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Opinion columnist Jeffrey Birch urges readers not to compare themselves to the most visibly successful people in society.


On Nov. 9, YouTubers Logan Paul and KSI fought in a professional boxing match. The YouTubers previously fought in 2018. That match ended in a draw. The second match is projected to bring in about a million pay-per-view purchases. One million buys is the standard for large, publicized fights, and the two YouTubers broke through that when they, and their brothers, fought last year.

Boxing is doing its best to take advantage of a growing phenomenon. Influencers as cultural touchstones have been an emergent trend in the past 10 years. Younger generations that grew up with them are starting to become forces in the market.

Celebrities have always been a thing. Some people have tried to claim that “influencer” is just a fancy name for this generation’s celebrities, but that misses an important dimension to influencer culture.

Traditional celebrities, movie stars, athletes and musicians would become famous for their various skills. Then paparazzi would clamor and vie for just a glimpse into their personal lives, usually being vehemently opposed by the celebrities themselves.

Looking then at the traditional influence, the difference becomes stark. Influencers offer, genuinely or not, a personal connection — a look into a person’s life. Most influencers do sometimes start by displaying some talent — the Paul brothers originally made solid comedy vines — but others simply had strong personalities and either got lucky or got in early.

Regardless of where they start, successful influencers begin letting their fans deeper and deeper into their lives. The pinnacle of this is the daily vlog. Having a video released everyday about your life is a level of openness that transitions an influencer from a person to a brand. It also creates a dangerous signal to their viewers. If you have something to talk about every single day, that means you have to be doing something unique and novel almost every single day as well.

If that were someone’s career and life, fine. The problem is that the influencer frames their life as a normal person’s life that you’re simply getting to watch. As college students, we’re aware this isn’t a normal or even a truly attainable life to live, but children and young teenagers aren’t. This creates a dangerous perception around what it’s like to be an adult, to be successful and, ultimately, to be happy.

Influencers can feed into those misconceptions in the worst ways. You often see them putting out messages about how they worked so hard to get where they are, how they were just like everyone else, etc. Many influencers have and do put in an enormous amount of work, but that is ignoring the huge amount of luck that comes with any kind of success. I’m sure it would be really hard to acknowledge that without some lucky break, you’d just be another person on the street.

Success comes in a lot of forms. It’s really easy to compare our lives to the most visible and successful people we can see, but we’ll just come out the worst from it. You can’t compare your life to someone whose job it is to appear happy and successful. No one comes out the better from that. Look at your own life. Set some real, attainable goals for where you’re wanting to be and how you’re going to get there. The only life you can lead is your own.

Jeffrey Birch is a senior from Wichita studying accounting.