Emily Hund: The Influencer Industry – The Quest for Authenticity on Social Media

At the beginning of the new millennium, the social landscape was bleak. Financial crisis, growing distrust in America’s own social institutions, and widespread unrest on the global stage. From this bleak landscape emerged a new figure: the social media influencer—bloggers, vloggers, and online hucksters—who, in the grand tradition of American entrepreneurship, needed only a screen, webcam and media savviness to success.

Detached from traditional media organizations, bloggers were free to operate in the growing digital realm as hybrid beings that mixed the personal with the professional. But the good intentions of these scrappy individuals quickly spiralled out of control, as amateurs turned into multiplatform professionals.

The outcome? The creation of a multibillion-dollar industry where user-generated content is king, authenticity is key, and the influencer is the arbiter of purported taste.
Major media entities like Facebook and Instagram caught wind of this emerging market, and the new “influencer industry” began reshaping realness to suit its needs. Worse still: these very same tools have enabled propagandists to spread misinformation into our feeds under the guise of “just being real”.

In The Influencer Industry: The Quest for Authenticity on Social Media, researcher Emily Hund investigates the digital commodification of realness. Her plea? To realize the true costs of the system we have unwittingly helped to create before it is too late. With billions of social media users across the world, the stakes have never been higher, and authenticity itself risks becoming an empty signifier: another echo chamber that rings increasingly hollow.

Emily Hund is a research affiliate at the Center on Digital Culture and Society at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. Her work has appeared in leading publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, and The Guardian.

In collaboration with: Princeton University Press & Room for Discussion (Amsterdam Business School).

De Hallen Studio’s

+31(0)20 8208206