Uncensored, unafraid, and quite frankly unapologetic, a new wave of anonymously run Instagram accounts and online tipsters are becoming dedicated to calling out the current Australian social media influencer community (Image Source: Daily Mail).

By Bec Gaitaneris | @becgaitaneris

I’m swiping my way through Instagram’s main newsfeed, minding my own business, when I see a profile that piques my interest. Not because I fancy the person behind the profile but rather because their bio contains what I can only describe as manifesto, and it’s all about influencers.

Their bio reads: “Over the fakeness of influencers and their sponsored, filtered, and, filler-filled feeds.”

This person is not an influencer themselves. Their profile tells me nothing about their identity, but they appear to hold strong opinions about people of influence that are uncensored, unafraid, and quite frankly, unapologetic.

This account, @overinfluencers, was born out of the desire to shine a light on problematic influencer posts. Its owner has remained anonymous during its rise in popularity, which came from calling out the Australian influencer community.

Via Instagram’s direct messages, the mystery creator behind @overinfluencers spoke to me on the condition of anonymity. It’s a solo act; they are the only one running the account.

I discerned a few details that paint a picture of what the person behind @overinfluencers might be like: passionate about diversity, inclusion, honesty, transparency, self-love, body positivity, and natural beauty.

“I wanted to start a page that shared problematic posts and to open people’s eyes, as I realised just how many people don’t actually know how much of the content on Instagram is fake,” they said.

“I remember being so over seeing fake, filtered and photoshopped content.

 “I never expected more than a couple of thousand followers.”

Since its launch last year, @overinfluencers has amassed 11,100 followers.

During the early stages, the mystery person behind @overinfluencers questioned their motives for running the account.

“Personally, I would never follow [on my personal Instagram account] any of the problematic influencers I post about,” they said.

“After creating the account, I actually spent more time surrounding myself and looking at content I so deeply disagreed with.

“I almost stopped running the account, but as it got bigger, people started sending content and I no longer had to go through the accounts I disliked.”

As the audience continues to grow, so does the responsibility of the account’s owner which makes running the account very difficult.

“I actually don’t want the account to grow any bigger because it’s a bigger responsibility, and I never envisaged it to be a large following.”

“I still question myself daily if I should continue running this account.”

The Australian-focused page reposts images and captions from different influencers that are racist, nonsensical, hypocritical or contradicting.

“When influencers post ignorant, racist or heavily face-tuned photos I generally repost them on my account,” they said.

The Australian-focused page re-posts influencer posts that are ignorant, racist or heavily face-tuned (Image Source: @overinfluencers)

Wait… what exactly is an influencer?

Apparently, it’s an individual who wields influence.

Influencer culture has strong ties to consumerism, marketing and the rise of technology. The term “influencer” is shorthand for someone (or something) with the ability to influence others’ buying habits or actions by uploading some form of original (often sponsored) content to social media platforms like Instagram.

There always have and always will be people of influence, but social media influencers are not necessarily the same as their predecessors.

Admiration for these influencers is not for their talent or the work they do through traditional forms of entertainment, like celebrities. They are gorgeous people who do gorgeous things. They are what we all wish we were, despite representing an unrealistic lifestyle for the everyday Australian.

As a result of their desirability, influencers are put on a pedestal. Their every move is in the watchful eyes of the public as their online choices are held to a higher standard.

In the name of this accountability, there are a small but rapidly growing number of anonymous Instagram accounts and online tipsters, much like @overinfluencers, dedicated to calling out the current Australian social media influencer community.

Many have amassed a huge, almost cult-like following. In most cases, they keep the identities behind the Instagram accounts hidden, adding to the mystery, making you feel like Nancy Drew, and giving you serious Gossip Girl nostalgia.

Online vigilantes like @overinfluencers seem to follow the principles of watchdog journalism, a type of investigative journalism that reports on specific societal issues or the wrongdoings of people in positions of power.

Like reporters, they seek story ideas from the community, get tips from loyal followers who act as amateur paparazzi and slide into their direct messages, maintain an investigative attitude, and become trailblazers of dissent in the influencers they watch.

@overinfluencers intentionally steers clear of more serious topics, partially for legal reasons, but also because they are not interested in hardcore drama.

“I often get sent stories or messages sent between people that are problematic, but I stay away from posting anything like that. I also steer clear from mum-shaming,” they said.

Since starting the account, @overinfluencers has not dealt with much backlash, perhaps because what they post tends to be rooted in truth and legitimate issues with influencer culture as opposed to pure snark.

While the discussion threads on the anonymous account are mostly centred on the problematic nature of influencers, @overinfluencers also shines a light on influencer accounts worth following. A weekly post is dedicated to an admired influencer. One who @overinfluencers believes is worth following and should be considered “influential”.

“I’m not here to just shame influencers, I also like to share the ones that stand out and are different.”

“What I love most about some of the more positive influencers is that among their glamourised posts, they keep it real. No filters, no photoshop jobs, wild hair, pigmented skin, tired eyes, just like the rest of us and how every human really looks like,” they said.

Some re-posts highlight positive influencers (Image Source: @overinfluencers)

The talk of the town

With the steady rise in anonymous Instagram accounts calling out the influencer community, many have become the subjects for Australian podcasts. Adelaide journalists Amy and Sophie Taeuber host Outspoken the podcast, which centres reality television, influencers, entertainment, business and issues facing women. 

The Outspoken hosts often discuss anonymous Instagram accounts on their podcast, and they say they’re met with a lot of intrigue from their listeners. They say there seems to be a huge appetite to know who’s behind these anonymous accounts.

“We are seeing interest in influencers overtaking interest in celebrities. I think for so long influencers have been held up on a pedestal, especially to millennials and Gen Zers, and now many are questioning why this is the case when so many are problematic,” Amy said.

“Influencers hold so much power over society and there are a lot of young and impressionable people who follow their every move.

“To have an account calling out their problematic behaviour is refreshing.”

But lately, there seems to be a growing sentiment that these anonymous accounts are more like villains than vigilantes.

“The issue a lot of these pages have is moderating comments. A light-hearted post poking fun at an influencer’s spelling error, can often result in unnecessary hate in the comments section,” Sophie said.

“With so many new accounts popping up, I do worry about the anonymous nature of them.

“When you hide under a veil of anonymity, it can be dangerous as you say things you might not normally say and there appears to be no consequences for your actions,” Sophie said.

“It’s often hard to prosecute the owners of these accounts as their identity is concealed.”

The Outspoken hosts believe intrigue and interest will continue to grow around unfiltered opinions on influencers in an industry that’s becoming a huge part of mainstream culture.

What are influencers saying?

Brooke Upton, an Adelaide-based influencer, has found success on Instagram through uploading honest, everyday content on her stories to form real connections with her followers. In doing so, she has amassed 36,500 followers.

Brooke agrees accountability is necessary, but says any slip up from an influencer is magnified and exposed to a larger audience.

 “I absolutely agree that people should be held accountable for their actions; though I feel there is a black or white culture when it comes to online personalities and the perception that they can’t make mistakes like the rest of us,” Brooke said.

Fellow Adelaide influencer Gabby Goessling has also made a name for herself in the social media industry, with 305,000 Instagram followers.

Gabby believes the slope between accountability and bullying influencers can be a slippery one.

“Holding people accountable for problematic behaviour is really important, but I think these type of pages lose credibility when they start bullying.

“I don’t agree with pages that nit-pick and promote bullying of influencers when it’s over ridiculous little things, to me, it just seems obsessive and reflects their own personal issues,” Gabby said.