'Influencer fatigue' is real. Here's why people are getting tired of watching internet personalities post about their lavish lifestyles.

Credit: @emiliekiser @abbybaffoe @queencitytrends via TikTok

Although the spectacle of influencers flaunting their affluence has long been a staple of social media, there are signs that audiences are growing tired of it. Experts say “influencer fatigue” is wearing on young people who crave authenticity as inflation rises and achieving a stable livelihood becomes increasingly difficult.

On Feb. 29, Tarte Cosmetics sent 30 people on an all-expense paid vacation to Bora Bora. From a private jet ride flowing with champagne and caviar to luxurious lodging in overwater bungalows, creators churned out content about the sumptuous trip, promoting Tarte along the way.

Tarte has been sending influencers on vacation on and off for years, with destinations ranging from Turks and Caicos in 2015 to Florida in 2022. When the cosmetics brand sent a gaggle of 50 influencers to Dubai in 2023, it was criticized as “tone deaf” for putting extravagant wealth on display amid a cost-of-living crisis.

But controversy didn’t stop Tarte from deploying the same influencer trip strategy in 2024. The brand’s CEO, Maureen Kelly, told Business Insider that the brand values the “power of genuine connections over flashy advertising,” instead choosing to "invest in relationships” over a $7 million Super Bowl ad.

According to Adweek, that’s the “influencer marketing recipe”: Creators share social media posts that equate the brand with sunshine and positive vibes, reaching a wider audience than the brand could have alone. Tarte may now be infamous for its luxurious brand trips, and some of the consumers who might invest in their products say the lavish influencer spending is tone deaf.

Are influencers losing their power among Gen Z?

People might talk about Tarte’s influencer marketing long after their controversial brand trip content has gone viral, but influencer fatigue is rising. Influencers with massive follower bases might have the biggest potential audience for brands, but young people are growing disillusioned with creators they can’t relate to.

According to data from a YPulse study shared with Yahoo News, 45% of people between the ages of 13 and 22 say influencers just don’t have the same power that they used to. About 53% said they were more likely to trust recommendations from regular people online whom they don’t know rather than creators with large followings.

Influencer marketing once offered an alternative to typical celebrity marketing. Celebrities appeal to us as salespeople because of the psychological phenomenon known as the halo effect. If someone is talented or beautiful, we assume they are highly qualified in other ways as well, which boosts sales. Influencers, who are powerful but not conventionally famous, offered a more relatable and accessible alternative. They’re far enough removed from celebrities that we can relate to them — until we can’t.

Mira Kopolovic, global director of cultural insights at creative agency We Are Social, told Yahoo News that lavish influencers sell us a dream, but research shows that the “dream” is “no longer persuasive for most young people, many of whom feel shut out of social mobility, opportunity or a viable future altogether.”

“Luxe influencers still have their place: either as escapist fantasies or as aspirational figures for the most optimistic viewers,” she said. “But as a society, when people feel like they have fewer opportunities in their own lives, it’s harder to see themselves in the success of others.”

The relatability factor

It’s difficult for people to separate influencers they follow for escapism from influencers they relate to because of the way social media sites have changed over the years. In the past and on platforms like Instagram, users would have to follow accounts to see influencer posts in their feeds. Now apps like TikTok use an algorithm to show users posts based on what their behavior suggests they might like, introducing them to influencers they haven’t seen before or have chosen not to follow. Negative engagement still counts as engagement, so that model makes influencers difficult to avoid.

The concept of “de-influencing” blew up in 2023 when content creators fought back against the idea that influencers were constantly trying to get people to buy things, particularly on TikTok’s shopping marketplace that is now fused with its home feed. De-influencers advocate against the consumption of certain products.

Amy Zehren, a Gen Z trendspotter and the head of growth for virtual experience company Basket Entertainment, told Yahoo News that “authenticity is key” when it comes to influencers.

“The shift towards relatable content over extravagant displays, as seen with Tarte Cosmetics influencers in Bora Bora, reflects Gen Z values of personal engagement and genuine storytelling,” she said.

Branding is important, but brands need to be relatable to resonate with Gen Z.