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Influencer Antics Have Gone Too Far

Trigger Warning: This article discusses serious issues regarding minors.

I’m no stranger to the tumult of social media and its inhabitants. I’ve written extensively on the relationship between social media and mental health, relatability culture, family vloggers, commentary channels, and more. The internet is a fascinating, irresistible landscape, chock-full of social dynamics and divisions just waiting for someone like me to come and pick them apart. I love being on the internet, and I love analyzing it, warts and all. But there are moments when I must screech to a halt, put my foot down, and hold up my hand: stop.

This is one of those moments. The name Gabi DeMartino often conjures up the name Niki DeMartino, her twin sister. Together, they run a channel called Niki and Gabi with almost 10 million subscribers, but Gabi has her own channel as well, titled Fancy Vlogs by Gab. They’ve been submerged in a hefty amount of scandal and sketchiness over the years, the most serious being Gabi’s undisclosed sponsorships toward her young, impressionable fanbase. Up until now, at least.

Recently, Gabi DeMartino hopped on the bandwagon and launched an OnlyFans account, a relatively nascent platform that started in 2016 and known mainly for its sex-working function. There, users can pay to access private content from creators, which are usually of an explicit nature. The surge of influencers and celebrities  — like Bella Thorne and Tana Mongeau — flocking into OnlyFans have turned quite a few heads, mostly in disapproval, as they’ve been accused of siphoning away money from creators who need it more.

Gabi delivered a private message to her followers, which read, “Won’t put my panties on,” along with a video that her followers could view for $3. Innocuous enough, if only it weren’t for the egregious content of that video. The clip is a home video from Gabi’s childhood, in which she lifts her clothing and reveals herself. First, let’s consider the facts: she posted this clip on OnlyFans, a platform that, once again, is known for its sex-working function. And on this platform, she is selling inappropriate content of a minor.

Moreover, her predominant fanbase is, once again, young and impressionable. When she announced her intentions to join OnlyFans, it’s likely many of these fans followed her. Lying about one’s age is a widespread practice nowadays, and when given free rein on the internet, children can be exposed to a number of horrific things. Not only is distributing explicit images of a minor to people — some of whom might be underage themselves — downright nauseating, it’s also illegal.

 

If Gabi had posted this elsewhere, in any one of her other very successful accounts, the waters wouldn’t really stir. There isn’t anything inherently promiscuous in the clip. But by making the conscious decision to sell it over OnlyFans, dressing it up as “sexy” with her cryptic message, her video wasn’t silly or fun — it was, to put it bluntly, messed up. Child pornography is a pressing, prevalent issue when it comes to the internet and all its dark crannies. This situation might as well count as it, and with Gabi’s popularity, runs the risk of encouraging such criminal behavior.

When it comes to children, I draw the line. That’s where the forgivable ends, and the unforgivable begins.

Naturally, social media flew into apoplectic rage. And, as usual with influencers, Gabi released a watered-down apology and explanation, where she claimed she used OnlyFans as a “finsta” page and she was “sorry … if this came out wrong.” While she took the video down, we were far from appeased, our fury only reached greater heights at this casual, out-of-touch statement. Things progressed quickly: OnlyFans told Insider that Gabi’s page was removed, and the enormity of her mistake finally sunk in, leading her to post a two-minute apology video on her YouTube channel.

There’s not much to be said about her apology. She professes her guilt, admits her mistake, vows to be better. Her voice cracks with emotion. Her words don’t sound too robotic and scripted, at least. The typical apology video, I suppose. But the issue isn’t her apology video, specifically — it’s the fact that she had to make one in the first place. Hasn’t she learned anything from her peers? Hasn’t she learned the value of being cognizant, being rational?

The past couple of years have been a litany of apology videos, one after another. The history of influencers has been one of dereliction of duty, one after another. Quite frankly, we’re tired of the apology videos. We’re tired of seeing their regret, their remorse, even if it’s genuine. We’re tired of every “sorry” spoken, because it’s only said after they’ve erred colossally and received a diatribe from us. It’s only after they’ve committed the wrongdoing do they understand what they’ve done, when only amends can be made, and nothing can be done for the past.

After the year we’ve had, our well of patience has run dry. Enough is enough is enough. Influencers — foresight has a definition. Please, familiarize yourself with it.

Photo by Gabi DeMartino

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