An online spat between two beauty vloggers over hair vitamins has shown one possible future of public discourse. It’s ugly.
Millions of people have recently been fascinated by the two vloggers’ spiteful slanging match. It has been filled with long video blog counter-postings of personal invective, threats of self-harm, and tearful apologies.
Followers freely switched allegiances to indicate who they supported in the see-saw battle. Children and young adults have joyfully talked about the affair with friends, dissecting the claims, and assessing who was winning.
The two people in this spat gained more followers because of the entertainment value of their feud. To be clear – there wasn’t a loser. In contrast to what people in the “real world” would expect if it happened to them, there was nothing for these online celebrities to be afraid of from accusations, denials and apologies.
We think these vapid modern influencers and their highly cynical audiences might create a world where mainstream public discourse is even more performative.
What we mean is that emerging adult audiences (Generation Z, as well as Millennials) will be comfortable with, attracted to, and even expect, performance by those in the public spotlight.
They will enjoy catty disputes between chief executives, cheer jibes between competing businesses, judge the quality of an apology routine but not the misdemeanour, and chortle at love life revelations of leaders. And they will continue cheerfully buying the products, because they know it doesn’t matter.
Hyper-reality is how young audiences now escape the everyday realities of their lives. It is coming to a boardroom near you.