Du-bye: The UK influencers travelling to Dubai despite National Lockdown measures
Illustration by Alice Kirk

Despite Dubai’s (and the rest of the UAE’s) recent addition to the Foreign Office’s (FCDO) ‘no-go’ list, why are we still seeing an influx of UK influencers promoting their exotic holidays in the city?

On the 12th of March 2020, we were told we would be entering a three-week lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. Over 300 days later, life has still not returned to normal. What is now being dubbed the ‘new normal’ essentially means that some of us have not seen family members, friends, or gone to work for almost a year now.

Another great absence from many of our lives-travelling- has culminated in a rise in ‘stay-cations’ and day trips enjoying landmarks nearer to home. If you follow some UK influencers, however, you might be forgiven for thinking the global pandemic has now ended.

One rule for us, another for them 

Over the Christmas and New Year period, social media was flooded with content from UK influencers ‘living their best lives’ on the sun-soaked beaches of Dubai. After many European countries, such as Spain and Italy, effectively closed their borders to the UK in December 2020 in response to the new, more transmissible variant of the virus, Dubai has capitalised on the UK population’s yearning for a holiday and the prospect of some ‘normality’.

 Many of those who have jumped at the chance to experience some of the world’s most luxurious bars, hotels and views are influencers who claim they are travelling for ‘business’ purposes. 

How is it fair that equally hard-working, self-employed members of the population have had to put their livelihoods on hold? With many small (and even large) businesses suffering as a result of multiple lockdowns and tier restrictions, why are we witnessing influencers promote themselves and their holidays in Dubai under the ruse that they are actually undertaking ‘essential’ work?

Absorbing all of this content whilst at home, unable to see closest family members, has no doubt created a sense of animosity from followers and observers obeying the rules at home.

 So, why do we follow these influencers and allow them to have this platform?

 The answer, quite simply, is because we want to be like them. As much as we would like to deny it, we want to follow them because we are interested, because we aspire to be like them. In some cases, we watch their vlogs to escape our own day-to-day lives. We are encouraged by the narrative that, if we work hard at our dreams, we too can live the life we desire.

This is comforting. It is nice to have someone to admire and to inspire us, and even better that social media can allow us to engage and relate with them as much as we like. We even have the power to unfollow and block accounts that we do not wish to associate with.

However, for many of us, this desired life cannot be achieved during a global pandemic. But why should we follow rules and put a stop to it if our favourite influencers are not doing their bit to help curb the infection rate?

Psychology of Influence define an influencer as someone who, through their own hard work and passion, have built up a trusted network of engaged fans, which they use to create trends and influence their buying decisions.

To have this power is equally rewarding and dangerous. The common conception that ‘anyone could be an influencer’ is scary because also true. Who are we giving these platforms to? And how is it fair that they are abusing them so much?

Geordie Shore star Chloe Ferry recently received backlash after she posted a picture of herself saying she was at her ‘happiest’ when in Dubai. She has since informed her 3.5 million followers that she is extending her stay and will now reside in Dubai for a further2 months – potentially avoiding the UK’s new lockdown measures entirely.

Youtuber Henry Wade shared a similar post with his 56k Instagram followers about the ‘carefree lifestyle’ he is currently adopting in Dubai, whilst the UK enters its third national lockdown.

In the post, he appears to have good intentions, encouraging his followers to ‘work on themselves’ during the new restrictions. However, he is merely portrayed as out of touch. How can these influencers, who we once related to, and saw as a ‘friend,’ be so naïve and separated from the ‘real world’?

This narrative is dangerous. This article does not come from a place of jealousy, but a place of worry, a place of desperation for the life we once knew to return. The COVID-19 situation in the UK is still perilous, and the longer these selfish acts continue, the longer we will fall victim to this heinous disease.

However, it is imperative to understand that this is not behaviour demonstrated by all influencers. Instead, some have used their platforms to show that they are adhering to the rules, and that we should too.

Ex-Coronation Street actress Lucy Fallon has previously used her platform to call out those who have travelled to Dubai. In a series of posts, Lucy mocked those travelling to Dubai and instead opted to share images of a walk she took much closer to home, in Fleetwood.

In times like these, when we are consuming more social media than ever, perhaps we should divert our attention to my earlier question – ‘who are we giving these platforms to?’.

Cases of COVID-19 in the UK are still rising. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has now declared a ‘major incident’ in the Capital. It is estimated that 1 in 30 Londoners now has coronavirus and emergency services and hospitals can no longer promise a normal level of response.

Harrowing statistics like the ones above are commonplace in the news now. We are subjected, almost daily, to the notion that the situation is not improving as it should be. Therefore, why are we also frequently exposed to influencers living a normal life?

This article is not meant to persuade you to hate influencers, or to feel even more despondent about current lockdown measures. Instead, the purpose is to draw attention to the power of social media and what we are consuming and how it can affect us.

If we remove the influencers exploiting lockdown rules from our feed and focus on those wanting to work together in combating this deadly virus, our feeds – and maybe our lives – will be a much happier place. After all, once we remove the platform, and the influence and conviction they have over us, they will no longer be able to escape the severity of the situation.

As mentioned earlier, an influencer is someone with power. However, I think we, the consumers, the followers, the fans, have more power if we work together to facilitate only those who deserve the platform and opportunity to have one.

Finally, as we approach our fourth week of a third lockdown, it is vital that, if you are struggling, you speak out. This could be with a friend, family member, or one of many available services online.

Contact Samaritans: 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

NHS advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/feeling-lonely/

Need someone to talk to? https://www.7cups.comIf you want to help someone else, or learn more about the loneliness many are facing: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/loneliness-during-coronavirus