When my family first got the internet back in 1997/96, it was a unknown place. Online predators weren’t something to think about and I was often in chat rooms. They were never inundated with pop-ups back then, and my friends and I had a lot of fun chatting to people all over the world.
Nowadays we are more aware of the dangers and as an adult the internet feels like a relatively safe place. But in reality, are we just closed off to the silent but deadly negatives of social media.
Since the arrival of instagram, people who are now referred to as ‘Influencers’ show us the epitome of aspiration. But in reality, the term Influencer should give us a nudge towards their true purpose online.
Whether your chosen platform is YouTube, Instagram or blogs, it’s easy to get sucked into the realm of perfection and beauty these people portray. And in return, it’s easy to begin feeling inferior to these people. Yeah, they’re down to earth, might be living near you, and seem to be of the same social class – BUT – they have a new designer bag every two weeks, are being flown out to amazing countries, and appear to be making big bucks just by showing off brands products. It’s the dream life, isn’t it?
As a blogger and sometimes YouTuber, I know how much hard work blogging and vlogging can be – 2-3 hours per blog post, and countless hours on YouTube videos, not to mention promoting your platforms. Even though it all looks easy, it’s blooming hard work. But some of these influencers have people doing all that for them. Some of them portray a down to earth personality but in real life wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire. Some of these influencers are taking photos of their meals, but not really eating them, and pretending their healthy lifestyle is to thank for their fit physique. And some of these influencers haven’t come from quite the humble background they’d have you think they did.
And so we get to the effect all this has on our mental health when we see it. I often see a meme floating around the internet, wondering where the awkward ‘I’m figuring out how to apply eyeliner, and ooh let’s try this blue mascara’ phase has gone from our pre-teens. I see these young girls walking around with epic contour and highlight, looking like they’re out of Teen Vogue. Little California Girl clones walking around Milton Keynes, because they’ve seen it on instagram. And I wonder, if they didn’t paint their faces this way, would it effect their social standing. When they get to 20 and have no money (because let’s face it, who had money in their 20s?) are they going to put themselves into debt trying to afford another designer bag AND choose the white marble worktop for their kitchen?
And let’s move on to the subject of obsession. More and more I’m seeing people disenchanted by those they follow on social media. And as soon as this happens, you’d expect them to stop following them, right? Nope. They continue to read their blogs, watch their videos and look them up on twitter, creating a big jealous knot in their stomachs. Tabloids have created this obsession with car-crash tv, celebrity and reading about people more famous, but possibly less fortunate or intelligent than you. The drama is addictive and soon you can’t wait to hear what’s happening with the Kardashians or on Love Island. But as you’re reading or watching, you’re feeling bad about yourself. You’re not as tanned, your lips aren’t as big, your hair isn’t as shiny, you’re not as skinny. No attractive man will ever want you if you don’t look like them. And this can be applied to social media – your bag’s from Primark, you don’t have the latest eyeshadow palette, you don’t own anything white marble……
All these things just make you feel bad about yourself, and my concern is for the young girls and guys who think it’s normal to have all this stuff, look this way and behave as if you’re an It Girl. When I’m 70 is our country going to run by TOWIE extras?
At this point, I think it’s important to point out that this is not all influencers. My choice of reading and watching has been carefully curated to only include those of substance. These people are real, they disclose what they do and how they do it. They post photos of themselves looking bare-faced as well as wearing full makeup. They don’t hide the real parts, and that’s so important.
I wonder if you, reading this, have identified with anything I’ve written today? And if you have, here’s what I’d recommend (and what I’ve done):
- Curate your feed. No matter what platform you use, it’s YOUR feed.
- If you scroll and something makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow that person.
- Take people’s feeds with a pinch of salt – people choose what they post, just as you choose what you post. Even if someone is posting every day, multiple times, that doesn’t mean what they’re showing is what’s happening right now.
- It’s okay to want material things – but work hard for them, and they’ll mean so much more to you when you achieve them.
- Don’t be a clone of everyone else. Being unique and not following the pack might not make you an overnight success on instagram – but you’ll have integrity and you’ll be real. Your followers will appreciate that, and no doubt be the kind of people you’ll want to stick around!
There’s so much talk of keeping on top of your mental health at the moment, but it’s important to remember, that when so much information is being thrown at you, from brands to your peers, that you CAN choose what you see. Delete your facebook if you need to. Unfollow that YouTuber if she’s making you feel jealous or bad about yourself.
Influencers need you, you don’t need them!
Look inwards – learn about you, what you need and what you want for your life and from your surroundings, and go from there.