Social media influencers have power, and now is time to exercise it responsiblyGiven the impact social media influencers have on people and their information-disseminating prowess, they may now be more powerful than ever.
At 7 pm, on March 25, singer Swoopna Suman went live on Instagram. It was the second day of the nation-wide lockdown, imposed by the government to strictly maintain social distancing in an attempt to combat coronavirus.
This time, his stage was his room. Before getting started, he urged viewers to remain indoors, briefly explaining why it was so important at this time. “Until and unless it’s very important, I request you guys not to go outside,” he told his viewers just before he started a performance. “Everything will be alright,” he added.
As the whole world is in standstill, artists, influencers and celebrities around the world are live streaming like Suman, making videos and uploading stories on social media to connect with and comfort fans.
At pressing times like these, such videos have become critical in keeping the isolated connected. According to Chandi Raj Dahal, assistant professor of Media Studies at Kathmandu University School of Arts, the role influencers play in today’s society is significant, particularly during crises.
“In situations like the one we are currently facing, if influencers and artists go ‘live’ or increase their digital presence it convinces people (followers) that everyone has been affected and facing the same fate. This makes people feel less worried, as they believe they share a common experience, like that of celebrities,” said Dahal.
However, since it’s also imperative that credible information flows, the role of influencers becomes more vital, given the impact they have in influencing people and disseminating information.
“Apart from making the content widespread, influencers also make people believe that the information being conveyed is true. Since they have a huge fan-following they can easily convince the audience to act a certain way. This can be helpful during the time of crisis ,” says Dahal.
Understanding the power of her position, singer Samriddhi Rai has also been actively using her social media, uploading videos about the importance of self-quarantine and general information about preventive measures for coronavirus. “I am making these videos because, as someone who has a substantial reach on social media platforms, it’s my responsibility to do so—to explain the situation to people,” says Rai, who also live-streams on Instagram to interact with followers.
Similarly, vlogger Sisan Baniya made a vlog, updating followers on the current situation. The vlog has received more than 400k views on YouTube in just five days.
“Thank you so much for this video and clearing out the worries,” read one comment. “Finally, I feel better hearing him,” read another.
According to Dahal, the reason why people trust influencers like Baniya is because they play a larger role in contributing to the flow of information as well as interpreting the message for the common people. “Influencers play a significant role in shaping ‘what to think about’ and ‘how to think’ among the audience,” says Dahal.
This becomes largely important in the present context as many people are depending on influencers to receive information, particularly because they are spending most of their time on the internet. Misinformation can create panic among followers, which makes their job tougher, as they have to be careful of what they share.
Rai believes it’s the best time for the influencers to act according to the position they hold—to influence people. “With the lockdown, the general crowd is now more keen than ever to know what celebrities and influencers are up to, and how they are coping up with the pandemic. So it is our responsibility to disperse correct and positive information through our platforms,” says Rai.