The reality of social media posts and their real life impact has been a topic of much discussion in the media. It’s hard to scroll down your Instagram feed without feeling insecure about the way you look or how successful your life is. This is perhaps due in part to the false realities being presented to us by celebrities and influencers, which can have a damaging impact on our mental health.
An issue that has recently been brought to light is that of celebrities endorsing dangerous products to their followers, which has recently received media attention with the help of actress Jameela Jamil. Jamil criticised the Kardashians for promoting the use of instant weight loss products which can have a negative impact on those who struggle with problems related to body dysmorphia. Not only can using these cause problems for people’s physical health, but constantly seeing these products being advertised can have damaging effects on a person’s mental health. The issue becomes more sinister when we take into account that most of the fanbase for the Kardashians and similar influencers are young and therefore more impressionable.
Another serious issue that has recently been brought to light is ‘blackfishing’, a term used to describe people on platforms like Instagram who pick hair styles, fashion, makeup looks and even body features commonly associated with people of colour to gain fame. This is problematic as they are profiting from things such as sponsorship deals and making money off the back of appropriating a culture to which they do not belong. Cherry-picking parts of a culture whilst not living, or even acknowledging, the persistent social injustice people of colour face is fundamentally wrong. Big names such as Ariana Grande and the Kardashians have been accused of this and it is important we recognise when celebrities are stealing from other cultures in order to build their brand and gain fame.
The recent Netflix documentary about the Fyre music festival exposed just how big an impact social media influencers can have on the selling of a product or experience. Kendall Jenner was reported to have been paid $250,000 for one Instagram post about the event, which was supposed to promote the festival to her followers. The festival was later revealed to have been massively oversold, which raises questions about how responsible these influencers are for advertising products honestly. Since big-name celebrities can be paid huge sums of money for a single post, they are definitely exploiting their followers by advertising products that are damaging or simply fake. Social media advertising has become a tool for capitalist ventures to exploit consumers’ insecurities by selling them a fake world.
Whilst there are a lot of social media influencers who appear to sell a false reality to their followers, there are some people who are trying to actively challenge these standards set by celebrities. Instagram comedian Celeste Barber has risen to fame for her posts that appear to mock this idealised life that skinny white women seem to portray on social media. Whilst her humour is perhaps a bit exaggerated, she helps to promote being yourself online, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Through making a mockery of Instagram celebrities, she exposes her reality, which is a lot more relatable to the average follower.
It is important to recognise that these standards of beauty we have been taught to strive for are not based on an objective reality, but a reality sold to us by a patriarchal capitalist society. If we work towards viewing the gold standard of beauty as something other than a skinny white woman then perhaps our ideas about how we present our lives on social media will evolve for the better. Whilst it is entertaining to imagine yourself in a conventionally beautiful woman’s Instagram post, strolling through Coachella or posing on the beach, seeing rich, flawlessly smiling faces all the time can make you feel bad about your own life and can take a toll on your mental health. It is too easy to compare the amount of fun someone appears to be having on social media to your own life. Striving for this unachievable lifestyle will only leave us unhappy and unsatisfied, which is why we should always be sceptical about social media and demand better from celebrities and influencers.