Deinfluencing Is Cannibalising Itself
This is some Olympic-level mental gymnastics.
Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimised by overconsumption fuelled by fashion and beauty influencers. (My eyeshadow palette collection speaks for itself.)
It’s taken me years to grow out of the reactive urge to buy things my favourite influencer buys. After all, there’s only one correct response when you see Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip flops. And it looks like I’m not alone in my resentment of influencer culture because now we have the supposed antidote: The Deinfluencer.
Deinfluencers want you not to buy things, especially not if you’re buying them because someone else bought them.
But are they saving us from consumerism gone mad? Or making things worse?
Who Are These Deinfluencers And Where Did They Come From?
Deinfluencing reportedly started on TikTok in the last month or so, but it existed in another form on YouTube as“anti-hauls” – videos of people telling you what not to buy. Dating back to 2015, the concept arose in response to popular “haul” videos, where someone goes through the stuff they just bought on a shopping trip. Described as a form of ‘culture jamming’ — something that subverts promotional culture, like corporate advertising, in favour of an anti-consumerist sentiment — the anti-haul video was meant to inspire resistance. And it couldn’t just present buying alternatives or it risked turning into the very thing it was opposing. The TikTok version takes it a step further and goes after the big kahuna: influencer culture itself.
Is Deinfluencing Just Another Form Of Influencing?
Maybe. You could probably call it influencing recession-style. “Creators are using their power to sway the purchasing decisions of a broader population,” says social media analyst Jasmine Enberg. “They’ve just adapted the trend to resonate with consumers during an economic downturn.”
But deinfluencing can mean different things to different creators, who walk the line between the subversion of consumerism and creating an alternate form. There’s at least one example of someone who appears to be cannibalising the concept completely, attempting to trademark the term ‘deinfluencer’ and selling ‘deinfluencing’ merchandise.
How Easy Is It For Deinfluencing To Be Co-opted By Influencing?
Heidi Kaluza, aka “@the_rogue_essentials”, has had a lot to say about the origins of the deinfluencing movement on TikTok and how the fast fashion industry is deeply intertwined with the climate crisis, waste, and wage theft. When asked for her opinion of influencer Dani Austin, Heidi describes Dani’s online brand as a “fast fashion brand through and through”.
A few days later, Dani herself started posting about deinfluencing with a series of videos describing which items she wouldn’t buy — chosen from a pile of things that she already did, in fact, buy from Sephora. A week ago, she launched a new podcast called De-Influenced, describing it as “My new internet era. One where I’m breaking free. Let’s de-influence Dani Austin.”
Props to Dani for switching up her online brand, if she really does want to ‘break free’ of her fast fashion origins. But then, things get weird. According to Heidi, Dani has also applied to trademark ‘De-Influenced’ not just for her podcast, but “clothing and apparel”. Am I reading that right? A trademark for stuff to buy, for a cultural movement that’s meant to reduce consumption? I fear she may have misunderstood the assignment.
This whole saga shows how easy it is to take the core message of a movement and twist it into something completely different. And there’s something especially sinister about co-opting the language of deinfluencing to serve the very same purpose of consumer culture. If I wasn’t so freaked out, I’d be impressed. Maybe I need some retail therapy to calm my nerves.