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I’ve long thought that the Internet is currently like the Wild Wild West (No, not the Will Smith movie, actually give yourself a knowing smile if you remember that!) but like the Wild West we studied in school and now you can see a glimpse of in Westworld.
We’re all just shooting from the hip and dealing with the consequences later but should we have a code of ethics, a regulatory body, a way to protect ourselves and our readers?
Do No Harm
The Hippocratic oath says, First Do No Harm and every Doctor in the world usually follows that. But in every industry and profession, there are those that do choose to do harm.
They choose to put the needs of themselves before others. Medicine is an incredibly competitive, stressful field but it’s also regulated. There are rules, there are governing bodies and there’s accountability.
Ethics for Bloggers
What about for Bloggers? The rules of one country do not apply to another and even within countries like the UK and USA, there are no standard rules for Bloggers.
Sure the ASA in America and the UK can and sometimes do reinforce guidelines when it comes to Bloggers misbehaving but generally, it’s still such an unregulated field that we’re all a little overwhelmed.
That’s why I think Bloggers and Social Media Influencers should have a code of ethics, even if there is not a formal one.
DO NO HARM should be the first rule.
Bloggers and Social Media have a huge impact on what we eat, drink, watch, wear and how we entertain ourselves.
20 years ago, you found out about the hottest trend through a magazine or TV advert, now it’s all over Instagram for 5 minutes and then it’s over.
But recently, I’ve been noticing Instagrammers especially (those with the Swipe Up link) are just pushing products left right and centre.
Expecting their loyal following to buy everything they suggest no matter the price.
This is perfectly fine if your audience can afford to splash out on an expensive piece but what I have a problem with is Influencers hammering people with promotions and discount codes for a seemingly expensive product the company was planning to sell at that price anyway.
The discount code just makes it more enticing.
I’ve personally stopped following quite a few Bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers who I don’t feel behave ethically and have become a sales page and seem to be pushing the products they’re paid to review without any alternatives.
Basically, they’ve become the BBC.
What the Law says about Advertising on Social Media
The Competition Marketing Authority released the names of 16 celebrities recently who breached the rules recently and
What does this mean for me?
My salary came into my account every month and just like that whooshed out buying anything certain influencers recommended because they preyed on my insecurities about my skin and my body.
Finally letting go of some toxic relationships was the start and from now on, unless the person makes me feel good or provides value I’m not going to follow them anymore.
My Influence as a Blogger
Reflecting on my Influence on a Blogger, I probably regulate myself more than anything and think 5 times before I post something here on the blog or on my Instagram because my words have weight and permanence.
I have a very small but lively following who I consider friends who thankfully don’t buy everything I recommend and nor do I pressure them to.
Since changing my ethos from buying everything and saying, “It’s so Kewl!” to now being more mindful with my purchases and sharing honest opinions and reviews I feel like I am slowly building up a community Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God).
A Code of Ethics for Readers
Readers also should be following a code of ethics in my opinion. They should be calling out their favourite Bloggers if they don’t follow the rules but also not blaming a Blogger if a product they recommended doesn’t work for them.
Everyone’s lifestyles, genetics and reactions to things are different, so why blame someone who is sharing a product with you?
If it didn’t work for you, rather than slandering the person recommending you, take it up with the company.
At the end of the day, no-one forced you to buy something and if you are easily influenced, I would suggest you take the time to really do your research and educate yourself on ingredients, the manufacturing process and the company in question before you start blaming someone else for your reaction to something.
I recently had an experience where I bought a product that a popular Influencer in the Muslim Community recommended and it was an epic fail. Easily one of the worst products I’ve ever bought and at £56 after discount, not cheap either.
How did I handle it? Well, like an idiot I ignored the negative reviews on their website and I couldn’t get a refund because it was a hygiene product that actually retails for £20 on eBay.
If I had done my research, I would never have bought this product, but I also no longer follow this person because I was finding that their feed and stories had become a sales page, which is not what I was interested in.
Realising that this person didn’t have a positive impact on my life and I was only following for Drama, I decided to unfollow them on all platforms.
I don’t begrudge them from making an income at all, more power to you!
But I realised their influence in my life was no longer needed or wanted and had become quite unpleasant, so I respectfully bowed out without saying anything or causing any drama.
Human Existence is so short and never repeats, why do you want to spend it with people who don’t make you feel good?
Ethics in Blogging is a huge debate and I can’t see an international Regulatory Body that has the power to enforce rules coming anytime soon, but if we support Bloggers and Influencers who are following the rules and creating content we love and using their voice to champion good causes they believe in then the world will be a much better place for it.
With the new CMA rules, I feel it will become ever harder for Bloggers to disclose current or past relationships with brands and man will ignore the guidelines until the CMA start clamping down on non compliant behaviour.