Abidin (2018) suggests that influencers are “the epitome of internet celebrities” (p. 1) and in this blog, I will highlight and discuss the ‘influence of influencers’ and how they have contributed to the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards.
Influencers are individuals who manage to attain fame through their social media presence, (Khamis et al., 2016). Many of us have created a social media presence, however, being an influencer is more than just being on social media. Influencers create their own brand and generate money from those who willingly follow and trust them enough to buy the products that they advertise.
Body image is an issue that is currently on the rise on social media and with influencers having the ability to reach a wide audience, recent studies have explored the great impact that they have on their followers, particularly young women. Williams & Ricciardelli (2014) suggests that exposure to influencer content can have an effect on the way in which young women view their bodies and can harm their self-image. As much as Influencers can have a positive impact on young people, they can also have a negative effect on them.
As Oakes (2019)
“Photo-based activities online, like scrolling through Instagram, have been correlated with feeling more negatively about your body”
A YouTuber named ‘MissRFabulous’ created a youtube channel in 2017, and since then she has gained 160,000 subscribers. Although known for her beauty, lifestyle, and advice content, she is very well known for undergoing a Brazilian butt lift. The popular YouTuber vlogged her journey, allowing her fans to gain insight into the process of getting a BBL. After months of posting her results and advertising the company that provided the surgery, the influencer posted an emotional video apologising to her fans for encouraging cosmetic surgery after the surgery left her with a number of complications (Gayel,2020). Despite the influencer's attempts to raise awareness on the dangers of cosmetic surgery, many young women had already followed in her footsteps and eventually shed light on their experiences with the clinic that MissRFabulous recommended, as well as the complications that they’re enduring due to the botched surgeries.
In many cases, fitspiration posts can also trigger negative thoughts and self-comparison. Fitspiration is a trend that aims to inspire people to adopt a healthy lifestyle by promoting healthy food and exercise. A survey of 600 Instagram images showed that most pictures of women depicted one body type which was thin and toned (Tiggermann & Zaccardo 2016). Although fitspiration posts may inspire some people, constantly seeing posts that push one body type can make many of us feel dissatisfied with our own bodies.
Overall, Influencers play a role in the construction of beauty standards. Whether we’re seeing fitspiration posts, or our favorite influencers cosmetic surgery results, the constant exposure to such content can lead to self-comparison more than self-love.
Abidin, C. (2016). “Aren’t These Just Young, Rich Women Doing Vain Things Online?”: Influencer Selfies as Subversive Frivolity. Social Media + Society, 2(2), 205630511664134. doi: 10.1177/2056305116641342
Abidin, C. (2018). Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online. Emerald.
Gayle, L. (2020). Influencer apologises for promoting Brazilian butt lift. Retrieved 29 December 2020, from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-8646711/Influencer-apologises-promoting-Brazilian-butt-lift-having-botched-surgery.html
Khamis, S., Ang, L., & Welling, R. (2016). Self-branding, ‘micro-celebrity’ and the rise of Social Media Influencers. Celebrity Studies, 8(2), 191–208. doi: 10.1080/19392397.2016.1218292
Oakes, K. (2019). The complicated truth about social media and body image. Retrieved 29 December 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190311-how-social-media-affects-body-image
Tiggemann, M., & Zaccardo, M. (2016). ‘Strong is the new skinny’: A content analysis of #fitspiration images on Instagram. Journal Of Health Psychology, 23(8), 1003–1011. doi: 10.1177/1359105316639436
Williams, R., & Ricciardelli, L. (2014). Social Media and Body Image Concerns: Further Considerations and Broader Perspectives. Sex Roles, 71(11–12), 389–392. doi: 10.1007/s11199–014–0429-x