Gabby Petito Has Without end Modified The Attract Of Being A Social Media Influencer

This police camera video, provided by the Moab Police Department, shows Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito … [+] talking to a police officer after police stopped the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie near the entrance to Arches National Park on August 12, 2021. The couple were stopped during an emotional argument. Petito was reported missing by her family a month later and is now being searched nationwide. (Moab Police via AP)


You grab your camera and you’re on your way. Travel the world they tell you and promise you fortune and fame – or at least a free Abercrombie & Fitch scarf. Gather a legion of fans and you’ll rake in claims for money from dealers, company representatives, and possibly your own family and friends, suggesting what can happen when the sponsorship finally arrives.

Of course, not everyone can be Kylie Jenner. In fact, most of us will never crack 20,000 followers on any platform if you do a quick review through multiple feeds. And by most of us, I mean 99% of the people who are trying to find fame and fame on platforms like Instagram, who are constantly posting videos on YouTube, or trying to get some status on TikTok.

It’s much more common to have a few thousand followers when that is the case. We are all destined to struggle to snap photos of mountain panoramas or post selfies with friends and watch only 20 or 30 people like our posts.

Actually, I’m one of them. While I’ve worked as a journalist for the past 20 years, my social media feeds have been a drop in the ocean. I haven’t cracked 1,000 followers on Instagram yet, and my Twitter account has a meager 19,000 followers – a small amount considering I’ve been using social media for over 10 years.

In all fairness, influencer marketing has never been the most respected profession. All of a sudden, someone with a million followers is advocating Tide detergent for no apparent reason or mentioning an affinity for a particular brand of skin lotion. We keep clicking and that makes us all part of the problem, but I’d say it’s almost over this year.

The Gabby Petito case (read about it here) raises new questions in my mind about the appeal of influencer marketing as a legitimate pursuit. One report mentioned Petito traveling in a van to gain more followers. Her account has since exploded, but she only had a few hundred Instagram followers before she died.

What actually makes us gain followers? That’s a really important question for our age. When I started using social media, I thought it made perfect sense to keep growing my numbers. There was even an app called Klout that added another layer of notoriety (as if we needed one) to your own influence.

I stopped trying a few years ago. And yet I keep posting. I originally told myself that it would be helpful for others when in reality the goal was to share links like everyone else. I wouldn’t say that makes me an influencer because the truth about trying to actually get celebrity status is that you have to reveal everything first and then more, a futile pursuit of something that is elusive and is unreal.

Social media detectives flooded Gabby’s open account looking for clues about her state of mind. All I see are brightly lit photos and a real sense of sadness about what could have been. I haven’t seen reports of how many likes her posts had when she was alive, long before she hit the headlines, but I suspect there were dozens. Your likes are always a percentage of your influence.

I’ve also heard reports, some whispered by unnamed sources or spread by company officials who don’t want to be identified, that the quickest way to garner a following is to pay for it. (There’s even an app out there that can give you an estimate of how many fake followers someone has.) For those in a “pre-fame” state, you’re a little bit broke.

Where is that for us?

For starters, it’s time to ask tough questions about influencer marketing and what it means for everyday people like Gabby Petito trying to attract a huge following. If it weren’t for the allure of the social media star, would she have tried to build her following at all?

Of course, everyone has the right to seek more followers, and I’m not even against sponsorship. I wonder if there is really any responsibility or support from the social media companies for the thousands or maybe millions of people trying to follow the influencer lifestyle and traveling with no entourage or even good health insurance.

The promise is that you will find sponsorships and the sponsors are patiently waiting for you to become famous, but in the meantime it feels like a recipe for disaster.

For Gabby Petito, it definitely was.

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