Consider this a rant.
Another morning. Another day of Instagram. Another day of an incessant barrage of filtered posts and stories. Influencers reign on social media as quasi-celebrities. They curate a maze of illusions. They create a never-ending labyrinth of flawless faces and perfect lives.
Of course, we all have bought into the aspirational appeal of the blogger culture. I, too, thought that it was an avenue for individuals to channel their creativity, for fashionistas to share their personal styles and a great place for potential consumers to find honest product reviews. We all took part in the voyeuristic culture, getting a tiny glimpse into the lives of well-connected insiders, their glamorous houses in the Hamptons, and their affiliations with high-profile brands.
But this year, along with the pandemic, changed a lot. During the pandemic, when everyone’s attention was suddenly diverted towards survival and safety, the last thing anyone wanted to see was an influencer flexing their Hermes Birkin collection. When the Black Lives Matter protests reignited debates around racial inequality, Tik Tok dances were not the way to cope. And with one of the greatest economic recessions in modern history anticipated, influencers flaunting their Chanel bags in different colors really failed to resonate with anyone. It was all simply in bad taste considering the state of the world.
So gradually, I began to unfollow account after account, trying to preserve some of my sanity. But it was too late. The toxic influencer culture had already inaugurated a new age of online validation. Normal, everyday people now aspire to emulate this aesthetic. Their self-worth, calculated by followers and likes.
The new Instagram aesthetic has become the benchmark for a post. Every darn look is the same. You have the classic beauty blogger makeup look- the voluminous eyelashes, the chiseled jawlines and cheekbones, and the luscious Kylie Jenner lips.
Where is the individuality? Where is the diversity? Everything is so airbrushed, the world has probably even forgotten what normal looks like.
And the pressure to meet these unreal expectations exacerbates insecurities and amplifies anxieties for many. A recent survey found that more than half of 18 to 34-year-olds feel that social media, along with reality TV, has a negative effect on how they see their bodies.
You might say “if you don’t like it, just unfollow it.” But this is not just about logical adults setting boundaries. It is about all the impressionable minds out there, the teens and pre-teens whose self-image is currently being cast in this awful filtered light.
You might also say: If your life is actually that glamorous, why hide it? Here is why I think flaunting culture is a bit disingenuous. There is a fine line between inspiring and showing off. Let’s consider an actual celebrity like Jennifer Aniston. Just take a look at her Instagram account:
Now there’s no doubting her glamor quotient. She’s been on magazine covers and movie posters. She’s obviously traveled the world enough. Yet, her Instagram account doesn’t look like a painted version of reality.
But now let’s take a look at your quintessential blogger:
Look at the filters, the editing, the post-production. It is all so very curated. This is a manipulated reality that might not even exist in this world.
I mean, no one’s life is that perfect. And certainly, nobody wakes up looking like the babyface filter. But then again no influencer will ever confess to this reality. There is an utter lack of transparency which has generated unrealistic expectations for everyday people. Nothing less than perfect will do.
So when we scroll through Instagram after a bad day, it seems as though the world is all rainbows and bursts of sunshine. In our vulnerable moments, we compare our lives to those of others, including the seemingly perfect influencers on our feed.
The illusion of flawlessness is deceptive but few people call it out for how bogus it is. Even fewer people acknowledge that. Gullible consumers become collateral damage in their rat race for followers and the hustle for sponsorships. We fall prey to the subtly masqueraded yet persistent advertisements: phrases such as “this is one of my holy grail products”, “this product was a game-changer” etc. What we don’t realize is that many of these unwarranted advertisements are paid, often up to thousands of dollars per post! Kylie Jenner, the queen of Instagram though, is paid anywhere in the six-digit category for her endorsements per post! So much for the honest reviews right?
So how are well-meaning influencers supposed to navigate this cesspool of narcissism and materialism? For starters, be a little more organic about your content. Use your platforms and your clout to shine a light on pressing social issues. Be political. Take a stand. Be transparent. Let go of the numbers game. For once, try to view the world without a lens.
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