Hook ups, Break ups, Make ups: Influencer couples as digital estates
Over the last two decades, the Influencer industry has progressed from a bedroom blog hobby to a multi-million international economy. In this time, many young women who began self-branding and acquiring internet celebrity by curating and monetizing selected aspects of their personal lives have also matured in their life course. As these Influencers progress from teenhood to young adulthood, milestones pertaining to romantic coupling are proving to be another mineable and viable source of content and income. In this paper, I argue that three key shifts are occurring in the Influencer ecology when romance has become packaged as digital estates and when the trajectory of romantic relationships becomes fertile soil for advertorials. Influencers are cultivating their romantic partners into proximate microcelebrity and building their couplehood as marketable brands. Yet given that young love can be volatile, these Influencers are also strategizing over breakups and new relationships with self-care, responsibility to followers, and media value in mind. Of the various vernacular practices emerging, I present the three concepts of “public coupling”, “power coupling”, and “curated breaking up” to demonstrate how Influencers are producing the couple as a unit, through the hyper-visibilization and exoticization of usually mundane “coupling narratives”. I discuss events such as courtship, relationship debuts, choreographed engagements, sponsored weddings, curated breakups, and revelatory divorces to illustrate how romance as digital estates in the Influencer industry is shaping a new form of digital intimate publics.
For the conference paper: Abidin, Crystal. 2017. “Hook ups, Break ups, Make ups: Influencer couples as digital estates.” Digital Intimacies: Connections and disconnection, RMIT, Melbourne. November 13-15, 2017.