Should online influencers be considered celebrities?

Social media stars Brittany Broski and Chris Klemmens discuss the unspoken truths of being an online influencer on Klemmens’ podcast “Unhinged”

With social media comes social media stars, which in turn comes the question of what is the difference between online stars and Hollywood stars? Metaphorically speaking, aren’t all stars in the sky? Literally speaking, aren’t all stars in the public eye? 

What distinguishing factor separates celebs on our computer screens from celebs on the big screen? Is it the fact that people don’t want talent to be mixed with accidental online fame? Or maybe jealousy?

Jealousy is something that can be found in just about every comment section of both online and Hollywood celebs. 

“I still can’t believe that these Tiktokers earn more money than doctors, engineers, teachers, janitors, etc,” comments YouTube user “Silkify” under a video compilation of TikTok star Addison Rae embarrassing herself. 

Why is it so hard to believe that a TikToker could rake in so much money? If you really think about it, it makes sense, or better yet … cents

TikTok star Charli D’Amelio has 125.5 million followers on the app and receives boatloads of hate for how she became famous, which was by dancing to popular songs on TikTok. YouTube star Pewdiepie has 110 million followers on the platform and certainly receives hate, but not nearly as many questions towards why he is the most famous individual on YouTube. 

At the beginning of his career, Felix Kjellberg, more famously known as Pewdiepie, was on the receiving end of similar spiteful questions. Many criticized his large following because all he did was play video games. There is a difference in skill level between TikTok dancing and video gaming, but there is a point to be made with this comparison.

Many people chastise what they tend to not understand, either out of frustration or spite. From the outside, being an online influencer doesn’t look like it requires much thought or effort, but it does.

Online influencers do more than first meets the eye. Many talk about the stress that building a literal empire surrounding their name has on their everyday life. YouTuber Chris Klemmens passionately discusses this very topic on his podcast “Unhinged” with fellow social media star Brittany Broski.

“If I went through and actually decided to make this a passion project,” Klemmens says, “I could find a clip from every video I’ve made where I’m like, ‘To everyone who says they wanna be a YouTuber, no you don’t!’ I say that in every video I film, because in every video I film, I don’t want to be a YouTuber anymore.” 

The friendship between Klemmens and Broski was made through their mutual social media fame and seems to continue to grow over their mutual disdain towards social media fame. Broski and Klemmens are actually friends from the looks of it and, if not, have an amazing rapport regardless. In this podcast, the two seem to have a mutual understanding of how being unsatisfied with their careers does not mean being ungrateful for their fame.

“I am grateful,” Klemmens says. “I can be very grateful about the life and the career and all of this I have while still not being satisfied by it, or fulfilled or happy even doing it. You know like, I can’t imagine another thing I would do, but I often refer to all this social media and YouTube as the ‘office job’ of my career because this isn’t the end all be all.”

YouTube provided Klemmens and many YouTubers an unplanned career path. For Klemmens, being honest is no issue. Klemmens says many things without fear or hesitation and if all YouTubers spoke with the same level of confidence, audiences might not be as eager to start their online journey as they previously thought.

The fact that Klemmens compares his YouTube career to an office job proves that an online career is a responsibility and a stressful one. The relationship between online influencers and their fans is handled differently from person to person, but there seems to be a general consensus that social media stars are closer with their fanbase than actors or singers. 

This close relationship isn’t necessarily a good thing. Being close to the people who look up to you and expect content from you can turn toxic fast. There are several instances of fans becoming obsessed with social media stars and doxxing their names and addresses out of anger.

“I’ve asked my mom about how she feels about TikTokers and social media influencers making the same, if not more, than her salary as a practicing physician and medical director,” said social media user and California State University Long Beach student Amelia Go. “She told me that she doesn’t feel bitter about it, because unlike influencers she still has her privacy. It is more of a burden to hold yourself together and maintain a personal life when exposed to millions of people, and the money they receive is like compensations for their lack of normalcy.”

Being a social media star comes with both pros and cons, similar to A-list actors and musicians. There’s no argument that Chris Evans is more talented than Bryce Hall, but talent isn’t what determines fame in the digital age. 

Online influencers, although at times cringey and not as poised as others in the limelight, are influencers nonetheless. If they have an audience, they are a celebrity by definition, regardless of the medium.