Weilding influence responsibly

New Delhi (IANSlife) “Presence on social media also commands a certain responsibility”, says fashion influencer Masoom Minawala Mehta

There is such a cloud around the term “influencers”; in today’s digital world an influencer is a person who has a sizeable following on social media and the leverage to influence the consumption habits of others. Many of them are just ordinary people who have the “smarts” to understand how to use the power of social media. Within fashion, these influencers often wield more power than many fashion editors. Though many of them have never worked in the industry and some of them do not even know the difference between a bishop and a butterfly sleeve, if it wasn’t for google. The way they turn weddings and birthdays into branded celebrations, (aka “creative collaborations”) has raised many an eyebrow. But this is not the time for such judgments.

Love them or hate them, they are now part of the media world, with brands paying them the big bucks for endorsements, and with women turning to them for style advice. While they certainly don’t influence me, the last couple of weeks have made me look at influencing in a new light. As the crisis in India took a catastrophic U-turn none of us expected, many influencers changed their approach to content. They used their platforms to put out relevant information and stopped all brand activities before any of the fashion publications or fashion brands did, putting this crisis at the centre of their content.

One of the most followed fashion influencers in India is Masoom Minawala Mehta. Masoom started life as a blogger, Miss Style Fiesta, she now lives in Belgium and is one of the more experienced digital content creators. She has been on the covers of magazines and has a voice that many global Indians listen to. While she was perhaps not a “first mover” influencer to respond to the current crisis in India she has been effective, which is what counts. From encouraging her followers to be Instagram warriors, to talking about how to stay calm in a crisis; she even started her own crowdsourcing drive.

Now the thirty something fashion influencer has raised over Rs 50 lakh for the Hemkunt Foundation (an NGO based on the Sikh principle of ‘Welfare for All’), whose work at this time has been exemplary. Among their on-ground activities is opening an oxygen centre in Gurgaon, that is open 24 hours and can assist up to 500 patients at one time for oxygen. Says the young influencer, “presence on social media also commands a certain responsibility”. She had hoped to raise about Rs 20 lakh when she started her campaign just over a week ago, but the response has made Masoom want to set her bar even higher. “No one would be happier if we can touch one crore rupees. We have seen a great deal of support coming in not only from India but from across the world.”

Of course, every penny, paisa and cent matters right now, and her story is just one example of how this crisis has shown the resilience and the community spirit of India. Even with the current loss that many have suffered, all Indians, no matter where we live, lost someone that was near and dear to us. (Masoom herself lost her Nani this weekend to Covid-19). And sometimes the best way for us to cope, with the grief, anger or whatever emotion you are feeling is to do something. It could be lending a shoulder to someone; it could be using your social platform to amplify medical requests or it could be just staying home and keeping your family safe. We all have some influence, and how you exert it matters.

If you can and have the means to donate— please do so–just make sure it is the right platform, where the money is going toward is what is needed in these times. And it does not matter whether it is a family member, friend, a celebrity or a social media personality who helps you verify this information, because at the end of the day we are in this together.

The writer Sujata Assomull is an IANSlife columnist. Assomull is the author “100 Iconic Bollywood Costumes” and was the Founding Editor In Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, India.

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