To be and not to be post-COVID

Updated: Jul 24, 2020, 19:57 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

The whiplash that fashion blogger Santoshi Shetty faced for a post on mental health solace during the lockdown, got us asking insiders to offer advice for this quick-read primer for digital influencers

Who got it wrong:

Santoshi Shetty, Lifestyle blogger

Fashion blogger Santoshi Shetty faced a reality check recently when she put up a video, where she asked people to reach out to her for a heart to heart. She spoke about building a community that would run on sharing positive energy. But there was a rider. It would cost Rs 1,500.

The Internet went crazy, with most of those challenging her, asking if she was a qualified therapist. Shetty took down the post, and put up an apology that read: "I would like to apologise for making a video which was open to interpretation and for not clarifying that it was never meant as a substitute for mental health therapy sessions." This, too, was panned as not good enough.

Observers say the Internet influencer game has changed radically post-pandemic and it's going to take serious tact to be a successful, but measured, net celebrity.

'Stick to your niche'

Maneer

Manveer Singh Malhi, Digital marketing professional

Digital influencers should maintain a niche that defines them and avoid posting content that does not represent their persona. They should pick a pace and commit to it. And lastly, find a balance between ethics and reality.

'Be an advocate for mental health, not a professional'

Nikhil

Nikhil Taneja, 
Co-founder, We Are Yuva

All content you put on social media, now comes with accountability. Influencers should remember that they can be advocates for mental health awareness, not professionals. Shetty erred when she called it a community-building exercise, and then put a price to it. What she was referring to are "meet and greets", which are ticketed events to meet an influencer. Never give unsolicited advice 
on the net.

Who got it wrong:

Saloni Chopra, Actor and activist

Salo

Followers: 453k

Saloni Chopra, who is known to put out feminist content, put up a post where she had darkened her skin, to make a point about colour discrimination. As she said, "We feed women insecurities and then we judge them and blame them for wanting to change themselves." She was panned for trying to talk about an issue, which was far removed from her lived reality. As someone remarked, "When a privileged person (in this case, fair) puts bronzer to look darker…You are negating the entire story of struggle that darker skinned people go through every day." It would seem that Chopra got carried away about making a point, when she could have said what she had to say by putting up a picture of herself as she was. Isn't feminism all about being yourself?

'Understand the issue'

Nikhil Taneja,
Co-founder, We Are Yuva

First, know everything there is to know about a particular issue and then discuss it online. When I am posed questions that I have no experience about, I always try and guide people to an individual who is an expert. We have to be cognisant of what we are reacting to as well, and choose well.

'Be sensitive to all sensibilities'

Hitesh

Hitesh Rajwani, founder, Social Samosa, online publication reporting campaigns, trends and insights on marketing and social media

Influencers should stay true to their personality, values and beliefs. The audience follows them for a certain appeal and purpose, whether education, entertainment or inspiration. If they wish to expand their purview, they must ensure that the content they create is meaningful for and sensitive to all sensibilities.

That said, we are all going through turbulent times and everyone is fighting some battle or the other. The amount of negativity that brands, creators and influencers receive is toxic. As responsible citizens, we should refrain from fuelling social media trials.

Who is getting it right:

Ted the Stoner, aka Jitendra Sharma

Ted

Followers: 1.4 million

Ted the stoner is only 25, but has a well thought out opinion on everything. Why we approve of the influencer is because he adds a dash of humour and memes to his worldview, making it easy to digest. He often calls his opinions "Ted's 2 cents". Also, most of the content seems to be devoid of brand mentions and paid partnerships, and so, it feels authentic and real. When we spoke to Sharma, and asked him his motivation, he said, "Firstly, you have to understand that when you cater to an audience of over a million people, whatever you speak will obviously be open to interpretation by multiple people who have been raised in different environments and cultures. That is precisely why you need to think before you speak. When it comes to certain topics, you need to do some research before you form an opinion. Most people on the Internet choose to jump on a trending topic without getting their facts right. There are times when the audience expects you to put out a reaction to a subject that's sensitive in nature and you're not qualified enough. Here, research becomes critical."

'His followers know what to expect from him'

Manveer Singh Malhi,
Digital marketing professional

His content is witty, and he is up to date with trends. And, since he has always been talking about it, it doesn't sound odd. This is what he is good at. Now, compare that to [Santoshi] Shetty. She has been doing fashion content, and suddenly chose to comment on mental health.

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