Be honest, would you lick a toilet bowl in exchange for 15 minutes of online fame? Nope? That’s what I thought. Unfortunately for him—and for the rest of the internet—that’s not the case for wannabe influencer Larz, who made headlines back in 2020 when he was admitted to hospital with COVID-19 just days after posting a video of himself licking a toilet bowl in the hopes of going viral on TikTok.
Now, Larz’s revolting past antics have been topped by something even more stupid that he’s recently said. Speaking on the Australian radio show Kyle and Jackie O on Monday 24 October 2022, the 23-year-old claimed that he stopped speaking to his non-famous relatives when his influence started to grow.
“I’m just more famous than everyone and I won’t talk to people who aren’t unless they get the same amount of followers as me,” Larz told hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O. When Henderson asked him if he ever gets lonely after cutting off his family, Larz simply responded that his famous friends are better company.
“I do miss them sometimes, but I can talk to Cardi B or someone like that,” he said. It should be noted that, although the California-based influencer seems to think A-listers such as Cardi B would happily speak to him, he’s only got around 422,000 followers on Instagram—a number that pales in comparison with the American rapper’s 142 million followers.
Larz went on to reveal that he has nine siblings but has blocked all of them on social media and won’t unblock them until they significantly increase their follower count.
This is not the first time Larz shared such views either. In 2019, he appeared on the chat show Dr. Phil with another influencer, Bameron Kall, where they discussed how they had licked tubs of ice cream and spat mouthwash back into the bottle in viral videos.
It was then that Larz told the TV personality: “I don’t talk to my family. They’re irrelevant. None of them has followers. If they got followers or got rich, I’d probably talk to them again.”
Unsurprisingly considering how little intelligence he’s shown so far, Larz also bragged he had “lots of money” from paid sponsorship deals across his social media accounts, where he posts pictures with luxury cars and celebrities.
Around the same time as Larz’s toilet-licking stunt, Ava Louise—a then 21-year-old social media influencer—went viral for licking a toilet seat as part of the ‘coronavirus challenge’. She recorded herself licking an aeroplane toilet seat on her way to Spring Break and said she didn’t care about putting other people at risk, because it was worth the attention she was receiving.
During an appearance on Dr. Phil, when asked what she was thinking when she decided to lick a toilet seat on the way to Spring Break, Louise responded: “One, I had way dirtier things in my mouth at Spring Break. Two, I bleached it. Three, private plane. I flew down on my sugar daddy’s plane with my best friend. So really, it wasn’t that dirty.”
A few weeks ago, while I was scrolling endlessly through YouTube, I ended up on a video titled Bethany and David Engagement Story posted by Girl Defined, a channel created by Bethany Baird and Kristen Clark. “Just two sisters striving to be God-defined girls in a culture-defined world,” states their about page. Also present on Instagram, the duo has more than 50,000 followers.
As I started looking at similar Christian accounts, I noticed that many of them had an impressive following and how different types of religious posts could be separated into categories. From Bible journaling to preaching to non-believers, Jesus lovers have become a new type of influencers on Instagram, YouTube and even TikTok. But what exactly characterises them, and is there anything wrong with influencers promoting a specific religion?
Although I am not religious myself, and should have probably steered clear of Netflix’s The Keepers, my aim is not to pull religions apart. Religious beliefs should always be respected. That being said, some religious people can occasionally go to extremes. Catholicism, more specifically, is not all good or bad, and that’s exactly the image Christian influencers seem to display on social media. Some of them want to share the word of God, while others think being religious gives them the right to dictate other people’s lives. It’s a fine line.
Let’s go back to the Bethany and David Engagement Story video I mentioned. In it, viewers can notice how uncomfortable David Beal seemed—almost unable to touch his wife for more than a few seconds. This pushed me to search for more information online on Baird and her husband. Apparently, before this video was posted, Baird had openly shared with her followers how she sent Beal to “conversion therapy” twice, which is an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
After the couple allegedly opened up about Beal attending conversion therapy twice in a previous video, it was reportedly deleted. Since, both have chosen not to address the video regarding the therapy. On its website, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has shared numbers collected by the UCLA Williams Institute which states that in the US, 698,000 LGBTQ adults aged 18 to 59 have undergone conversion therapy, and 57,000 aged 13 to 17 years old will receive conversion therapy from religious or spiritual advisors before they reach the age of 18.
This kind of therapy presents great risks and can sometimes lead to depression, anxiety and suicide. And, just like conversion therapy, religion can also reinforce self-hatred experienced by people who feel like they don’t belong in society. While this has sadly been proved in many cases, spirituality and religion can also impact someone’s well-being through social and emotional support. For example, I found many Christian influencers promoting healthy and uplifting messages on Instagram.
Christian blogger Meg Flower, mostly known as @Radiating_Jesus on Instagram, is one of the many US-based Christians using the social media platform as a way to share selfies, religious motivational quotes and over-edited pictures of her Bible journaling skills to her 16,700 followers. All in all, her account is pretty much harmless, apart from a few posts that shame ‘sinners’ or others that stipulate a good Christian can’t love God and the world they live in at the same time—apparently, Flower asks for absolute devotion from her followers.
But although I could spend a while looking for small things to pick at, Flower’s account also preaches messages that everyone should get behind. Flower suffers from depression and anxiety and previously had an eating disorder. On @Radiating_Jesus, she openly discusses mental health and often offers her followers some advice on the topic. From medication and praying to speaking to friends and family, Flower has tried it all when it comes to dealing with mental health problems.
Unlike Baird, Flower never expressed any homophobic views or mentioned conversion therapy, at least not online. And she’s not the only relatively digestible Christian account for people like myself, @SimpleBible and @TrueandLovelyCo are also part of a similar group of Instagram influencers.
Of course, generalisations shouldn’t and can’t be made about all Christian influencers. Many are only sharing positive messages and preaching their religion in inoffensive ways. But it is the few of them that go too far who not only risk negatively influencing young Instagram users and their mental health, but also distorting what religion is about in the first place.
Acceptance and bringing a sense of community to people who might need it should both be celebrated in religion as well as on social media platforms, and yet they seem to be the last things people preach and practice in life outside of social media.
Whether you believe in god, in something or even in nothing at all, maybe it’s time we all start worrying about the principles that we (knowingly or unknowingly) stand up for through our social media presence.