Influencer Epidemic






The new cyber age has overwhelmed all of our screens. Despite its many helpful uses that enable any information to be one click away, online space has the ability to manipulate and control the minds of many impressionable teens. Celebrities are now able to direct and lead the youth of today like never before. Do we trust these social media stars to help shape our children? Do they have a positive or negative effect on our youth?

Pressure of Perfection 

Have you ever felt your appearance judged by peers? Our youth feel this more than ever:each time they upload a new post they offer up their self-worth to be obliterated by “friends”. Dataprop reports that 59% of US teenagers have experienced bullying or harassment online. Furthermore, these thoughts are only amplified by the new-found fame of celebrity influencers. During the Covid-19 outbreak of 2020 certain teenagers shot to fame following the footsteps of self-made celebrities, such the Kardashians, using an application called Instagram. These influencers post photos with unachievable appearances using photoshop to completely change their features. The Mirror reports that this has led to approximately 60% of the youth feeling pressured to look like those fake influencers they see online. Sadly, the flawless narrative these influencers create is completely airbrushed and is an unhealthy representation for our children to be constantly exposed to. Could you be continuously surrounded by these flawless people and not yearn to look the same?

However, despite this there are a number of influencers who encourage a healthy realistic body image in the media. One example of a body positive influencer is @xobrooklynne. The 17-year-old is using her platform with 10 million followers for good, encouraging young girls to embrace their bodies and love themselves. Brooklynne Webb is the creator of a viral TikTok trend that defies global beauty standards such as not sucking in your stomach to appear more like the airbrushed model figures of the Kardashians. These body-confident videos have earned Webb 200 million views, helping to fight the beauty standard battle. Reaching out to young girls everywhere helps them to realise they shouldn’t need to feel pressured by the fake models they see online. Webb told NBC news that seeing the movement grow on TikTok makes her ‘feel like social media and this social construct of bodies is starting to change to be overall more positive and loving and accepting.’ These are the influencers our youth should be looking up to, teaching them self-love and body confidence.


The power that surrounds influencers gives them the opportunity to work with many reputable, and unreputable, brands. These self-made celebrities are flooded with brand deal emails that entice them with huge sums of money. Unfortunately, these products marketed toward the youth are often not always legitimate. One of the most problematic products that is forced upon teenagers is diet pills. Fitness and lifestyle influencers capitalise on teenagers’ desire to meet the skinny beauty standards by encouraging them to buy supplements promising to help them lose “one stone a week”. These influencers are paid extortionate amounts of money to promote these scams to impressionable teens. CNBC news reports that “an influencer with over a million followers can make more than $250,000 per post from brands”. These celebrities need to make a livelihood but should it be at the expense of innocent, insecure adolescents?

But times are changing. As of September 23rd 2020, video sharing platformTikTok banned ads for diet pills and fasting apps, restricting other weight-related ads to users 18+. Tara Wadhwa, the company’s safety policy manager stated “these types of ads do not support the positive, inclusive, and safe experience we strive for on TikTok,” Wadhwa went on to say there must be “increased restrictions on ads that promote a harmful or negative body image”. However this relies on accurate age data entered which is often not reliable. But this isn’t good enough: there are still plenty of ways for influencers and brands to get around these bans, for example by not using “#ad” or using different social media applications such as instagram. Vice estimates that  the number of adolescent patients aged 10-23 with eating disorders has doubled since the start of the pandemic and it is believed this is due to the impact of synthetic influencers.

The Future

Influencers are the fronts for vicious schemes built to exploit teen insecurities. These young celebrities are not aware of the disastrous consequences of their ads that earn them a quick buck. However, there is hope: certain influencers are able to rise above the hate and defy the beauty standard. There is still a long way to go to make the online space a safer and more accepting environment but there is work being done to achieve these goals.

By Harriet Scott

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