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It’s in these conditions that we meet Bibbs, a fading reality star turned influencer about to turn 39, flailing as she successively attempts to stay relevant (and get cash quick) in increasingly desperate ways. Her relationship with her fans, like most influencers, is flimsy. “Women loved me,” she says, adding, “though not so much that I had their loyalty.” Her fans’ lack of boundaries “repulses” her. “My participation came with a demand for interiority, or a demand to expose more than what I had already exposed (everything), which was hard,” she says. “I didn’t have anything more to give.”

Over the course of one week, we witness Bibbs grapple with how to make a life without celebrity – and what there might be left to milk from her dwindling audience. Eventually Bibbs gives a warning most influencers would be wise to heed today: “Don’t trust your fucking fans.” 

By Sarah Manavis

Sarah Manavis is an American writer and critic living in the UK. She writes about culture, technology and society for places like The Guardian, The Economist, GQ and The i Paper, among others. Until 2022, she was senior writer at the New Statesman, where she still writes a regular column.

But over the last few years we are beginning to see how the parasocial relationship – and a career built on fans’ fickle attention more broadly – can be a slippery double-edged sword. Trying to claw back any form of a private life, particularly if such a choice becomes noticeable, can result in a swift backlash from fans. Some even switch sides entirely, becoming active anti-fans, spending countless hours a week bashing their onced-beloved influencers on dedicated hate forums.

Even for those influencers who don’t broadcast every nook and cranny of themselves to their fans, most of them will still be constantly attempting to adapt to their audience’s ever-shifting desires. It’s an influencer's job to keep their follower’s attention and bring them something familiar and unconfronting, but also, at the same time, something eye-catching and new. This too is proving a near impossible task, leaving an increasingly vast graveyard of ex-social media stars who have had a taste of fame and fortune but are forced – with limited skills and little warning – to crash back into normal civilian life.

The Rich, the Beloved, and the Glamorous

The most successful way to be an influencer online today – beyond being thin, beautiful and independently wealthy – is to be as open and confessional as possible. You must painstakingly show your audience they aren’t just followers but close friends, getting special access to the intimate details of your lives (or, at least, convincingly making it seem like they do).

Why this is so effective is thanks to the parasocial relationship – the false idea of an intimate, personal relationship with someone that you have never actually met. It’s easy to see how this has become rife online and many influencers will give up any semblance of privacy to stoke the perception of this bond. The prevailing wisdom has been that this is a wise business move – cultivating it can come with major benefits. There’s few things more lucrative than a dedicated fandom that truly trusts and loves you, who will rack up likes and views on each of your videos, click on ads and sponsored content or even loyally purchase products from your own brand. Every illness, every heartbreak, every exposure is an opportunity for huge commercial gain.




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