During the pandemic, TikTok emerged as the new space for community engagement, and parasocial relationships between users and creators flourished. Since then, the platform has rapidly progressed into an invaluable marketing tool, attracting countless brand deals, complicating influencers' authentic recommendations, and altering viewers' sense of material 'needs'.
In addition, fatigue concerning digital perfectionism – most notably seen in TikTok's 'that girl' trend, whereby content creators share how to embody the ideal version of health, wellness, beauty and professionalism – has mounted. And worries about consumer culture due to environmental degradation and the cost-of-living crisis have grown too. The rise of de-influencing offers a solution to refocus the social media narrative onto acute honesty and ideally, by extension, authenticity.
Gen Zers, who make up over 60% of TikTok’s users (Wallaroo, 2023), may be known for endlessly romanticising on-screen aesthetics, but they also fiercely uphold social accountability and transparency. For TikTok stars, trust and reliability are becoming re-emphasised as core values to their influencing power. Those suspected of distorting reality – including Mikayla Nogueira, who was criticised for allegedly wearing fake eyelashes while reviewing a mascara – will swiftly fall out of public favour.
The rise of de-influencing does not undermine the substantial stake TikTok (The B2B House, 2022) has in the $16 billion influencer industry (Oberlo, 2022). Instead, it signals a call for in-tune, small-scale and thoughtfully curated product recommendations that bring forth the audience’s identity into consideration.