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Is “De-influencing” Worth It? The Trouble with Tiktok’s Controversial New Trend

by Faith Green

The new “De-Influencing” Trend on TikTok calls for more honesty in social media advertisements, but is it just influencing rebranded?

When you’re drowning in a sea of massive fashion hauls and “must-have” lists, it’s clear that the push to buy things you don’t really need is stronger than ever. In the last several years, social media influencers have told us what’s in, what’s out, what to buy, and what to splurge on. But people aren’t feeling it anymore.

Influencers that reigned supreme, like The Kardishan-Jenner Clan, and even newer beauty gurus like Mikayla Nogueira, are being criticized for a lack of relatability and dishonest advertising. The aforementioned internet personality, @mikaylanogueira disclosing that she was wearing false lashes in a sponsored mascara advertisement. 

People are calling for more honesty in influencer culture, especially with advertisements and product reviews.This new trend, which consists of denouncing popular products, calling out dishonesty, and discouraging excessive spending, is called “de-influencing.” But does this new trend prove that the age of influencing is nearly over? Or is influencer culture just expanding and evolving?

Valeria Frede, a popular Tiktoker posted a video earlier this year highlighting which beauty products were overhyped, while offering cheaper and more effective alternatives. It’s currently one of the most-liked videos in the “de-influencing” hashtag on Tiktok, but it reads like an advertisement in disguise. For example she discusses the popular Dior Backstage Rosy Blush. Retailing at 40 USD, it’s not cheap. However the more accessible alternative that Frede offers is Kylie Jenner’s KYLIE Cosmetic’s Powder Blush  which is still 20 bucks. Kylie Jenner’s brand isn’t exactly the best one to be promoting. Among numerous other controversies, Kylie Jenner has consistently been accused of cultural appropriation, unsanitary cosmetic displays, and “sweat-shop” like conditions in the factories where her products are made.  Frede ends her video by saying, “Don’t buy everything you see on TikTok. Most of it’s not worth it.” This is a slightly contradictory way to end a “de-influencing” video that primarily consists of the creator denouncing an expensive product by peddling similar yet slightly less expensive products.

@valeriafride Don’t buy everything you see on here ? #deinfluencing #beautytips #sephorahaul ♬ Her Way (Sped Up) – PARTYNEXTDOOR

TikTok users are now dubious about the products they see advertised to them. As a result, there’s a call to “de-influence” popular cosmetics and other viral products by being 100% honest in their reviews, which includes giving a ‘thumbs-down’ to products they found unnecessary and/or wouldn’t buy again. 

There’s also a big focus on wanting things versus needing them; with content creators like Michelle Skidelsky posting “Things You Don’t Need” videos, the most popular one having over 2.5 million views.

@michelleskidelsky Replying to @3333333…00 you ask i deliver ? might be some controversial takes here but it needed to be said #deinfluencing ♬ original sound – michelle

The first time a de-influencing video came up on my Tiktok main feed, I was floored. It was jarring to see an influencer discussing products they felt didn’t deserve much praise, either because they felt it was overpriced or overhyped. At first glance, it was refreshing. Could this be the start of an anti-consumerist revolution, one that starts with Wet N’ Wild 1$ lipsticks in favor of 40$ Dior lip oils? Influencers have started aiming towards honesty, with everything from their genuine opinions to disclosing sponsorship deals. Is this a far cry from the types of cosmetic reviews that we’ve seen in the past? Or is it just a user-friendly rebranding of social media commercialism?

As reported by The Business of Fashion, “…It’s an atypical behavior for creators, who are usually wary of giving negative reviews of products for fear of alienating potential brand partners.”

But while the de-influencing trend appears to be a deviation from our hyper-consumerist culture, it could be at risk for perpetuating the very same thing it aims to criticize.

Perfume analyst and micro-influencer, @nicoleperfumes highlights how although the intention behind de-influencing is strong, its execution comes off as flawed. “The reason why I hate [this] trend is because you guys are doing it wrong. You’re contradicting yourselves by de-influencing one product and then hyping up another. “

@nicole_perfumes either do it right or don’t do it at all #deinfluencing #trending #deinfluencer ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Eden Young and Ione Gamble are behind the feminist media collective, Polyester Zine. The insightful duo also host the podcast, The Sleepover Club, where they deconstruct and analyze what’s trending in popular culture. On the episode “Is De-influencing Culture Going to Save Us All, or is it Just Consumerism in Disguise?, they detail their qualms with the new trend. “Even de-influencing contributes to overconsumption… This de-influencing trend, in theory, is a good thing, but I think it’s just more influencer tactics re-branded.” 

There’s definitely some misguided focus when it comes to the de-influencing trend. 

Topics like sustainability and ethical business practices are often left out of de-influencing conversations, which gives us the implication that this new “movement” might be less groundbreaking than we initially thought. The trend aims to shift the narrative around influencer culture by inundating it with honesty and affordability, but even the de-influencing hashtag on Tiktok is riddled with covert advertisements. Replying to @.sam_ross THIS MIGHT BE A HOT TAKE HAHA #fyp #deinfluencing #dior ♬ original sound – katie

If the hallmark of de-influencing culture is, “you don’t need this,” then why in the same breath are influencers still encouraging overconsumption by marketing the same products that are just as good but cheaper? There would be no other alternative offered if the trend was truly about discouraging consumer culture. De-influencing has morphed into a “buy this, not that” mentality, which is starting to mirror the same thing it sought to campaign against. 

Nevertheless, it’s opening up some important conversations about marketing. Is this trend going to be the catalyst for a much-needed overhaul of consumerist culture? Or is it just another Tiktok hashtag that will lose relevancy as quickly as it  was gained? We’re not sure, but one thing is for certain: you’ll definitely be rethinking what you add to your cart next time you go shopping. 

Top Photo Credit Bruce Mars via Unsplash

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