There was a time when scrolling through social media had you looking at your friends profiles and seeing what they had been up to. Maybe you followed the occasional celebrity page but for the most part, the people you saw on Facebook were people you had met in real life.
Fast forward 10 years and Social Media is now a place where we follow the lives of people we will never meet and yet people whose views and opinions we take seriously. Influencers!
These are people who, in some way, have become well known and respected in their respective fields and have gained power to influence other people. In the past, an influencer would have been someone like, say, Oprah. Being famous and well liked, she could sway peoples decisions regarding what to eat or buy or which causes to be charitable towards.
Now, anyone with an Instagram account could become an influencer if they gain enough fame and followers to have an impact, normally through Youtube or Instagram. As a result of their Influential status, companies will often pay them to endorse a brand or product and market it on their pages.
Now while influencers have great potential to do good in the world, there are several social pressures linked to influencers that parents need to be aware about!
Influencers are human, which means that they will have both admirable and undesirable habits and behaviours. An influencer could encourage health and kindness or they could sway followers towards drinking, smoking or even criminal behaviour
Because Influencers are often paid to market a brand, they may end up taking the money and punting a brand that they actually don’t really believe in. As a result, followers are swayed towards supporting the brand that their online hero supports, which may not actually be any good
Looking at the most followed people on Social Media, it’s not hard to imagine why. Sports personalities, pop stars and actors… these are people who are normally wealthy, well built and cover page ready for every post. Followers can become obsessed with using the same skincare products, nutrition supplements or wearing the same brands thinking that they can achieve the same look. What we forget when
we stare at these posts with envy is that every picture can be edited and filtered before it is posted and striving to match this fake perfection can lead to low self esteem and depression. This “Keeping up with the Kardashians” desire can even extend to material goods like gadgets, accessories and trendy clothes.
It is natural for people to aspire to be something. An aspiring soccer player would probably see someone as Christiano Ronaldo as a good role model and become one of his 281 million followers. However, as they follow their favourite influencers online, people could develop unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for their own lives or even try to escape their lives by living vicariously through others.
So while we know it is normal for children to look up to older people and admire them, it really is important for us to protect our children from potentially harmful influential personalities. Here are some practical tips to help keep followers in a healthy mental state in a realistic world.
It’s so important for children to realise that the final image they are seeing is often the work of all kinds of processes and is hardly ever a depiction of reality. Explain to them that make-up, editing and angles can go a long way to making someone look perfect and that they don’t need to place that pressure for perfection on themselves.
Talk to your children about the dangers of blindly following the flock of people trying to copy an influencer. It is important for them to learn to assess a situation themselves by questioning peoples motives and methods behind a post. Remind them that that person may be saying what they are because they are just being paid to
A good way to check up on what your children are being exposed to is to create your own profile and follow those people yourself. If you don’t like what you are seeing, talk to your children about who they look up to and why and work with them to find better influencers. An Instagram feed can be a place of positivity, upliftment and fun if the right accounts are followed
This may be a topic that has produced hundreds of hilarious memes, but maybe that’s a teaching opportunity! Find images of celebs with and without make up and filters applied, or behind the scenes images of what it took to achieve a certain photo. Children need to learn that people don’t roll out of bed camera ready in real life.