Recently, social media influencers, like DJ Loonyo (DJ-choreographer and TikToker) and Michelle Dy (YouTuber), received overwhelming attacks from bashers and haters both on Facebook and Twitter. The reason? DJ Loonyo’s comment about mass testing is not appealing to netizens. On the other hand, Michelle Dy’s apolitical response to her silence seems unimpressive to the ears of politically active citizens. Are bloggers and influencers alike required to speak their minds about political issues? Should followers and spectators demand words from people who have a wide scope of influence but choose to distance themselves from politics?
Some netizens think that being a blogger and/or influencer is being non-political and non-partisan. This idea comes from the mistake of linking bloggers and/or influencers to corporate advertisers and promoters. Conversely, some political activists demand words from bloggers and/or influencers through their platforms to influence the minds of their followers on a certain political or social issue.
As we go and dig deeper into discussing this dilemma, let’s explain the difference between a blogger and an influencer and what they do. Generally, people think that being a blogger is equal to being an influencer. That is far from the truth.
On Simple Delineation
First, a blogger is not an influencer and vice versa. Not all bloggers are influencers and not all influencers are bloggers. Second, bloggers deal with any topic available under the sun; political blogging is just one of them. Influencers, on the other hand, are more limited in the scope of their influence. Third, as a free citizen, a blogger or an influencer can choose to be political or non-political, partisan or non-partisan. And lastly, when a blogger or influencer chooses to take a political stand, the action is not necessarily connected to his/her chosen niche or his/her person and character.
Related blog article: The Information Age Is Dead, Welcome to the Age of Influencers!
On Strong Connections
Both bloggers and influencers belong to the strategic marketing of many companies that we value. This is commonly called influencer marketing. Though many bloggers, like most influencers, are connected to PR agencies that are promoting and advertising local and international companies, they, as individuals, stand on their own feet when they take a political issue on their platforms. The action is not necessarily connected to a particular business or enterprise. Also, though some of them have signed contracts and are enjoying some benefits, being connected to an agency does not mean being a regularly paid person similar to an employee. Sometimes, bloggers only get memorabilia or free meals without a single peso in exchange for their professional work as writers, designers, photographers, marketers, tech-savvies, ad nausea. Furthermore, many bloggers and influencers are independent individuals who are working as professional employees or doing small business on their own. Being connected to an advertising or PR agency is just one of the multiple gigs they have and does not define their overall life or personality, let alone their political thoughts.
Ang dami kong kilalang vlogger at personalities na “iNfLuEnCeR” pa ang nakalagay sa bio pero di makapagreact sa mga national issues. Yan ang problema pag nabubuhay ka sa followers. Just realized it’s such a privilege to live your truth and not depend on ad revenues & sponsors. 😏
— M.A. Buendía 💎 (@MABuendiaHD) November 24, 2019
On Being Influential
Influencer marketing is created with the fact that many bloggers, vloggers, and YouTubers can reach many people with the same interests. Companies, both local and international, take the opportunity to extend their reach through the influence of these social media icons. In this manner, marketing agencies can save their budget from a million worth of commercial advertisements. If successful, this can bring them to a win-win situation, because companies and influencers can gain the followers of both. However, when a blogger or an influencer is promoting a product or a service, he/she is not only reaching out to people who like the company. It happens that many of the product users or brand loyalists are also active on political issues. Thus, many political activists are also trying to pressure influencers to speak to advance their agenda. The problem is that influencers can still receive haters and bashers whether they comment on political controversies or not.
Related blog article: Social Media Influencer: Gary Vee Attacks the New Content Creation on IG
On Taking a Stand
Though bloggers and influencers have a wide reach of audience, they are not as influential as celebrities or politicians. When an online personality goes out of his or her niche, followers can recognize the difference. This is especially true if the blogger or influencer speaks about politics, but he or she is not known to be knowledgeable enough about political and social issues. Thus, when they take a political stand, they can either receive praise or derogatory comments. Nevertheless, some bloggers and influencers are bold and keen enough when they whip a political or social issue.
Because of sponsors or corporate connections, some personalities, especially the ones who become brand ambassadors, are adamant to take a political stand. Thus, they choose to remain silent or neutral. As free individuals, it is their right to do so, and it must be respected. On the other hand, the ones who choose to speak, whether they are connected to an agency or not, should also be respected. The political action they take is more connected to their personal values and national citizenship than to their identity as bloggers, influencers, and brand ambassadors.
people followed michelle dy with her make up content and now you want her to be political? stupid. just because it became a norm for influencers to voice out their opinions & stands against these current issues, doesn’t mean its their responsibility — its still their choice.
— 🚬 (@elyvator_) June 26, 2020
On Influencers Voice
The following tweets are voices from selected influencers.
— Benedict Cua (@benedict_cua) May 5, 2020
This is the time every Filipino needs to be informed. The country can’t afford to lose one of its top source of news and current affairs. Sobrang daming ibang problema na pwedeng paglaanan ng panahon, enerhiya at galit. And they chose ABSCBN. I will never understand. 😕
— Kimpoy Feliciano (@kimpoyfeliciano) May 5, 2020
— Benedict Cua (@benedict_cua) June 4, 2020
Holding the stance of #JunkTerrorBill DOES NOT EQUATE to being pro-terrorism. Making the stand of #JunkTerrorBill does NOT equate to supporting violence or terrorists. Nor does it imply that we ignore or condone the damage, hurt and conflict that exists…
— Catriona Gray (@catrionaelisa) June 6, 2020
With the issue of DJ Loonyo (Rhemuel Lunio), he apologized about the confusion of terms between mass testing and clinical trial. He also encouraged people to watch the whole video to understand the context of the discussion. The trend has been a learning for many that online personalities should educate themselves first before taking an issue on their platforms. The controversy of Michelle Dy, on the other hand, is a struggle between the tirade against apathy and the challenge for influencers to have the courage to speak.
Question: Are bloggers and influencers alike required to speak their minds about political issues? Should followers and spectators demand words from people who have a wide scope of influence but choose to distance themselves from politics?
Answer: Bloggers and influencers are not required to speak up. We must know that everyone has the right to choose whether they will keep their political beliefs to themselves or not. Politics is just one of the many interests available in the market of knowledge. A mathematician cannot force a linguist to specialize in mathematics. Also, an epidemiologist doesn’t have to expect a politician to know more about the SARS-CoV-2 and how it affects a COVID-19 patient. In the same manner, a political activist cannot demand words from bloggers or influencers who are not interested in politics.
I know a lot of co-bloggers who are bold and straightforward when they comment on political issues. Though I disagree in many cases, I still love the idea that they are speaking their minds. I have a distaste with apathy, but I have no right to force people to speak, let alone to embrace my political ideas. That’s what democracy is all about. While we are fighting our right to life, property, and liberty, we should also respect the right of others to live in peace and silence, especially if we already know that they don’t have something to say about politics.