In 2020 it is very unlikely that you will not own a smartphone, have Instagram, or have ‘flicked through’ reality TV, (possibly accidentally staying tuned in for the entire episode). The definition of ‘celebrities’ has definitely changed quite substantially over the past 5-10 years. As our old understanding of the term evolves, we now see it reflect a new generation celebrity; the Influencer. Self-made online content curators and industry taste-makers. Ranging from models, to fitness instructors, fashion stylists, comics or thespians, musicians and more. So much joy and information can be found via following your favourites. But with the attention that comes hand in hand with social media, what responsibility do our new-age icons have on those consuming their content?
It takes a quick Google search to find a huge number of articles about how damaging social media, and specifically Instagram, can be on the millennial generation and beyond. From fear of missing out aka FOMO, to body dysmorphia, anxiety, depression and loneliness; the effects of social media can [at times] be extremely toxic. So, what responsibility do influencers have to their followers? You could say that, they’re only human, and the responsibility is one’s own. But you can’t deny that it begs the question, if you are not part of the solution, are you part of the problem?
A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen found that many people suffer from “Facebook envy”, with those who abstained from using the popular site reporting that they felt more satisfied with their own lives. “When we derive a sense of worth based on how we are doing relative to others, we place our happiness in a variable that is completely beyond our control.” Dr Tim Bono, author of ‘When Likes Aren’t Enough’ explained in Healthista.” (Sabrina Barr, The Independent).
So, should influencers, and social media celebrities encourage more ‘realness’ and not just ‘the picture-perfect? Or could this be damaging to the leverage of influencers professionally? Could showcasing a more laid-back, authentic image, improve our entire user experience, or simply interrupt the portfolio’s and brands influencers have created for themselves?
There was a time when everyone strived after the idea of perfection, but the cracks have started to show. There is now an undeniable movement by people reaching out to get back in touch with reality. Pages showcasing body positivity of all shapes and sizes, real emotions and experiences, bad days as well as good, and everyday life, have started to boom in followers because there was only so long, we could strive for the unobtainable.
Journalist and Instagram influencer Danae Mercer @danaemercer has rapidly built an Instagram following of a huge 1.4 million, highlighting the hints and tips of how to get the “perfect body” in a photo, and then showcasing the reality alongside it in the shape of bloating, relaxed posture and lighting issues. Official brand pages are now sporting the same ‘reveal’ shots, and trying to channel home how important it is to not compare your life to what you see on social media.
Danae’s rapid growth in followers is very telling of the shift that is beginning in our social media world; people need respite from the falsely advertised unattainable perfections.
So, do we think models and influencers have a responsibility? Well by default, yes. Absolutely. When one becomes a role-model in any capacity, whether a parent or a digital celeb, we are “burdened with a duty of care” our audience. We all know social media is not real life, but we are all affected by the constant stream of misrepresented imagery. This change must come from source, from the opinion-formers and the influential of our generations. If we all could get a bit more real, more conscious, more truthful with ourselves, we can all take a break from the endless race to an unachievable perfection. It doesn’t exist! Let’s stop pretending it does.