Can we blame Instagram and their Influencers for ruining our Self-esteem?
Influencer definition: a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
Influencer marketing can be traced back to as early as the 1920’s with few brands creating personas in order to sell a product to a wide target audience. The most influential persona we can look at is the creation of Father Christmas in order to market Coca Cola. First staring out with a green costume and changing over the years to the famous red colour as he becomes a household name. Our younger selves and our ancestors before us have all fallen into the trap of granting wishes and posting written letters to a marketing strategy because we had faith they would bring us all the dreams we could ever imagine. Although, little did we know we were making a corporation’s dream come true instead of our own.
During the evolution of marketing tactics, we have witnessed old school actresses promote shampoo and tampons in advertisements to gain the gaze of the average audience. In today’s society there is no longer an average audience as everyone has the decision to be either one of the two in the social media chain; the influencer or the consumer. With the rise of social media, we have the accessibility to be whoever we want to be; depending of course if we have the right look and enough followers for businesses to see pound signs.
Daily, we turn on the tv to see Instagram influencers on a talk show, or we read the news online with information about who our favourite influencer had on their arm at that weekly event wearing that dress from that place that paid her a couple hundred pound to walk in front of a camera all whilst we are scrolling through their life from the comfort of our own beds, with that tv show we claim to be obsessed with on in the background, only half interested whilst focusing more on another person’s marketing persona, wishing we had enough followers to be sent to San Antonio for a week whilst being photographed by that rich photographer in a bikini that was made with blood, sweat and tears in a workshop where the employees received 50p to create the item whilst working in inhumane conditions, whilst the bikini then gets sold for 30 times the workers wage all in the name of fast fashion.
We (the consumers) think we are too fat and anxious for the same career move, we might envy these people whilst we sit at a desk trying to muster up the motivation to not open the Instagram app for the 36th time today, its only 10am but the commute to work was an hour and that influencer is going to a new location, which pictures can we add to our saved? If the pictures are saved and in front of us it will most likely remind us to book the holiday? To buy the dress? To get the life? Surely if we buy the products we must get the life? That girl with the white smile, if we spend £300 on the teeth brightener our smile will be as real, as wide and as beautiful as hers, that’s how it works right?
Influencer marketing is used to create a façade in the hopes to sell a specific product, we believe that if we indulge in the skinny coffee or the outfit that we will live a life as close and as perfect as the influencers seems to be. It works in a way where we believe the product is something we need, we have become a consumer society, using products to make us feel better about the parts in our life that we feel are missing. However, it is extremely important to note that these models, influencers and even myself only post what we want the world to see. We feel the need to impress one another, including those who aren’t close to us; giving the companies and the corporations exactly what they want. More interactions and likes for the influencer means greater revenue for the business.
In recent news, Instagram is trialling the removal of likes in countries such as Japan, Brazil and Australia. Other countries under the trial are New Zealand, Ireland, and Italy as reported by the BBC. The removal of the likes is meant to better the pressure of young people using the app, as it is said the app can bring low self esteem and high pressure rates in young people.
The test was first tried and tested in Canada in order to reduce stress over likes, those who don’t receive the number of likes they are wishing for seem to have lower self esteem with Instagram being seen as a popularity contest to some.
We have seen businesses influence young girls into spending their parent’s money on products that claim to be helpful to weight loss when in fact their side effects are much more dangerous than they promote to be. Instagram has become a platform where young girls are pushed into making themselves think they are not worthy enough, that their tiny bodies that haven’t even stopped growing yet aren’t the same as the influencers, therefore, they must purchase the product the petite tanned girl is promoting in order to be ‘normal’.
With Influencers gaining revenue and business from the amount of likes they receive it is possible to question where this will leave the people who use Instagram as a career if the trial is approved. The businesses will always find a way to sell but what about their employees who have had the chance to live a life they wouldn’t have been able to without interactions on Instagram?
Back when social media influencers began, we were all naive to the products they were trying to sell us, we were deceived into buying products that told us they would change our body shape from plump to petite in a matter of days, to buying products that make our natural thin lips juicier and more appealing to men. We were unaware that businesses had such an agenda to make money from the insecurities of young impressionable women. Saying this, we are now made aware of which products are paying the influencers with pictures now being hash tagged AD, to bring awareness to what is being attempted to be sold to us.
Instagram choosing its users over its revenue from businesses is a step in the right direction, as it is aiming to benefit the mental health of those in need, of those who might never speak out about how damaging the app can be for their own self-worth.
“We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about,”
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri statement included: “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about,” he said.
Although, Instagram can be seen as the biggest culprit when it comes to low self-esteem online, this cannot be the only reason of us wanting validation online, I remember being 11 and the only thing I would do after school is turn on the family computer and look for entertainment on Facebook and eventually Twitter where I used to buy into everything the Kardashians promoted, sharing and replying to their posts, but as a naïve unattractive girl with overgrown eyebrows, I had no idea this would have been a marketing strategy. Tumblr, used to be mine and my best friend’s personal favourite as we were able to share how we were feeling without speaking words, using others created content, the very first influencers of my teenage personality.
Instagram is used by most people we know, and if not, we shoot them a weird look and wonder how they know what their work friend is having for lunch or where the girl that used to sit next to them maths class is going on holiday this year. People use it to promote their profession in a way that it could make them more successful, the more people post and interact with other people means higher statistics for their own brand. Influencers are a brand in themselves as they promote what they agree with in order to give a service whilst receiving revenue.
Influencing has numerous positive connotations from the way it can bring a sense of community for those who feel lonely when offline. It can be a very beautiful for empowering women, for LGBTQ* rights finally being heard and for simply keeping a connection and closeness with those who are far from us.
Influencers can be the voice for the boy who struggles with his sexuality due to being from a smallminded town. Becoming a voice for empowering women, showing girls everywhere that they can dress how they want whilst being able to have the same rights as men. Influencers become a voice for those with mental health issues, the poor, the ‘fat’, the ‘ugly,’ the broken hearted and those who are ignored by society, showing us that it is in fact normal to not look like the pictures that your friends keep sharing on their stories with the caption ‘goals’ *insert heart eye emoji*
It is important to remember that if Instagram is making you feel like your behind on life because everyone else is travelling on the other side of the world when you’ve never even been to Europe or because everyone is posting every little achievement including graduations, new jobs, moving cities, that no one will ever post their down falls unless they care about others going through a similar life lesson. That life works differently for everyone and most importantly Instagram is not real life, declutter your timeline, close the app, breathe and go live in anyway you want.