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You’re Letting Strangers Brainwash You: The Power of Social Media Influencers [OPINION]

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Social Media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube have become a staple part of our daily lives. There’s not much wrong with that, right? Wrong. We are growing up watching YouTubers, bloggers, and celebrities who tell us what to buy and support.

We often look up to these people because they are seemingly perfect examples of who we should strive to become; They promote their image as successful, living the ideal lifestyle, and having a healthy state of mind. It is easy to forget that what they decide to post about and share with their fans is not a realistic portrayal of the influencers’ lives.

I am one of many who have found themselves comparing their lives to those of famous people. Sometimes, I will even find myself scrolling through a random high-profile account I find on the Instagram explore page and feeling as if my life is nowhere near as amazing as theirs. We hear about the positive experiences they have, but not about the negative ones. According to the New York Post, 26-year old Lisette Calverio racked up around $10,000 in debt due to spending money on a lifestyle that was well above what she could afford at the time just so she could post about it on Instagram. In a lot of ways, being famous on social media is not as desirable as we think.  

We are blindsided by this and continue to believe we relate to specific celebrities based on what we watch, read, and hear about on their social media. The trust we put in these people significantly impacts how we see ourselves because of the unrealistic comparison between how we look and act compared to famous people who can choose how their image is depicted, even if that image is not a valid portrayal of who they are.

According to Royal Society for Public Health, Snapchat and Instagram have been ranked as the two platforms that were most directly linked to poor mental health and well-being. This is due to a number of factors, some of which being related to how harshly adolescents compare themselves to social media stars. It is frequently overlooked that it is impossible to have a “perfect” life. We should not assume that social media influencers do not deal with some of the same struggles as we do.

Social Media stars also have enough power over their supporters to promote specific products or places successfully, and companies have caught on. Some celebrities, like the Kardashians, get paid money to support particular brands, like how the Kardashians routinely post about Sugar Bear Hair on their Instagrams, claiming these products “changed their life” and that they “can’t live without it” in hopes of someone in their audience purchasing the product. As predicted, we often buy into the product because a celebrity we look up to tells us to. We fail to consider how we are influenced for the sake of money; the primary motive driving both the person promoting the product and the company. We are brainwashed into wasting our money, yet we continue to take the word of celebs and invest in everything marketed by them on social media.

Another way celebrities influence their audience is by telling their fan base to support their positions on specific issues. In many ways, they use their voice positively. They shed light on issues that need to be addressed, like the #SheInspiresMe movement and the #MeToo movement. This is a great way to spread awareness. Sometimes, however, celebrities voice their opinions on controversial topics trying to get others to agree when realistically we must take the time to be properly educated on the topic in order to actually choose what side we support.

For instance, during America’s most recent presidential election, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were endorsed by a number of famous people. Some of these high-profile endorsers took to Twitter to voice their opinions to the public in order to help either Clinton or Trump gain support during their campaigns. Seems harmless, but sometimes adolescents do not conduct their own research and assume that a star’s opinion on an issue is superior to others. It may seem like a rare occurrence, but it happens more than we realize. We need to have enough sense to research the issues brought to our attention and decide for ourselves who we support. It can be enlightening to listen to the opinions of other people, but in a way where we do not take sides based solely on who said them.

Everyone who uses social media platforms should be made aware of the truth about social media influencers and the power they have over their supporters. As social media grows, so does the influence it has on us, but we can’t forget that there is a fine line between people we know personally and the famous people we follow on Instagram. Don’t let strangers influence what you buy, your opinions, and how you see yourself. Be the voice and not the echo.

Tessa, 15, attends Campbell High School and is a VOX Media Cafe reporter this summer.

Photo by Tessa Wardrop
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