Did 2023 Become the Year of the Social Media Influencer?

Viewpoint: A look at how five top social media influencers have impacted our everyday lives throughout the year and why.

The year 2023 became the moment for the science and art of social media influencing. 

From the MSCHF’s Big Red Boot to the content on X (formerly Twitter), we know that influencers have the power to make an impression on our decisions by simply going viral. These individuals have a way of convincing society that they are more knowledgeable and likable than doctors, CPAs, dietitians and other industries.

So is there a specific responsibility that should come with this influence? Sure! We are all grown and make our own decisions. But if something goes wrong, who is to blame? As the year wraps up, let’s look at five influencers who have made a footprint on social media.


Keith Lee

The former MMA fighter turned food critic with more than 15 million followers on TikTok. Lee went viral after reviewing restaurants, causing their establishments to increase revenue the next day. While he offers an honest opinion, many take it personally when the Las Vegas resident offered not-so-stellar reviews about a Black-owned company.

Last month, the father of two went viral after his negative reviews of many of the Atlanta restaurants. One restaurant that received a critique was The Real Milk and Honey. While Lee did give positive scores in his Oct. 26 review, the Atlanta establishment did have its shortcomings.

Shortly after Lee’s review, their business seemed to have a different crowd than before Lee arrived with his critique. The company allegedly saw a downturn based on a TikTok video uploaded just days after he provided his review. 

After the food tour, Lee received death threats because of the honest but arguably hurtful things he said about Black-owned businesses. 

Black restaurant owners aren't above reproach. Some say Keith could still be honest but privately tell the owners of their mishaps before publicly blasting them. Two things can be true at once.

Kai Cenat

In August, the popular Twitch streamer, hosted a giveaway at New York's Union Square, promising Playstations and $100 gift cards. Unfortunately, thousands of fans—mostly teenagers—showed up, causing chaos—standing on top of cars, throwing bottles and blows. As a result, authorities charged Cenat with inciting a riot and promoting an unlawful gathering. 

He attempted to do a good deed, but his influence spurred mayhem and put thousands in harm's way. At the time, he was the most subscribed to Twitch streamer, according to TwitchTracker. If you're that popular on a platform, there may be better ideas than randomly announcing a giveaway and asking people to attend.

But to his credit, in a statement Cenat did acknowledge his part in the chaos that was caused."Being from New York, it has been my dream to want to give back to the community that made me who I am," he said. "I want people to know that none of that was my intention, I had good intentions for this whole thing... I don't condone any of the things that went on that day."

Tiara Willis

The New York-based influencer and licensed esthetician with more than 300,000 followers on Twitter, always has the girlies ready to spend their bill money on new skincare products, me included. For instance, Naturium, a $16 body wash, went viral on X because of her recommendation. As a result, consumers bought the product, which would sell out on the website and in stores. Based on her opinion, she convinced me to subscribe to a $22-per-month subscription service for a body wash that I barely use. 

While Willis is an esthetician and can offer a wealth of knowledge on skincare, the fact that she convinced thousands of others before a dermatologist confirms that society trusts influencers. Some will say she is meeting people where they are. Others may argue that we should consult an actual dermatologist regarding skincare. 

Either way, she's trusted by many because of her viral content and authority in the Black skincare space. But she’s also relatable, particularly for Black women, so to gain trust, she doesn't necessarily have to be a doctor.

Bobby Smith

The frutarian out of Toledo, Ohio, whose diet consists of eating only different types of fruits and has more than 124,000 followers on Facebook, promotes a diet composed of only eating fruit. Smith went viral this past summer after photos of him eating watermelon became a hot topic. The images sparked a debate on whether or not this was a safe weight-loss technique while encouraging others to follow suit. 

People may find this strange, but Smith has successfully lost weight and is helping others with their fruit diet. Participants pay $10 for a 30-day spot in his Fruit Up Challenge, even though he's not a dietician.

Some of this can be risky, given that you need more than just fruit to provide daily nutrients and a balanced diet, according to the US Department of Agriculture. But let's be honest: when have health risks stopped anyone from participating in a fad diet? As a society, we are so obsessed with weight loss that we'll try anything once, and it’s hard to deny Smith’s impact. 


The digital creator and influencer for the curvy “gworlz,” has 1.5 million TikTok followers in a chokehold. Known for dropping the latest fashion trends and showing us how to style the pieces, the Dallas resident convinces many to spend their coins based on her reviews.

It is brave to order multiple outfits because of someone's word and wonder if you can fit the items or if they will even look good. Why do we trust Christiana, though? Plus size fashion usually gives two degrees: Church mother or business casual. In a world where it's hard to find trendy styles for all of these hips, anyone who can find and convince me that these fashions exist will always have a supporter.

Because of the twenty-something influencer, we know there's a wide range to choose from, and we can look good while putting that drip on! Will some money be wasted? Sure. But I'd instead take my chances and hope for the best.

La’Janee Alford is’s Senior Social Editor.

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