Identity in Communities and Networks

Identity Wars: How the self-presentation of vegan YouTube influencers impacts viewers and the vegan movement.


Social networking sites have helped improve the way people express themselves and find their identity. They can also be a place for people to join communities, collaborate and promote activist movements such as the vegan movement. Identity among vegan YouTube influencers is very important as there seems to be a fight for status to always be noticed. One of the more popular types of veganism on YouTube is dietary veganism, with influencers focusing on body image and food choices rather than ethics. The spread of dietary misinformation can be detrimental to their viewers and may therefore affect the appeal of ethical veganism. This paper will examine popular vegan influencers on YouTube and considers how they present themselves online, exploring the idea of identity as performance, deception and commodity, influencing the population they address.

Keywords: veganism, YouTube, identity, communities, influencers, diet

Please, hit that thumbs up!

Identity plays a very important role for social media influencers in order to remain at the top and to always be noticed. Like many other online movements or lifestyles, there appears to be a fight for status within the online vegan community. “Many vegans put a lot of pressure on themselves to live up to the strict standard of veganism, and some animal rights activists suggest this causes an unnecessary burden that may actually cause damage to the vegan movement” (Greenbaum, 2012, p.141). When they craft their online identity they are particularly cautious of how they present themselves, striving to be the “authentic” and ethical vegan so they will not be criticised by others and will be respected highly. Social media platforms have vastly improved the way people communicate, making it easier for them to connect, view or disseminate information. These tools came about during the rise of the Web 2.0 era, as devised by Tim O’Reilly (2020). People left virtual worlds and entered participatory environments, connecting with friends, family and colleagues on these social networks. An increase in awareness of social issues raised voices and promoted activist movements, such as the steadily growing veganism movement. The philosophy of veganism eliminates all animal products from their diet and lifestyle in an effort to reduce animal exploitation ( Animal welfare is certainly an important issue that should be voiced and heard, and social media can advocate this message. However, many extreme vegan activists spread dietary misinformation in their social media communities, which may be detrimental to their followers and to the community with which they are affiliated. This paper will discuss that though social media platforms such as YouTube are important for strengthening vegan activist communities, there are many vegan identities performed in these communities, including dietary veganism. The dietary misinformation promoted and spread within these communities can harm community members and may therefore affect the appeal of ethical veganism. This paper aligns with the Identity in Communities and Networks stream.

All the web’s a stage.

YouTube is a virtual stage for influencers on which to perform and express their identity. As Burgess and Green (2018, p. 78) argue, YouTube could be considered a “modern day patron of artists,” a place where people can express their identities artistically. Erving Goffman (1959) suggested the idea of identity as a performance, so in this instance the actor’s platform is the virtual platform, YouTube is the platform on which they perform their identity. This is one of many social networking sites (SNS) that have provided users with a way to express themselves and find their identity through the creation of online profiles (boyd & Ellison, 2007). A social media profile can reflect the individual’s own personality, by adding unique photographs or alternatively the user can adapt the profile to change the look as they suit, thus creating the altered identity. SNS also are a space where communities are formed, bringing a sense of collaboration, common interest, shared space and encouragement of new participants. These virtual communities operate just like an offline community, it “is something experienced as belonging and it follows that if people experience belonging in virtual forms, then community does have a reality for those individuals. Its materiality is not lost, but simply takes a different form” (Delanty, 2018, p.202).

Foodies and ‘Tubies.

Many vegan social media influencers tend to focus their content on dietary veganism and individual food choices, rather than looking at ethical issues (O’Brien, 2017). They try to captivate viewers with their vibrant dishes that adorn the screen. Western Mail (2018) notes that the vegan movement has gained popularity through the rise of social media platforms, particularly with regards to the vegan diet. There are many variations of dietary veganism including the rather extreme version known as raw fruitarianism. According to News Release (2017) this particular diet consists of an intake of 75% of daily food coming from raw fruit which has been suggested may be dangerous if followed long term as it lacks important nutrients such as omega 3, vitamin B and protein and is high in sugar so can cause weight gain, tooth decay and may be dangerous for diabetics. Raw fruit vegan influencers are abundant on SNS, including FullyRawKristina (1.1M subscribers), Freelee the BananaGirl (784k subscribers), Durianrider (218k subscribers), Aga in America (118k subscribers) Nutrition by Victoria (7.8k subscribers) and countless others ( Possibly the most popular and long-standing influencer is Freelee the BananaGirl, who has had their channel since 2007 (Freelee the BananaGirl, 2020). They became famous for claiming to eat up to 51 bananas a day and promoting this as a weight-loss diet, appearing on The Today Show on Australian television where they stated to have certification in nutrition. When the Australian Institute of Fitness was queried about the qualification they denied ever having them as a student (Sydney Morning Herald, 2016).

Go bananas for YouTube!

Identity performance, or the self-presentation of a YouTube influencer could be considered through Pearson (2009), who has also observed Goffman’s understanding of identity as performance, just as an actor on a stage may be free to choose their role. On SNS people can present themselves in whatever way they wish, so their online identity can differ from the offline identity. Thus, social media influencers can create a new identity for themselves, even ones that differ from other social profiles they may have. The first to consider is Freelee the BananaGirl. They have multiple YouTube channels, Facebook and Instagram accounts and recipe books. Their identity becomes a commodity, playing an important role in keeping business alive (Guy, 2017). YouTube also enables influencers to make money based on the number of views they receive by putting commercials into their videos. The website Social Blade (2020) shows statistics on how much money they make. Furthermore, the idea of the “self-proclaimed expert” on a person’s SNS, as Donath (1996) suggests, is apparent in many aspects of this identity. They state they have a qualification in nutrition but have never shown proof of this. They believe their body is the pinnacle of health and advertise this to their audience, proclaiming that everyone will have the same ‘results’ if they purchase their books and follow their advice. This continues through the use of “conventional signals” whereby they use traits and symbols to express their identity. Their logo for their main YouTube channel looks as though they are wearing a superhero costume, giving them a powerful appearance. The use of the semi-naked/naked body could also be considered a tool of deception. They will also dismiss those who ask questions that might uncover information they do not wish to answer, either through aggression or through blocking/banning the user. Freelee’s forms of identity deception may pose a risk to the unconscious viewer, but to the conscious viewer all this deception simply appears as “noise.” A further consideration for how they are trying to make their identity shine is through the idea of “impression management” as noted in boyd & Ellison (2007), when they repeatedly highlight to their audience how many followers they have, how long they have been on YouTube and that they have had many ‘success stories.’ Baccarella, Wagner, Kietzmann & McCarthy (2018) discuss the “dark side” of SNS, noting those who use misinformation, shaming, and aggressive engagement as ways to develop their online identity. Observing Freelee, their videos often contain ‘reaction’ or ‘shaming’ content that bully others for their food choices or for leaving veganism and they have also posted a video declaring people should be “forced to be vegan” or they don’t deserve to live (Should Meat Eaters, 2015). Exploitation of the body is also seen in most of Freelee’s videos. They are scantily dressed and continuously flaunt their stomach, encouraging the viewer if they follow their advice they can look the same. In some videos they walk through their backyard naked. Mascheroni, Vincent & Jimenez (2015) maintain this is a need for attention and is an addiction, and is fast becoming normalised and a habit for some girls to post themselves online with little clothing, and feel a need to constantly improve their looks to get ‘likes’ or comments from their followers. The exposure to Freelee’s videos can be quite dangerous to people with conditions such as orthorexia nervosa, who have a strong obsession with food intake/choices and body image. It is quite distressing to note that Freelee may be suffering from this condition themselves, since they have such an extreme preoccupation with body image, strict food ideas and heavy social media use (McComb & Mills, 2019; Mackey, 2015).

Another influencer within the community to consider is Nutrition by Victoria (Nutrition by Victoria, 2020) who shares their nutritional advice, and has participated in videos such as “Durianrider’s Sugar Mountain Challenge” which involved eating unlimited sugar for 30 days. Though they are not as aggressive in their engagement with their audience, they nevertheless also adopt the identity of the “commoditised self” (Guy, 2017) in order to gain views and have a deceptive means of self-presentation that involves showing their semi-naked body at the ‘correct’ angle, and often breastfeed their child while talking to their viewers with their breasts exposed to the camera. Is this taking things too far with self-image, as they again watch themselves on the camera while breastfeeding? Leaver & Nansen (2017) address the implications of mothers who publicly post infants and breastfeeding on SNS and the normalisation of this as children then develop their own online identity. Breastfeeding should be a blissful, nurturing and powerful moment between mother and child, and this breastfeeding that is posted to Nutrition by Victoria’s SNS could be seen as a means of impression management and identity deception. This also raises queries of the privacy and rights of the child, as the child has been given an online identity, generally without consent as at this age they are too young to understand, and their digital footprint has already been formed on the Internet.

Is veganism contagious?

People are naturally and instinctively connected, and social networks facilitate the spread of an idea or a suggestion, and for people to adopt those ideas (Christakis, 2010; Rosenquist, Fowler, & Christakis, 2011). For instance, people interested in veganism can join YouTube to view videos for a common interest, and as they watch these videos they are exposed to the suggestions offered by the influencer. The suggestions implied by Freelee the BananaGirl and Nutrition by Victoria may pose a danger to viewers if their advice is followed unconsciously. Their ideas can easily spread within the community through tagging and sharing on various social media accounts, and algorithms within YouTube keep videos popular and more likely to be found when searched (Burgess & Green, 2018). When influencers refer to one another within the community this also inflates their fame and keeps them in the spotlight. Influencers that exhibit an obsession with body image and dietary misinformation can quickly become normalised and adopted by the viewer. These influencers could also be presenting depressive symptoms or disorders such as orthorexia, which may become adopted by the viewer and then spread through the community. As Mackey (2015) notes, if social media use becomes a way of life for the viewer, then body image and food choices can also become obsessions.

Why the ‘tude, dude?

Vegans are often seen negatively by the public, and there is a stigma associated with veganism. Judgement and criticism also occurs within the community, for instance, ethical vegans will judge health vegans and those within the community who leave the movement are mocked. YouTube influencer Rawvana (Shugerman, 2019) was spotted on one of their videos with fish on their plate of food, causing an uproar within the vegan community. Their ‘coming out’ as non-vegan caused them to receive resentment and even death threats. It is this behaviour that creates the stigma that includes a fear of the “spread” or what is considered the “courtesy stigma” (Markowski & Roxburgh, 2019, p.3). This is a spread by association, people will distance themselves from vegans to avoid “catching” any associated characteristics and thus becoming vegan themselves. It is this militant-style self-presentation towards veganism that causes misinformation that harms community members and damages the reputation of the community. When these influencers present their semi-naked bodies and shame others for their food choices, they forget about ethical veganism. Instead of voicing about the oppressed and exploited they are actually exploiting themselves (O’Brien, 2017).


YouTube is a powerful platform on which identities are performed and presented. It is one of the many SNS that have improved communication and enabled people to promote activist movements, such as veganism. The interest in ethical veganism can be impaired when extreme vegan activists distort dietary information on social media. The vegan community can be critical, so their self-presentation and online identity on social media is of particular importance as they strive for authenticity and purity within their community. Popular vegan YouTube influencers include Freelee the BananaGirl who now lives as this character, and Nutrition by Victoria who also expresses their identity through body image and breastfeeding, which raises issues for the child’s online identity and privacy. These influencers try to lure their viewers through exposure and suggestion, their focus on food choices and shaming of others puts animal ethics in the background. What do these YouTube influencers truly claim to be advocating? With the pervasiveness of dietary veganism now online and offline, what does this mean for society? Is the ‘spread’ of stigma inescapable?


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23 replies on “Identity Wars: How the self-presentation of vegan YouTube influencers impacts viewers and the vegan movement.”

Hi Indre,
I really enjoyed reading your paper as I also discussed the use of #vegan as a way for people to virtue signal their “wokeness” in relation to animal welfare, climate change and dietary health. In my research I came across a few of the influencers you discussed and I will have a look at others you mentioned. These influencers have usually just won a genetic lottery with their good looks and lean bodies and have the advantage of youth. None of which veganism has had much impact on it’s just the luck of the draw! It’s these social media stars that have created vegan cults and the competitiveness associated with it. You are either in or you’re not.
In reality I am vegan some days, vegetarian others and occasionally a carnivore. My reasons for eating predominately plant based food is for my health, for the planet and for animal welfare. If everyone ate a little less meat on a daily basis it would have a huge impact but it has to be enjoyable and sustainable for people. I think this is what I dislike about those influencers pushing the vegan regime – they strip the joy out of eating food and make a competition out of it. I noticed veganism becoming a “thing” a few years ago in my cafe when predominately teenage girls started requesting vegan food. What I found disturbing was they were focused on the label of veganism but made no effort to eat nutritionally – one girl came in with her mother complaining that she had only eaten peanut butter on toast for the last three days!
As you mentioned in your essay “strict standards of veganism can cause damage to the movement as a whole”.
I loved your analogy in your comment to me about how easy it is to go to a juice bar and posting #veganlove etc. There should be a disclaimer perhaps “No animals were saved in the posting of this hashtag”! And finally I feel for Nutrition by Victoria’s child – just wait until they get to school and the other kids find those videos!

Hi Katherine

I have several friends who are vegan, one has started up a juice business over the past year or so. The other many would argue is “plant based” since she wears wool, silk, leather bags, and has honey occasionally etc.
Many of the influencers on YouTube have definitely won the lottery with their looks, using this to their advantage to ‘sell’ veganism, but they need to be careful that this diet doesn’t end up aging them as I’ve seen it do. I can offer you another channel to watch that is very eye-opening. This is from an ex-vegan who shows amazing observations of what veganism has done to people long-term. That’s not to say it happens to everyone, but reading the comments, it’s amazing how many people will say they’ve ‘been there’.

Hi Indre,
I enjoyed reading your paper too and had a little smile at the sub-headings, thankyou.

‘The Web is a stage’ particularly caught my attention as it is a view I have held, and hold against social media, as being an opportunity for everyone and anyone to grab their 5 minutes of fame. However that said I can also appreciate how it can work in positive ways to promote worthy causes (my paper is pretty much about just that but also how you have to maintain the integrity to retain support).

Your reply to Katherine with regards to some of the negative effects of a vegan diet reminded me of one of the doctor’s in Crystal Brook who was a vegetarian (but used to come into our butcher shop to buy meat for her family haha). She told us that when one of her sons said he wanted to be vegetarian, she tried everything to dissuade him. She herself wished she could eat meat because of the nutritional benefit that is hard to replicate in other forms. Hers was not an ethical choice basically she just couldn’t swallow it in any form – finely chopped, minced or otherwise.

Out of interest I clicked on the ‘Nutrition by Victoria’ link you referenced and marvelled at her 71.8k followers! There was absolutely no substance to the videos at all. No scientific research just generalised airy-fairy statements/comments thrown out in amongst juicing and eating 8 oranges, 2 kilo of dates and 15 vegetable wraps! Surely there has to be more to it than that?

Thanks for an interesting paper Indre.

Hi Lee

Thanks for reading my paper and for your comments.

Unfortunately that’s basically all these people eat (or claim to eat), ginormous amounts of fruits (sometimes with sugar added), plain rice or potatoes… instead of small sensible portions of ‘real’ food.

Everyone does seem to be using the web as a stage these days, thanks to social media, particularly with apps like TikTok. This gives people 15/60 seconds of fame! 😛

Hey Indre!
Great to run into you again!
I liked the way you talked about identity in regards to veganism. Do you think veganism YouTubers block out certain parts of their identity that don’t fit in with the ideal of vegan YouTubers? Does that make sense?
I agree with you about how veganism and animal welfare are incredibly important topics, and the extremists definitely bring too much attention to themselves rather than the issues. Especially with Freelee and the issue of modesty, where their body becomes the product. I was thinking the same thing with a fitness YouTuber I currently watch named Pamela Reif – she wears skimpy workout clothes which definitely leads to the commodification of her body as the product.
I enjoyed your paragraph titles! The use of case studies was really good, I like how you gave good examples for each of your arguments.
Do you think that vegan YouTubers should focus more on ethical issues rather than food choices?
Great paper overall. Thank you for the read!

Hi Anne-Marie

Thanks for your response! I agree that influencers would shape their identity how they would ‘think’ others would want them to see them as the ‘ideal’ vegan which is why a lot of them all start to look the same I guess!

I think YouTube influencers can focus on both food and ethics, depending on the type of veganism they follow but it needs to be done sensibly. I am not vegan but I do believe animals should be treated with respect. So for instance regarding ethics, I don’t believe in live exports, factory farming, puppy mills, etc. I still think our world depends on regenerative agriculture etc. Vegans of course would beg to differ and to fight for that. But if they focused more on a single issue, such as live exports rather than trying to ‘force’ the world to change their lifestyle in one fell swoop, maybe more people would listen?


Hi Indre,
I very much enjoyed reading this piece and thought it flowed very well. Your arguments are compelling, and I have witnessed the issues you have brought up. The fact that a social media presence can be such a powerful thing, in terms of creating a specific persona, particularly one that is of such extreme nature.
I find the concept of raw fruitarianism outlandish, yet I am not surprised to hear of it as I am aware of some of the more controversial diets out there. It certainly appears those channels are taking veganism dieting to the extreme and a part of that seems to be due to popularity. Such is that you mention using their body as a tool of deception and the need for attention and viewers. This ‘clickbaiting’ begs the question if they are promoting these channels for the right reasons, or if this is actually the real them, again referencing your example with the influencer Rawvana.
The fact that a lot of viewers would see these influencers healthy and looking fit would certainly convince many to believe entirely what they see and are told. In this case, these channels and influencers are a big concern to people’s heath and wellbeing. Not to mention the extremist examples lending a bad image of veganism as a whole.
Just to note, I love your topic headings!
Again thank you for the insight!

Hi Michael
Thanks for reading my paper and thanks for the feedback!
You mentioned ‘clickbaiting’ – this is something that a lot of these influencers love to use in the titles of their videos to get views. Some of them will say something like “why I’m leaving veganism” and then the video will be absolutely nothing like that! As I said to Anne-Marie if they spent more time focusing on one issue at a time (like an ethical issue) and promoted it in a sensible way maybe veganism wouldn’t get such a bad rap. But I guess, on the other hand, if they weren’t all controversial like they are then they wouldn’t get all the views huh?

Hi Indre,

Thanks for sharing your paper. I had a few aha moments when reading your paper which is great. The topic of the vegan movement is one that I know little about so I’ve learned a great deal from this paper.
I think your paper links well to Kaitlyn’s paper on influencers and how human emotions, particularly envy, that motivate our behaviour has an impact on our relationships both on and offline.

You mention “Instead of voicing about the oppressed and exploited they are actually exploiting themselves (O’Brien, 2017).”
The article you cite also mentions the quest for an authentic identity constructed in comparison to others is what causes the network or community to be fragmented. But the article also states that for someone to maintain a vegan lifestyle they are more dependent on a supportive social network than individual willpower.
Greenebaum, J. (2012). Veganism, identity and the quest for authenticity. Food, Culture & Society, 15(1), 129-144.

With this is mind, do you think the competitive nature of authenticity in line with moral values is more destructive in fragmenting the vegan community?

Or could it be an individual’s drive to succeed in creating an online brand on Youtube and the financial reward that is causing the competition between vegan members?
The financial reward links to Bailin’s paper on the Neo-liberalist ideology of web 2.0 where individual success and reward is valued more than human relationships and connections.

Is it possible to bring cohesion to this community in the form of a not for profit organisation that can facilitate and educate what the normal practices are of a vegan lifestyle? And could they use the affordances of social media to bring about change to society’s views on animal treatment?
Thanks for sharing!

Hi Kelly

Thanks for your insightful comments! I’m still not completely knowledgeable about veganism myself so it makes me happy knowing that my paper has taught others at least a little about the online movement! I will have to read Kaitlyn’s paper as one of the final few before the conference ends!

It does seems like a strange community, though they are supportive of one another while they’re the ‘perfect’ vegan they are always critical. It seems the slightest adjustment or move away from veganism, they are banished or struck down and looked down upon with such shame.

On YouTube, there is definitely also a financial thing going on too, as you mentioned with Bailin’s paper. You can laugh at some of these videos. Freelee shames FullyRawKristina for her video with affiliations/advertisements with supplements yet has a link for her own recipe book in her videos ( She pushes her recipe books all the time. Most of these influencers tend to have some kind of ‘sell’ these days, either books or life coaching, or a Patreon account and they will keep referring to them. It makes me think about any juice bar, health food store, etc. What are they really about? Are they on the vegan bandwagon because it’s the in-thing and they are cashing in or do they truly believe in its true meaning?

I’m not sure if there could ever be ‘one’ solid, global, not for profit organisation that could speak on behalf of everyone for the correct vegan diet and ethics. There is already The Vegan Society which is probably the best place to start with if ever looking for information ( and probably numerous other organisations (Animals Australia, PETA etc). I still think regardless of this there will always be influencers giving others their opinions and advice via social media.

Thanks again

Hi Indre,

Your paper provides a thoughtful reflection on the issue of extreme veganism. It’s not something that I would have associated with YouTube (I’m not much of a YouTuber though), so I was interested to have a look at some of the accounts you mention to see what these people are up to.

Freelee is such an interesting case. She seems like a real paradox. I ended up having a look at Freelee’s Insta account as well and it feels so contradictory, there’s so many mixed messages from posting about women’s rights to posing pretty much naked, or talking about eating nothing but bananas yet lots of photos with plates full of carb-loaded food. I have to admit I’m a bit lost!

I think your observation that “there appears to be a fight for status within the online vegan community” (para. 2) is spot on. Like Katherine, some days I’m vegan, most days I’m vegetarian and some days I’ll eat some meat. I’ve looked to social media to find vegan recipes and have been really shocked at how aggressive vegans are towards non-vegans. Interestingly, there’s a similar vibe between zero wasters and people who are trying to reduce their waste, i.e. ‘non-zero wasters’. I agree with Greenbaum that the ‘all or nothing’ attitude is highly detrimental to the vegan cause and that more could be achieved by having productive conversations instead of being judgemental and aggressive. But I digress!

I loved your headings! In particular, “Is veganism contagious” really took my fancy! I am interested by the idea of ‘courtesy stigma’. Unfortunately, the activities of some of the more extreme elements of the vegan communities have really stigmatised the movement as a whole.

Have you come across more moderate vegans who have found similar success to FullyRawKristina or Freelee, or is this another case where extremism really sells?

Thanks again for such a thought-provoking read!

Hi Anna

Thank you for your comments. I’ve been quite hooked on some of the vegan-wars that have been going on out there on YouTube. There are some other incidents that are far more sinister than what I’ve written about. Thanks for the comments about my headings too!

I agree Freelee is interesting sending mixed messages. Though I admire her for saying she isn’t afraid to not wear make-up, she prances around on camera naked. I can’t understand why she wants to expose her body when she complains about how women are always the victim of exploitation in magazines etc.

I guess I’m probably the same as you and Katherine in being some days vegan, most days vegetarian and some days eating meat but I probably eat meat on more of those days. I think this kind of lifestyle is what the world should look to, as well as supporting local farmers rather than factory farming. I don’t think the whole world could ever be 100% vegan, and I agree we’ll never get anywhere if there is constant aggression and judgement when we try and have a conversation – that goes with ANY debate on any issue in the world!

I’ve only ever really come across the extreme influencers! There are other countless other channels that I’ve delved into, that leads into a rabbit hole… Some focus on diet, some just talk and waffle on about things, politics, other vegan YouTubers, etc it gets quite heated! Who needs Days of Our Lives??? 😛

Thanks again

Hi Indre,
you have writtena great papaer and I really enjoyed reading it. Im not highly educated on veganism but its hard to miss. I feel like most social media are flooded with every influencedrclaiming to be vegan. I have really noticed a influx of “what i eat in day” vegan editions on youtube. I somehow think its become trendy to be vegan these days and its just something new and exciting for influencers to promote to stay relevant and look good in front of followers, seemingly like they truly care for the movement.

The mention of Freelee the BananaGirl was interesting and honestly a little funny. In this instance I think infleuncers as such really don’t help with the negative stigma around veganism. I think that infleuncers come across as more likeable if they are more honest, so maybe they should be so afraid to come clean if they mess up or be more honest if they’re not fully vegan.

Hi Kaitlyn

Thank you for your feedback. I totally agree that veganism is a fad these days and used just for views on social media, as it would be a highly used tag and likewise a highly searched word. With regards to the stuff these influencers present on their videos, I always believe honesty is the best policy and that when they come across as ‘fake’ this only adds to the whole negative stigma, making the whole ‘fight’ for veganism harder overall!


Hi Indre,

I enjoyed reading your paper with interesting subheadings and content, well done!

You have discussed well the importance of identity for social media influencers, how influencers need to perform in YouTube as a virtual stage, the influencer’s focus on extreme version of dietary veganism that makes one famous ignoring ethics and long term dietary dangers, how an influencer’s identity can differ from offline to online and examples of ethical veganism and misinformation that occurs in the community.

I agree that social media platforms such as “YouTube are important for strengthening community activities such as the vegan activist communities” as stated in your paper. YouTube is a great social media platform with 1.9 billion users (Statista, 2019) as it is easily accessible, entertaining, informative and connects the community of people with the same interest such as the vegan community.

I also agree that “The interest in ethical veganism can be impaired when extreme vegan activists distort dietary information on social media” as you concluded. This is a real concern especially as the health of subscribers, fans or viewers who rely on information from the vegan activists for their diet may be adversely affected. In this context, YouTube should address the misinformation of the extreme vegan activists.

Thank you.

Hi Kathryn

Thanks for your feedback on my paper.

There have been many times when YouTube has been made aware of the videos of these influencers due to the content that is featured on them. Unfortunately most of the time these videos that get reported usually are just demonetised (they will no longer make money from that particular video) and then the influencer will mention in the comments, or in another video that they’re ‘glad’ about this because it means that the video got the attention of a lot of people! For instance, the below video from Vegan Gains was demonetised because people reported it for his comments regarding the shaming of a weightlifter named Eddie Hall and when he went to visit a child with cancer before he passed away, saying that people with diets like his cause cancer in the first place, etc… (this is at the 10:10 mark of the video). People thought it was totally unnecessary that Vegan Gains make such remarks and was very insensitive.

Vegan Gains. (2020, March 14). Eddie Hall vs Vegan Gains. [Video]. YouTube.


Hi Indre,

I really enjoyed your characterisation of the vegan movement and the influencer turf wars to win the most views and followers. That millions of people are followers of these so-called influencers who basically make a living through somewhat deceptive means is mind-boggling to say the least. It is concerning that these unqualified nutritionists are allowed to continue peddling unproven and misinformed dietary messaging to their communities. I would understand the damage it can cause to unsuspecting and impressionable youth who might not have the capacity to understand or process the complexities of “fluid identities” and “impression management” online or offline.

Your discussion on social misbehaviours such as aggression, misinformation and the extreme pro-veganism views caught my eye. The idea of coercion or intimidation in any space whatsoever is repulsive to say the least. In my own paper I have discussed how pseudonymity encourages “digital aggression”. I would not be surprised if this were the case in the vegan wars! However, the solutions to rid the internet and SNSs of fake news, misinformation, disinformation, shaming and all forms of digital aggression are not easy.

You have made a valid and strong argument in your paper. Well done!


Hi Bayayi

Thanks for your comments!

It’s true, it is very hard to ‘rid’ social media of these extreme influencers. Everyone is entitled to express themselves and find their identity. However, as I just mentioned to Kathryn, even when YouTube videos are reported, they are not always taken down. Videos can be demonetised and in most cases the influencer finds this a good thing, knowing that they have caused a stir and that their video had caught people’s attention. When videos are taken down, they usually find their way back up again somewhere, somehow! Like this one for instance:

Freelee The BananaGirl. (2020, April 22). My last video was removed…why? This is where you can watch it. [Video]. YouTube.


Hi Indre!

I can’t believe I didn’t find your paper sooner! I found it not only interesting but quite relevant to my own life. I was totally sucked into this back in 2015, and watched Freelee, Durianrider, also High Carb Hannah, etc. and even attempted to adopt veganism, specifically the high-carb, low-fat diet lifestyle, myself. Alas I didn’t end up with Freelee’s killer bod, lol. I’m vegetarian these days but am not closed-off to the idea of one day being vegan, or fully plant-based 🙂

One thing I did like about Freelee was the importance (maybe not necessarily her tactics) that she placed upon the ethical side of things, and how important it is to look at the effects on animals and the planet, rather than many of the other vegan YouTubers and instagrammers you mention who, appear to maybe only be doing it for aesthetic or nutritional reasons.

I do also remember the Rawvana scandal and how much Freelee (and others) ripped into her, saying she was never truly vegan,etc.
It’s truly amazing how much information can now be disseminated or found out through the use of social networking sites. And even more so how it constructs the identity of not only the people putting out those messages or that image, but the community of people who form around it.

Loved your paper, thank you for that Indre!

Kind regards,


P.S. Nice touch with the clever subheadings!😊

Hi Vanessa

Thanks so much for your feedback. You just managed to find this paper before the conference ends tonight! I’m glad you did! It’s amazing to hear from someone who has previously tried to follow the advice of these influencers. I first started watching them (as an outsider) just out of interest because both Durianrider and Freelee are from Adelaide like myself so I was just curious to watch them and their whereabouts, and that’s how I then started to observe their behaviour and the behaviour of other influencers. Then I noticed some of the ‘wars’ going on between them. Once I chose this as a topic for this unit, it was quite interesting to discover the ‘quest for authenticity’ and status that occurs within the vegan community, it all made sense once I started researching!

I agree Freelee’s intentions for ethics might be good, but her approach has sometimes been detrimental to her channel.

Thanks again!

Hey again Indre!

Yes, I’m so glad I did too! Goodness, you should have seen me, I was like, ‘hey fam, we actually need to start buying BOXES of bananas, fruit’s like, amazing for you.’ I’m cringing in shame as I think about it, god ahahha. Mine started as curiosity too! Freelee was such an anomaly, especially since she somewhat pre-dated the vegan movement and the clusters of vegan youtubers who sprung up on the platform later. For me it was just like whooo the heck is this banana woman? And then I went through the freelee stages of stanning:
1. curiosity
2. intense dislike
3. fighting the good fight, love her!
4. bit shady but its fine
5. ok no this isn’t it
before deciding I stopped watching her all together.

Yeah, the whole influencer wars is certainly a weird thing… I can only imagine how strange it would be being fully caught up in one, and how messy it would get being wrapped up in your identity like that. As we do tend to see amongst the ex-vegan community in their ‘why I’m no longer vegan’ or ‘why I quit’ videos.

Yeah, it’s a shame because her passion for animal welfare and rights if paired with a different approach, could have maybe allowed her to expand her reach, sustain it and also receive less criticism than she did. I’m not subscribed to her anymore but occasionally I’ll look her up and go watch one of her recent vids. Mainly because her content is pretty radically different now with her whole, off-the-grid and ASMR thing she has going on – quite interesting to see though!

Kind regards,


Hi Indre!
Loved your writing! As the vegan movement grows rapidly it is certainly becoming more and more prominent in social media accounts basing themselves around this to create an identity. I am personally a vegan and include this in my social media accounts, however not religiously as I am trying to avoid coming across as the typical stereotypes of being pushy and preaching haha! I have seen firsthand a few situations of friends or fellow bloggers who have crafted their Instagram accounts around being “vegan”. however have slipped up occasionally and perhaps accidentally including a video of themselves consuming eggs or dairy, without previously letting their followers know that they have started to include these non vegan additions into their diets. One friend in particular did this and unfortunately saw a bit of backlash and decline in her Instagram/blog success, since veganism was the main aspect of her identity.

I liked the example you used about Freelee the Banana Girl and how they deflect questions or comments which may unveil unwanted truths; with veganism being sometimes such a strict lifestyle to follow I can definitely see how it could it be a struggle for a popular creator to remain authentic and justify if they ever slip up etc.
Are you a vegan personally or just interested by the identity formation and movement?

Mel 🙂

Hi Melissa!

Sorry for the late reply, I’m slowing down now here that the conference has officially ended.
I am not vegan personally, I have friends who are and have just been observing these influencers (both vegans and ex-vegans) as an outsider and have found it all quite interesting. It’s unfortunate that this movement has such a strict ‘all or nothing’ attitude that it even means sacrificing their own health sometimes, even if they know they need nutrients from eggs for instance, knowing the backlash they could receive if they got caught (like Rawvana).
Indre 🙂

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