My thoughts on the Elle Darby and White Moose Café situation

YouTuber Elle Darby. Image credit:    Elle Darby   /   YouTube

YouTuber Elle Darby. Image credit: Elle Darby/YouTube

The past couple of weeks have been interesting ones for content creators. Firstly, we had a display of ideocracy and the subsequent fallout from Logan Paul, whose controversial video in Aokigahara forest – a well-known suicide hotspot in Japan – saw him film the body of a dead person and broadcast it to his audience of over 15 million subscribers.

Swiftly following was the case of Elle Darby, a United Kingdom-based influencer with the majority of her 175,000+ following centred on her popular YouTube and Instagram accounts. She sent an email to the owners of a café and hotel in Dublin, requesting a complimentary five-night stay in exchange for exposure across her social media, citing a previous campaign in which she worked with Universal at their theme park in Florida.

Usually, that would be a hit-or-miss type of request, an email fired off with a dash of hopefulness attached. It was either going to be an enthusiastic, successful response or a simple rejection – or so she thought.

What transpired was a media storm, sparked by a satirical response from Paul Stenson, owner of The White Moose Café and Charleville Lodge Hotel, on the café’s Facebook page. He’d taken a screenshot of the email Darby had sent him and, after a pathetic attempt to conceal her name and maintain the anonymity of the sender, went on a long rant about how his company didn’t need her publicity, practically taking the email and, essentially, making it a meme while also dividing opinion.

Unsurprisingly, Darby was eventually “exposed,” no less by herself, after she posted a 17-minute video retaliating to the barrage of abuse and support she had received since the White Moose furore.

The back-and-forth exchange continued, with Stenson barring all bloggers from his establishments before sending Darby an invoice in excess of €5 million for their promotional services and releasing slogan-baring t-shirts relating to the situation.

Darby then broadcast a follow-up video condemning the actions of the hotel in keeping her personal information a secret, while also saying how the debacle has left her with anxiety.

As a blogger, I obviously have an opinion on this, especially as it has been thrusted into the spotlight and stirred up a polarising reaction.

On one hand you have those siding with Stenson and White Moose brandishing bloggers, vloggers and influencers as “freeloaders,” “entitled,” “spoiled” and, according to Darby, the source of a torrent of cyber abuse which included death threats.

It also made me laugh the amount of times that people wrote “get a real job,” and clearly either have little understanding of the blogging world, which some people took to mean that everyone over 30 doesn’t know how to use social media, or were exuding jealousy. The yer da crew was out in full force led by Brian, 54, from Basildon thinking that his career as a plumber has been more of a worthwhile venture than forging a lucrative online presence and benefitting from seeing the world and working with a variety of interesting brands.

White Moose's sarcastic message of thanks. Image credit:    The White Moose Café   /   Facebook

White Moose's sarcastic message of thanks. Image credit: The White Moose Café/Facebook

It was just a cluster of irony to me – someone who works full-time, blogs on the side and was browsing through the fallout as he was waiting for his flight to Nuremberg, whose tourism board would be paying for his accommodation, activities and food in exchange for blog posts highlighting the city’s quality as a fantastic weekend break destination.

I have what small-minded people would label a “proper job” and I pay tax and contribute to society. But I also have my blog, which is not only a work-on-the-side thing I do, but also a hobby of mine. I’ve put in thousands of pounds and spent hundreds of hours trying to build it up to where it is now, even though in the blogosphere I am still relatively small. Looking to benefit from my endeavours is not me being entitled, nor a result of being spoilt, but any rewards I get and successful pitches I’ve had come from the passion, hard work and dedication I have put into my blog.

For a myriad of middle-aged people, who have pissed their lives away doing menial work and leading fairly mundane lives, to dismiss the application and ingenuity of bloggers who are using platforms that didn’t exist when they were of a similar age is absolutely laughable. Some are perfectly content leading simple lives, but those shouting “freeloader” at online personalities clearly aren’t. Unfortunately for them the times are a-changin’, and I only hope that when I am as old as they are that I don’t harbour as much resentment and bitterness to the younger generations as they do.

White Moose Café's invoice for Elle Darby. Image credit:    The White Moose Café   /   Facebook

White Moose Café's invoice for Elle Darby. Image credit: The White Moose Café/Facebook

Of course, not all of Stenson’s supporters thought that way. Some of them simply enjoyed the humour in the post, with many quick to point out the hilarity in her highlighting of a collaboration with Universal, while others berated her for the outlandishness of her request, due to the duration and timing on Valentine’s Day week – and that’s fair enough. On a level, the approach Stenson took was refreshing and funny, despite not being well executed with regards the concealment of Darby’s identity and general regard for every other blogger, leading to less-than-savoury outcomes.

On the other hand, there was the reaction of the blogging community, some coming together under the cringey guise of hashtag “#BloggersUnite,” while others went on a crusade to bombard White Moose Café with negative reviews and call into repute Stenson’s attitude and poor handling of the affair.

It was a mixed bag, but the general consensus and ill-feeling towards Stenson and his company stems from how he went about the request. I, myself, have pitched to companies before and been rejected, receiving an email in return along the lines of: “Thank you for your interest, but what you are offering is not what we are currently looking for.” Likewise, I have politely declined offers made to me for collaborations, advertising and blog posts for various reasons, but I have always maintained integrity with such business dealings.

I am with the bloggers on that point, but it’s hard to maintain a stance when others were tweeting and posting in anger, haste and without thought. Stenson exposed more bloggers and social media users who had laughable responses, while others blocked him and went private after Stenson either replied to them or screenshotted their posts and put them out on his own channels, acting in an embarrassing manner which diminished all weight behind their arguments.

One blogger who didn't approach the situation with enough thought. Image credit:    The White Moose Café   /   Facebook

One blogger who didn't approach the situation with enough thought. Image credit: The White Moose Café/Facebook

Reducing your debates to name-calling is bad enough, but blocking and turning your profile to private makes all credibility disappear. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

There is also something to be said for the thing that started all this nonsense off – the email. One of the White Moose Mafia’s valid points pertained to the lack of research, care and effort Darby had put into the original pitch. To be fair, it was a pretty horrendous attempt and looked like it had been taken straight from the copy and paste playbook. It was plain, it was bland; it gave no value or credit to, nor did it show any interest in, the company. But worst of all, it did Elle Darby herself a massive disservice.

Pitching isn’t easy for everyone, and sometimes it can be hard to talk yourself up. But to produce that drivel when you have almost 100,000 followers apiece on YouTube and Instagram and are more than 10k up on Twitter is both ridiculous and unacceptable. The manner in which Stenson went about this whole scenario was pretty poor from a moral standpoint, but his underlying argument is a fair assessment of a cheeky request.

Although I imagine that plenty of opportunities present themselves to Darby on a daily basis, I think she could really benefit from learning how to pitch properly to help further her portfolio and grow her brand. It would also help to strengthen relationships and promote the value that she offers those she is working with, rather than coming across as lazy and thoughtless.

Yet despite the lacklustre pitch, I don’t think that Darby felt any sense of entitlement or expects everything for free. The misconception that all bloggers simply exist to farm free stuff from companies is absurd. Blogging is so much more than that, it’s a place to write, it’s a place to vent, a place to get creative, tell stories and keep memories. For some it’s nothing more than a hobby or outlet, for others it’s an income and a career.

But what’s disappointing about this whole situation is that while the two parties involved are in the wrong to some degree, they’ve both ended up on top. The spat has generated support for both White Moose Café and Elle Darby, giving them more clicks, shares, likes, follows and merchandise sales than they had before. The true losers are those who have been in the comments, pathetically battling each other’s arguments to death.

This is something which extends beyond this occasion, and includes the likes of Logan Paul who, even after using the dead body of a suicide victim for clickbait, garnered support and gained subscribers at an exponential rate, demonstratingjust how terrible some humans are.

Surely this should raise concerns and usher in a conversation about how certain people and their questionable content are rewarded on social media. Or maybe the best course of action is to just ignore these things and let the internet take its course.

Over to you, the next social media idiot.