Culture

Narrowing the lens on problematic influencers: David Dobrik

Story by Anna Johns, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

In recent years David Dobrik, 24, has become one of Gen Z’s favorite YouTubers. He portrayed a wholesome image and was even referred to as “Gen Z’s Jimmy Fallon.” However, the star has recently come under fire for allegations of sexual assault. 

The incident was brought to light in an article published by Business Insider last month. The incident occurred in 2018 and was featured in a deleted vlog titled, “SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE PLAYED WITH FIRE!!” In the vlog, Dobrik hung out with his friend Dom Zeglaitis, who provided alcohol to underage girls and engaged in sexual activities with them. 

The fallout of these accusations was instant, with many of Dobrik’s sponsors and investors breaking contracts with the influencer. Dobrik released two apology videos regarding the incident. The videos were even mocked by Saturday Night Live when they created a parody of his insincere and repeated apologies.

Dobrik is no stranger to controversy and has had several fall outs in the past. In the past, he has been accused of making anti-Semitic and racist jokes and even making fun of those with disabilities in his vlogs.

Dobrik’s group of friends that he featured in his vlogs was referred to as “The Vlog Squad.” The group was similar to the popular kids in highschool that everyone wanted to be friends with. As Dobrik’s popularity grew, so did the popularity of members of the Vlog Squad. They began to rub elbows with the rich and famous, and even attended award shows and celebrity parties. Every member in the group has millions of followers on social media as just being a part of the group seems to give members a platform for stardom.

In a previous incident a former friend of Dobrik accused him of sexual assault and racism. Joseph Francois, 26, was the only Black member of the Vlog Squad and was often used as the punchline for racist jokes. In one clip, Francois was told to open the fridge and watermelon spilled out. 

Another incident happened in June 2017 in a video titled, “HE THOUGHT HE WAS KISSING HER!! (SUPER CRINGEY).” In this video, the group pulled a prank on Francois where he thought he was kissing his friend but instead turned out he was making out with Jason Nash. He felt very uncomfortable with the incident and said that he never gave consent to kiss Nash. The video has been viewed over 10 million times. 

The problem with Dobrik and other influencers comes when you understand the power these influencers have over their fans. Social media stars are the new celebrities of the 21st century and have more followers than A-List celebrities on major social media platforms. 

In the past, many influencers have taken advantage of their platforms and exhibited problematic behavior that was imitated by impressionable fans. It is important for fans to realize that they should not idolize social media influencers and place high expectations on them. Otherwise they face the danger of those expectations not being met or worse they start to view these problematic behaviors as something to mimic.

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