Under the influence: the toxic reality of social media influencers

Views 15 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 10 - 2 - 2019 | By: Shae Caragher

Two years ago, YouTuber and comedian Cody Ko posted a satirical video titled, “QUIT YOUR JOB AND TRAVEL FOREVER!!” In this video, Ko highlights Instagram content he dubs the “mess around. relax. travel” genre. Throughout the 14 minute video, Ko pulls content from influencers such as Jay Alvarrez and Indy Blue, who are known for posting videos about their exotic travels and “perfect” lifestyle, and asks the question, “What’s the point of all these people?”

The term “influencer,” stemming from the verb “to influence,” has become an adjective and “job” title. In fact, in 2017, the Google search, “How to become an influencer” increased by 325%. When influencers post about trips to Bali one weekend, cooking classes in Italy the next week, then a video of them walking through Greece, who wouldn’t want that lifestyle? Frolicking on a private beach in the Maldives definitely sounds better than a 9-5 desk job.

Think about your Instagram feed. How many thumb scrolls does it take you to get to a post by someone with a blue check mark? How many photos of women casually strolling across an empty street in New York City or girls completing a HIIT workout in some brightly colored Gym Shark leggings grace your feed? I walked in on my friend one day eating dinner and zooming in on an influencer’s abs. She then proceeded to wash her fork and throw away her half eaten dinner. I stood there shocked, but not surprised. My friend’s entire perception of her self-worth and whether or not she was allowed to consume food that night was based on some photo-shopped body on three-by-six-inch screen.

Recently, I’ve seen people recently taking time away from social media. While I fully support anyone’s desire to cleanse that part of their life, I can’t help but wonder if we need time away from social media itself, or time away from the toxicity of social media that we, as a society, have constructed.

If the sole point of of these influencers is to market ideals, experiences, or products to the public, then they have been extremely successful. But, I think that as a society, we forget that we are the ones with the say. We complain about the toxic nature of Instagram influencers, photoshop, and how social media “isn’t reality,” yet easily forget we are the ones that have given them that platform.

A few years ago, I unfollowed anyone with a “blue check mark” who had been dubbed famous or influential in any way. My relationship with social media and my perception of myself changed drastically for the better after that. What if every one of us were to unfollow every influencer? They would essentially have no medium with which to promote their photoshopped tan and Coachella experience. We are the ones with the “power” here. We are under the influence because of a follow button that within seconds can decide the fate of a person’s status or influence. We influence the status of influencers, as they are not the ones with the key to our self-worth.


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