Celebrity culture’s corruption: an excess of influence

Anyone who has used Instagram has probably experienced jealousy, anxiety, or a desperate urge to change themselves while on the app—maybe they have even felt all three reactions at once. Social media’s appeal is its ability to foster social connections and share events and everyday experiences. However, the theoretical appeal of Instagram and the reality of the culture it creates do not always align. It allows one to manufacture a persona that may or may not be tied to reality.

A social media influencer is someone who creates content—YouTube videos, Instagram posts, or blogs—and becomes idolized from being in the spotlight. Social media companies pay them for creating this content. The majority of influencers make the most money from brand deals or paid partnerships. This means companies ask influencers to shout them out for profit. The company may give them guidelines or requirements on how to represent the business, and then the influencer publishes whatever ad or post is created. Another popular way for influencers to make revenue is to receive money based on how well their content does, per click. This means that the amount of money given to them depends on how many likes, shares, or views their posts receive.

The appeal of influencers to businesses is that they entertain people and get them to stay on an app as long as possible. The more popular an influencer is, the more attention they get from viewers, which means more of the viewers’ time is sucked up and wasted watching their content. This means more money for social media companies. The most important goal for them is to keep people using their programs so they continue to make money. The whole idea of influencers being paid by larger companies just to keep people invested in being on their devices is disturbing. One cannot help but wonder how pure the intentions of brand deals are. Both the name and the practice of social media influencers seem more than questionable. It leads one to ask, is influencing others to make healthy decisions and create a better life for themselves really the core motive of most who call themselves influencers?

The word “influence” means the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways. While it is hard to imagine that any one young adult could have such a powerful effect on others and their decisions, influencers do have unhealthily extensive sway over their viewers and in fact, can “influence” their lifestyles. A lot of the time, influencers portray false realities and lives for themselves. Many viewers fail to realize that influencers’ depictions online are not accurate representations of the lives they actually lead. This causes viewers to question their own choices and selves. Whether it has to do with political opinions, fashion sense, or even body image and health—when things that are usually personal become visible to the public, there is a sense of pressure to be like them, and self-consciousness that comes into play, even if it happens subconsciously. Putting individuals on a pedestal only adds to the toxicity. Although social media has some benefits—online platforms give people the ability to showcase their talents and gain recognition, maybe even start a career for themselves based on what they truly love to do; this improves lives and lets people pursue their interests—influencer culture is still a large societal problem.

In a time when Photoshop technology is just a download button away, it’s incredibly difficult to tell what is real and what is fake. This blurred line can perpetuate body-image struggles in a lot of teens who are exposed to influencers and their content. It is easy for creators to advertise habits and routines that are not made for everyone. Naturally, every individual needs to eat different foods and exercise to be healthy; there is no right or wrong way to do that— it is all specific to the person. Yet, when influencers shout out their daily meals, workout routines, or the businesses they frequent to their fan bases, they create standards for those who are watching. Suddenly, any listener may feel the need to exercise more, eat less, fit into a certain size of clothing, and whatnot. Although there is nothing wrong with one wanting to improve their quality of life or the way they do certain things, there is a fine line between creating healthy habits for oneself and striving to achieve the same as complete strangers. Even when influencers seem real and authentic (which is hard to tell) with their audience, it is still too easy for viewers to feel that the grass is greener on the other side, and, as a result, push themselves to be someone they are not.

A lot of people using social media apps are young teenagers who are vulnerable and impressionable. Most children get their first phones around the age of nine to ten and start social media accounts by the age of 12, before many social media apps even recommend using their program. While there are generally a lot of insecurities present in any teenager or preteen’s mind, social media and influencer culture causes an unnecessary amount on top of that. Body dissatisfaction and eating disorders have been on the rise in young demographics—specifically those who use social media at a young age. This causes teens, specifically girls, even within the average weight category for their age, to consider themselves overweight or feel the need to lose weight. Depression and anorexia rates in teenagers have rapidly increased in the past ten years, and cosmetic surgery rates have been increasing as well in the past five years. Many experts believe it has to do with media consumption and the body comparisons social media causes people to make; and many teens have expressed that what they buy, or their desire for something, is steered by social media influencers and their recommendations. It is apparent that online influencers have quite an impact on how teens feel, but the influencer industry preys on all viewers regardless of age, making it more dangerous.

In addition to all the disturbance influencer culture creates in the lives of those watching, it also perpetuates problematic lifestyles for influencers themselves. It is easy for one to get caught up in the glamour of creating a name or aesthetic for themself. There is plenty of stress that comes along with being watched and idolized every second. It is not uncommon to see “gossip” or “exposing” accounts for celebrity influencers on all social media platforms. The goal of these accounts is to find or even create drama in the influencer world, and share it with ordinary viewers. Gossip accounts and such are immature and inconsiderate, and do nothing but put strain on online celebrities and their personal lives and relationships.

To be constantly watched and critiqued by strangers while balancing idolatry, fame, and respect is a troublesome way for anyone to live. However, while the lifestyle seems extremely unhealthy, creating a platform for oneself is clearly a choice, and it is not the main issue at hand. What is more problematic is its ability to affect everything from viewers’ health to fashion trends. The influencer industry seems to be in need of serious change.