A small stage with a range of comfy chairs bathed in blue light

Lifting the lid on the rise of toxic influencers

Newcastle’s Life Science Centre is lifting the lid on the rise of toxic influencers and why their controversial content resonates with so many people.

Under the Influence is the latest in the series of Life’s successful Science Speakeasy evenings, where topical and sometimes controversial science topics are discussed in a quirky and informal way.

At this latest Science Speakeasy, on Thursday 14 March, a panel of experts will be delving into the world of self-proclaimed social media gurus.

They will be exploring the psychology and communication strategies employed by these figures, shedding light on the intriguing dynamics at play and leading a discussion with the audience.

The evening comes in the wake of a rise in contentious influencers such as Andrew Tate, who has 8.8m followers on X (Twitter) – four times as many as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – despite Tate’s ideology being based on misogyny, sexism and violence towards women.

A recent survey conducted by Hope Not Hate (a UK advocacy body which campaigns on social justice issues) found that eight in ten boys aged 16-17 had consumed Tate’s content and that 45% of men in Britain aged 16–24 had a positive view of him, compared to only 1% of British women aged 16-17 who held a positive view of Tate.

Reports also highlight how increasing numbers of self-made influencers are preying on people’s insecurities to gain popularity. A recent study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, revealed that one TikTok video promoting deadly and illegal bodybuilding drugs had been viewed 89m times by young people in the UK.

Panelists on the night will include Durham University psychologist Professor Mike Nicholson, Ofcom principal for online safety policy Madhu Ramankutty, Lancaster University Marketing lecturer Hayley Cocker and Darren Kelsey who is reader in media and collective psychology at Newcastle University.

Linda Conlon, Chief Executive of Life said: “Our popular series of Science Speakeasys offer a great opportunity to explore pressing contemporary issues, by creating open, entertaining discussions, underpinned of course by science.

“This latest Speakeasy will delve into the rapid rise of social media influencers such as Andrew Tate, who are captivating audiences with their controversial content, and offer insights into the attraction of these divisive personalities.”

Tickets for the Speakeasy, which are £8, are available at Life (https://www.life.org.uk/whats-on/event/science-speakeasy-under-the-influence/). The event starts at 8pm and there will be bar facilities on the evening.