Internet Celebrity is not Abidin’s first or last book about fame online. She has written about Influencers a few times, her 2016 article “Aren’t these just young, rich women doing vain things online?”: Influencer Selfies as Subversive Frivolity and in a 2020 book that she co-authored with Leaver and Highfield Instagram: Visual Social Media Cultures.
“AREN’T THESE JUST YOUNG, RICH WOMEN DOING VAIN THINGS ONLINE?”
The 2016 article is titled after a comment from a fellow academic Abidin encountered at a conference. It dismisses Influencers, diminishing them only to how their actions affect themselves. This is due to what Abidin (2016, p. 2) describes as subversive frivolity, “under-estimated generative power of an object or practice arising from its (populist) discursive framing as marginal, inconsequential, and unproductive”. Yet in reality, their selfies have become salable objects, used to contrive authenticity which increases their fanbase and allows for personal economic growth. In her conclusion, she notes that this under-estimation is exactly what allows Influencers to thrive online.
In Internet Celebrity, Abidin (2018) chapter 4 is all about Influencers. Here, she notes that being an Influencer is now a vocation and practice, which is the lens she analyses them through rather than marketing or business studies. As a result, she identifies some key shifts in the Influencer industry. The move from archive culture to streaming culture, tasteful consumption to amateur aesthetic, platformed fame to cross-platform influence, attention economy to affection economy and quantitative metrics to qualitative impact. These changes may seem insignificant to some, such as the academic who dismissed Influencer’s importance in her 2016 article, however, the chapter also highlights the global impact that the Influencer industry has. Economically, it has led to job creation, from Influencer marketing to management agencies, and legally it has influenced new rules around advertising online. This shows that it is being recognised as significant by governments and businesses, meaning that perhaps they are not as under-estimated as Abidin thought in 2016.
INSTAGRAM: VISUAL SOCIAL MEDIA CULTURES
This book focuses on Instagram overall, however, Leaver, Highfield and Abidin (2020) write about Influencers predominantly in their Economies chapter. They extract some methods that influencers employ to grow their online following and therefore get paid to post. For personal account growth, they can take selfies with other Influencers to create the illusion of an elite Influencer group, they can also partake in Instablogging which increases their authenticity and attracts new audiences. For businesses, new things that Influencers can do are corporate account takeovers and behind the scenes posts. This adds a new dimension to a business and therefore affects the overall economy.
Ultimately, Abidin (2018) has described Influencers as the epitome of an internet celebrity. It is clear through her work over the past 5 years that this is an industry that is still very new and growing, but one that has made a significant impact and is only set to make an even bigger one in the future.
Abidin, C. (2016). “Aren’t these just young, rich women doing vain things online?”: Influencer selfies as subversive frivolity. Social media & society, 2(2), 1–17. DOI: 10.1177/2056305116641342
Abidin, C. (2018). Internet celebrity: Understanding fame online. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited.
Leaver, T., Highfield, T. and Abidin, C. (2020). Instagram: Visual social media cultures. Cambridge: Polity Press.