In her amazing new book, Alex Wolf writes that many social media influencers are creating “more visuals and distractions that thrive on a false illusion of hierarchy. These build audiences like Kim K’s which resonate by making people think “I wish. I wish. I wish.” People resonate with an artist like Frida or Angelou and think “I am. I am. I am.” Do you see the difference?”
This paragraph hit me right between the eyes and I’ll tell you why…because I have recently been thinking a lot about what it means to be a ‘social media influencer.’
I’ve been thinking about how as a society we tend to idolise what’s out of reach.
Take Kim Kardashian for example, she has 111 million followers. Compare this to body positive Instagrammer Megan Crabbe who comes in at a lowly 1 million. Then compare that to the amazing writer and feminist Chimamanda Adichie who rocks in at just 183,000 followers.
So where along this line did we begin to value an unrealistic body, how to contour and making money from people’s insecurities…over feeling good in our own skin, empowering creative women and stimulating our minds.
If I was to imagine a typical social media influencer I would imagine a young woman, typically under 30 years old and extremely attractive. She is slim and heavily uses photo-editing applications and programmes.
However, the best way to recognise a social media influencer is their ability to post a completely mismatched photo and piece of copy. Most commonly, a photo of them in a very skimpy bikini matched with text underneath about something totally unrelated such as Mother’s Day.
Marketing has become so incredibly transparent now that these women are even self-professed influencers. They proudly announce at the top of their Instagram profile that they are a ‘brand ambassador’ or ‘social media influencer’ and their 12.3k followers glows proudly at the top of the page.
What she is essentially ‘influencing’ you to do is to be slim, be beautiful, be rich…and buy the products from her that enabled her to be slim, beautiful and rich.
They also often perpetuate dangerous messages.
One such travel influencer who has 643,000 followers often enjoys lavish meals in her honour, however, she is always quick to say how ‘hard’ and ‘stressful’ it is to stay skinny when she is given all this amazing food. In her defence…I do actually follow her because she uses her YouTube channel to talk openly about the not-so-pretty realities of being a travel influencer.
Many of the images used are also overly-sexualised and clearly created to attract male followers to amp up that little number in the top right-hand corner.
Not all social-media influencers are like this, I get that. However, there is no denying that influencers who focus on being slim and gorgeous are far more popular than influencers who focus on more positive and nurturing messages.
Take this photo for example:
Pretty average right? Probably wouldn’t get many likes on Instagram. Now take a look at what some simple photo-editing can produce…
Pretty insane right?
Now I’m not saying using photo-editing is bad…we all love a filter! But these tricks are creating wildly unrealistic expectations around our lives and as Alex says, making us fixate on “I wish.”
Having aspirations is hugely important. However, if the person who we aspire to be is not someone we can relate to, then it can do more damage than good…constantly reminding us that we are not good enough, clever enough, pretty enough.
These women are creating just one narrow lens through which we are viewing success as an influential woman…you must be slim, beautiful and travel the world constantly. Otherwise, you will simply fail to be heard or create a following.
Once women learn they are enough RIGHT NOW and remove themselves from the constant suspension of ‘when’ I lose that weight or ‘when’ I get that product I’ll be happy, just imagine what we could accomplish.
My vision for the future is that we have more women who are ‘social influencers.’ That the women who want to improve education for the children of low-income families or the women who are fighting for human rights have as many followers as the women sitting on a beach above a quote that says “live your best life.”
Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below!
You can buy Alex’s book ‘Resonate’ by clicking here.