the act itself?


Instagram: @chloegshore1

 

Many of the most notable UK influencers found subjective fame on reality TV shows, like Love Island, The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) and Geordie Shore. Originally, their influence came with influencing their followers' buying decisions, through getting paid by companies to promote products, primarily on Instagram. But now, their influence has taken a new form (which fully endorses the former) - they grow trust with, admiration from and emotional influence over their Instagram followers. They are well-known for their aesthetically pleasing lifestyle, and their posing-by-the-pool pictures.            


Instagram: @brown.elle


It is fair to say that influencers have always been misjudged and more vulnerable to unnecessary criticism, but in the context of the pandemic, I do think it is important to challenge anyone, whether it be someone you know personally or someone in the public eye when they do something wrong. In no way am I justifying any form of trolling, but challenging someone can be done without attacking them. If influencers know that they are more susceptible to criticism (be it rightly or wrongly so), then why have they taken this opportunity to put themselves out there for more criticism that, in my opinion, is justified?                    

Last week, UK fitness blogger, Sheridan Mordew, did an interview on This Morning, where she explained why she travelled to Dubai at the start of January, despite her area being in tier 4 restrictions at the time. She attempted to justify her reasons for going abroad and stated that she is "not hurting anybody" by being there.      

She explains how she decided to take her online business to Dubai, where she streams/posts workouts for her followers. If her business is online, then why can't she work from home? 

She states that her whole brand is centred on building the happiness and motivation of her viewers, so she argues that this is not possible from home, hence her travelling to Dubai, to offer her followers some positivity from Dubai - (kind of) fair, right? Well, her workout classes are filmed in her hotel room/apartment, which shows the scenery of a blank wall. So it begs the question: why does she need to be abroad to film them when she could just film at home?...it's not like her followers are seeing the sunny sights of Dubai to "motivate" them to workout. 

Finally, in regards to work, she was questioned about any possible guilt she may feel for travelling in this time, she responded that she has been "torn between 'do I post things, do I not post things?'." As an influencer, isn't it her job to post on Instagram?...so if she does not post, then she is not working, which is the only reason she is allowed to travel in the first place.     



Instagram: @shapeupwithsher
Instagram: @shapeupwithsher


After Sheridan's work argument was challenged, she changed tactics, saying that "the main reason [I came to Dubai] was for my own mental health" - which is not a listed reason to travel. In the second lockdown she was struggling, so with the third lockdown approaching ", she could not be bothered" to go through another UK lockdown. Can any of us be "bothered?" No. Would we all love to have the privilege to escape abroad? Yes. Do we all have that privilege or means? No. I understand that we all (including Sheridan) have to put our own mental health first, but it is the principle that the majority of us at the moment cannot put our mental health first and that is where the frustration stems from. The Mental Health Foundation has done a 9-wave study (we are currently in the 10th wave) throughout COVID-19. The data for the third lockdown has not yet been fully recorded, because we are still living it, but from the time span March 2020-November 2020, "the extent of loneliness has risen, from 10% of UK adults surveyed to 25%." Additionally, "reports of having suicidal thoughts or feelings within the previous two weeks, due to the pandemic, are up from 8% of those surveyed in April to 13% in November." There are several points I want to make about these statistics. Firstly, I am not surprised. Secondly, you might think that 8-13% isn't that much of a jump, but nevertheless, it is still an increase, which is not ok and should be actioned. With this, between March and November, April was the peak of COVID-19 and we were in the depths of the toughest lockdown which lasted a few months, whereas in November we were in a three-week lockdown that wasn't as tough as the first - so, with this context, to go from 8% to 13% is a worrying leap. The statistics that are released after this lockdown, I think, will be even more of a jump. You might be wondering how any of this directly links to Sheridan speaking on This Morning, well it doesn't, explicitly anyway. I simply want to just draw on the fact that everyone is struggling, and I understand why, for their mental health, influencers fled before this lockdown (because in all honesty, it has been the worst yet), but it cannot be justified when the rest of us are left behind having our noses rubbed in it on Instagram. 


As a nation, I do believe we are a naturally judgmental and jealous society. I'll admit, I am awfully jealous of people who have found a way to escape the third lockdown, but given the opportunity, I know that I would only feel comfortable, both morally and health-wise to travel once is it safe to do so.


I also understand that taking enticing and aesthetically pleasing photos contributes to a huge part of influencers' wages, and these photos are more easily taken on a beach in swimwear than they are in a flat in London, but there are UK influencers that have stayed at home who are still making a living on Instagram. One of them being Love Island favourite, Olivia Attwood, who has spoken out on her Instagram about her fellow influencers going abroad. Olivia criticised the attempted justifications and defence statements from travelling influencers rather than the act itself. In response to influencers in Dubai, saying how hard it is to be an influencer in the pandemic and how busy they are working abroad, Olivia said, "People are losing their family members daily. They can't pay rent and their businesses they've worked their f*cking bollocks off for are crumbling around them and you're on the beach telling us "you don't know how hard it is"." She continued, saying that she won't rule out going on holiday herself in the future, but when/if she does she'll admit it's a holiday, and that influencers claiming they're working hard in Dubai just need to own the fact they're on holiday. 


Instagram: @oliviajade_attwood


The commentary YouTuber, JaackMaate, released a video last week, where he disagreed with "Instagram "Influencers" claiming that posting stories in Dubai, during a global pandemic and national lockdown, is "essential work"." He presented his rant in a comical and relatable, yet informative way. He also reacted to the above interview on This Morning, Noah Beck's (a US TikToker) interview defending his trip to the Bahamas, and the general injustice of it all. In response to the This Morning interview, where Sheridan used the "be kind" phrase to defend her actions, Jack explained, "I hate when people use the mantra "be kind" as some kind of get-out-of-drama-free-card. Almost like an easy way to not be held accountable for their actions. You can't just do something sh*tty and then be called out for it and go "ooh but be kind" and expect people to just forget about it." To conclude his argument, he stated, "right now, in the world that we live in, dumb things are dangerous things."  


I'll be honest, I started this article with the intention of being slightly impartial, but the more research I have done, the more partial I have become to how wrong I think what influencers are saying and doing is. Government guidelines aside, it is immoral to travel at the moment. In the last 24 hours alone, over 1400 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive test. People are in ICU, unable to go home or say goodbye to family. Health workers are constantly putting their lives on the line to save others. People are losing the businesses they've worked their entire lives for. People haven't seen family and friends for ages. Mental health is debilitating us. And yet influencers are living their best lives in Dubai, it just doesn't add up to me, or seem remotely fair in any way. They have to have a negative test before they land and isolate for ten days when they get home, but these measures are not 100% full proof - if one influencer slips through the cracks and brings COVID-19 back with them, or takes it to Dubai, the infection domino effect is never-ending. In my opinion, the influencers travelling (and anyone without a legitimate legal reason to) are at best genuinely ignorant, or at worst unbelievably selfish.  


Sources:

Current Government Guidelines
Chloe Ferry Instagram
Ellie Brown Instagram
Sheridan Mordew Instagram
This Morning Interview
Mental Health in the Pandemic
Olivia Attwood Instagram
JaackMaate YouTube video


Abigail Gamble 

A recent BA English graduate, who loves to travel (ironic, considering the article) and the theatre. 




Jet Setting Influencers Working Hard or Hardly Working? Reviewed by Abigail Gamble on Tuesday, February 02, 2021 Rating: 5

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