Elle Darby is a 22-year-old social media influencer from Bath, England. She describes herself as a "fitness, beauty, and lifestyle YouTuber" with the slogan "you do you boo." She has been vlogging since 2015, and her YouTube channel includes workout sessions, fashion hauls and videos of daily life. Recently, Darby was catapulted into the spotlight over a controversial Facebook post by The White Moose Café, a restaurant and hotel in Dublin, Ireland. They anonymously shared an email they had received, which claimed to be a business proposal, essentially asking for a free four-day stay in exchange for social media exposure.
Written in a conversational, friendly tone, the email claims to be a business proposal. The most striking part of the post, however, was the scathing reply by White Moose.
Tech-savvy readers quickly realized that the identity of the mystery influencer could be easily revealed with a little photo manipulation, and Elle Darby was exposed as the writer. She was immediately inundated with furious comments on all her platforms and responded that same day in an emotional video.
While the outcry definitely warranted a response, her reply only served to stir up more controversy and fan the flames of her opposers, who called her everything from "entitled" and "immature" to outright "disgusting" and "a symptom of society's ruin." Here's my take:
Firstly, White Moose was absolutely out of line for their response to her email request. Whether or not you think her email was immature, bratty or outright stupid, it should have been kept private. If the owners of White Moose felt the need to express their feelings, they could have sent the very same response they posted on Facebook directly to Darby, instead of broadcasting it to the public. However, a little exploration of the White Moose Twitter and Facebook accounts reveal that this isn't new behavior for the establishment, which regularly stirs up controversy as part of their publicity. They have previously attacked vegans, breastfeeding mothers and bloggers, though none of their actions have ever gotten such a massive reaction.
This was absolutely a publicity move, and a smart one. White Moose has now been the subject of hundreds of articles all over the world, and has certainly become more popular. But enough is enough. They are continuing to capitalize on Elle Darby's public shaming, even going so far as to make T-shirts that make light of how easy it was to reveal her identity, and making a dramatic announcement banning all social media content creators from their property. In my opinion, they have gone way too far. In terms of business strategy, they're brilliant, but it is being done with immature maliciousness.
However, there are issues on the other side as well. It was a little absurd for Darby to request a room in the way she did. In order to truly send a business proposition, she should have sent a professional message explaining what she could offer the company, rather than sending a brief, obviously copy-pasted message complete with emojis and vague statements of fame. In her response video, she makes totally valid points about how unwarranted her online abuse has been and explains that as a YouTuber, complimentary stays are part of how her life works, as she offers the service of exposure to her fanbase.
Unfortunately, she goes on a few tangents that don't help her case. She takes the whole drama to an ageist conclusion, stating that anyone "over the age of 30" can't understand social media and the online world, and thus doesn't understand her and her peers. She compares free hotel stays and goods to the discount a store employee receives. This paints it as an expectation she deserves just by being a YouTuber, not a perk of her success.
She goes on to say that her situation is going to teach kids to give up on their dreams, rather than face opposition. Throughout the video, she walks a thin line of valid points and conclusions that too often veer off into offensive or misinformed conclusions. For example, throughout the video, she insists that she was only asking if she could possibly get a discount. However, the email clearly offers posts in "exchange for free accommodation." We can't forget, however, that this should never have happened. She is doing her best to respond to a crazy situation. An established company shouldn't viciously expose an individual's innocent action in order to bump up their own publicity–no matter what they thought of it.
Elle Darby is a prominent social media influencer who was unfairly thrown into international fame by the publicity-savvy owners of a Dublin cafe and hotel. However, she is also in a position of privilege. Yes, becoming a YouTube star takes lots of hard work and dedication. But to describe it as "the life she knows" in an attempt to justify her actions is a weak argument.
Darby should acknowledge the position she holds, realize that the majority of her public don't share the same priorities and privileges, and explain her actions from a place of understanding rather than a place of entitlement. My sympathy goes out to her regardless, because she absolutely did not deserve her brutal treatment at the hands of the worldwide public.