We Need to Talk About The Harmful Kinds of ‘Influencer’

Increased awareness of how content by dangerous, high-profile misogynists like Andrew Tate has an impact on society, and especially young people, has perhaps drowned out awareness of other harmful types of harmful social media personality further below the radar.

Specifically, social channels like TikTok are being flooded with low-end grifters posing as respected influencers. Some of them are very close to home and may well be pulling in attention or even money from people you know right now.

For example, there’s the ‘business coaches’ without a reputable or substantial business to their name plus the bottom-feeding variety of ‘personal trainer’ who’ll meddle in the mental health of vulnerable clients with mindless, harmful advice.

Then, of course, there are ‘life coaches’ with less life experience than a schoolchild.

And, finally, a broad shower of ‘health influencers’ whose actual purpose can be a thinly veiled excuse to sell things like moody off-brand supplements or even draw miserable people looking for a blame figure towards fanatical individualism and lucrative hate accounts.

In short: Modern day fairground chisellers, posing as harmless influencers, are targeting people at their lowest point. And being drawn in by one of the groups described below can often lead to buying into the entire lot or – worst of all – that hate account conveyor belt.

How common is this? Again, it’ll already be happening among your friends and colleagues.

If this concerns you, and especially if you have a a young or middle-aged man with a small social circle in the family (their favourite marks!), then you might want to buckle in and read on.


Meet The Gallery of Grifters

A quick word, first, about influencer marketing: it’s not a bad thing in and of itself.

Genuine, responsible influencer partnerships are built on hard work and sound marketing principles. They involve someone with a big, genuine and well-deserved reputation among a clued-in group of fans.

But the fact that anyone can now set themselves up as an expert on anything makes many social media users very vulnerable to dangerous advice, waste-of-money selling and even a leveraging of their loneliness into hate politics

The people responsible for this? A group of people who’ve jumped on the influencer trend to syphon money from fans by any and all means. And it works, despite obvious giveaways like a dubious approach to advertising regulations, a suspiciously large follower list or deliberate misrepresentation of an ‘on stage’ lifestyle so they gullible will accept it as real.

So, let’s meet the clown car of accounts you need to know about…

•1, ‘Business coaches’: Armed with little more than some Turkey Teeth, gibberish about mindset and a rented sports car, the shady among this lot will tell you that although “I was making up to £50,000 per month profit!” it isn’t for them any longer so they’ve chosen to spent their time selling their advice instead. But of course.

If they do, in fact, have a business there tends to be a few common traits. For consumer businesses, appalling online and Glassdoor reviews can at times be found. Or else that business history turns out to be a small shop or two. For ‘coaches’ with a business to business company, a few minutes spent on the website for their business often reveals more holes than a golf course.

TLDR…the big problem with this? People with limited finds who are desperate to start a business, including young people and even the vulnerable, will find themselves pouring time and money away by engaging with barrel-scraping coaches instead of doing the hard graft that’ll actually put their foundations down.

•2, ‘Life coaches’: Some of us will remember scoffing at an extremely young ‘life coach’ in the media some time ago. Others responded with “good luck to them”.

But take a closer look and some behaviour of real concern begins to show. For one thing, a person having an obsessive need for constant praise and attention online (to such a degree they need to form a paying fan club to listen to hours of incoherent coaching) is by any measure unfit to advise anyone. Clearly, they need to do a ton of work on themselves first. Perhaps they should get a coach.

Secondly, ‘do the hard work on your personal skills’ is a key message no one is going to make any money from selling. Like every great leader in a workplace, a person who has done the hard yards on self-awareness, empty, listening skills, humility and care for their colleagues will go far.

That’s why, unless they’re an extremely good one, you don’t need a coach. It’s all there in 29 words in the last paragraph. No charge.

TLDR…the problem with this? What if a client doesn’t have the mental health or experience to filter the quality of advice? Most of all, what advice is being given by ‘coaches’ whose online conduct makes it very, very clear that they are far from speaking with any self-awareness – let alone driven by good intentions – themselves?

•3, ‘Personal trainers’: While there are, clearly, some excellent personal trainers and many of them, it’s worrying to see some dabble in dubious mental health advice as it raises concerns about the messaging being given to people who may be at their lowest in terms of self-confidence.

We’re, obviously, in a mental health emergency and not least because mental health services are woefully inadequate here but also because our lifestyles are so harmful to mental health versus the family, leisure and social balance seen in other countries. That’s why this is no time for fitness experts to be weighing in with testosterone-addled ‘man up’ gibberish and poor takes about mental ill-health. The worst kind won’t have the answers to the real causes but will gladly watch you pay thinking they do.

TLDR…the big problem with this? A young, or vulnerable, person listening to aggressive, chest-beating nonsense about their mental health from a person only qualified to give advice about ways to move around and lift heavy stuff risks deflecting from the need for vital professional help.

•4, ‘Alternative health experts and therapists’: This is possibly the most concerning group as the dangerous accounts among the sector frequently open the door to Covid misinformation and the usual bingo card of hate account topics.

Dubious and unregulated health advice aside, the alternative health industry – including the use of ‘give up X to transform your health’ as a sales grift (‘Buy My Book’!) – is a happy hunting ground for scam influencers who seek to leverage unhappiness and loneliness into blame, misogyny and online hate.

And they’ll make sure to take their cut via a dodgy supplement, book or online course.

TLDR…the problem with this? Picture a Venn Diagram, there’s a very large and very lucrative overlap between the worst kind of alternative therapists, bottom-feeding business and life coaches, personal trainers, Covid deniers, Bitcoin grifters, supplement sellers and apologists for people like Andrew Tate. You can look for these buzzwords, they’re always there. It always involves an extreme narcissist out to pull in money at any cost and, most of all, isn’t a place where where you’d want your loved one spending their time and money.


‘People Shouldn’t Be So Gullible’

Here’s the thing: many people are lonely, many people are unhappy and many people are vulnerable.

Yes, some people ‘shouldn’t be so gullible’. But some are too inexperienced or, worse, too susceptible at a particular point in their lives to know better.

At best, someone you know right now will be pouring money they don’t have into the pockets of someone you might have written off at first glance as a responsible, respected influencer.

At worst, their mental ill-health or loneliness is being intentionally monetised and turned towards hate accounts. After all it’s much, much easier and more profitable than helping the person find the help they actually need.

The bottom line? It’s extremely common, it isn’t harmless and it’s both a symptom AND a cause of the unhappy, unhealthy, mistrustful society we live in today.

It’s time to talk to your loved ones about the people influencing their mental health, views and wallet. If it isn’t already too late.

Discover more from Slugger O'Toole

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

We are reader supported. Donate to keep Slugger lit!

For over 20 years, Slugger has been an independent place for debate and new ideas. We have published over 40,000 posts and over one and a half million comments on the site. Each month we have over 70,000 readers. All this we have accomplished with only volunteers we have never had any paid staff.

Slugger does not receive any funding, and we respect our readers, so we will never run intrusive ads or sponsored posts. Instead, we are reader-supported. Help us keep Slugger independent by becoming a friend of Slugger. While we run a tight ship and no one gets paid to write, we need money to help us cover our costs.

If you like what we do, we are asking you to consider giving a monthly donation of any amount, or you can give a one-off donation. Any amount is appreciated.