Communities and Social Media

The power of social media and influencers in communities

In this conference paper, I will be discussing the negative relationship social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are contributing to body image, eating disorders and mental health concerns. My conference paper will be under the stream of ‘Communities and Social Media’ as this stream connects and communicates well within my chosen topic and focus for the conference paper. 

Social media has allowed individuals to connect in new heights with the rise in technological advancements. Although there are several negative side effects that social media is playing on user’s mental health when using social media platforms each and everyday. In particular we will be exploring the effects it is having on body image and comparison and how this is creating an unhealthy mindset which is leading many individuals into a spiral of eating disorders and several types of body image concerns. Due to the exposure and accessibility of photo editing apps it has designed an unrealistic digital world which has been created around popular influencers and marketing campaigns which many users interact and contribute to in conversation each day sometimes without even realising. Within my conference paper as mentioned earlier I will be connecting my argument back to the first stream ‘Communities and Social Media’ as I feel my topic better suits this category over the other streams. My argument will be portraying and discussing the negative effects social media platforms in particular Instagram is having on users’ body image and mental health.

Social media platforms and the internet offer many different categories from news, academic sources, reality gossip and entertainment just to list a few categories. News is shared across social media platforms and is one of the main sources for people to find out what is going on in the world. However, while this is convenient because social media platforms offer various different avenues to find out news, it does mean it can be hard for users to escape because it can sometimes offer too many options (Boczkowski et al, 2018). This is an issue arising with communities and social media along with how communication has rapidly changed because of advancement in technology and social media. 

Communication has always been a strong part of many individuals’ everyday lives and it has been this way for centuries. Many people believe communication was stronger generations before now and that the power of social media platforms has demonstrated and ruined how communication is passed through each and every day through face to face communication  (Hampton & Wellman, 2018). While the way individuals communicate has in fact changed this does not mean that communication has weakened, it has just advanced and changed in the way that people do communicate on a daily basis. Although, when researchers look back at generations before now nostalgically they believe that communities were stronger with old fashion face to face communication which links back to the overall stream of this conference paper ‘Communities and Social Media’. However, while communication has changed and advanced in many different ways through technology, the power of communication is still alive but is conducted in a different way that is unknown and unusual to generations before the modern age (Hampton & Wellman, 2018). Furthermore, the category ‘Communities and Social Media’ aligns within my conference paper of how communication has changed, the negative effects it is playing on mental health and discussion about how social communities are contributing to this topic.  

Technology has changed drastically over the last century as mentioned earlier and this has allowed users to be connected on scales that were once thought to be impossible. Along with these advancements has introduced the power of the web and how the world now revolves around the internet, however, how did it get to the point? The world wide web was created in 1990 by Sir Tim Berners- Lee and this can be recognised as the starting point for the global expansion of the internet and how it came about to mankind (WWWF, 2021). In 2004 the web was presented in San Francisco at a convention. This new and improved format was presented to be recognised rather as a platform than the information source model that was created and designed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in the late 1990’s (NWE, 2021). While these advancements have changed the way in which individuals communicate, retrieve information and learn in a positive way, it is important that users are aware of the several negative side effects these advancements are having on users’ mental health on a daily basis. 

Mental health has become the main topic for several industries over the last few years. There is no secret that social media is contributing to some mental health concerns. It is not uncommon that humans are known for their social ability and need to socialise with other humans in life. This demonstrates the urge of why humans enjoy social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook for an example because the desire humans have to communicate and to better understand one another on different topics that may arise. Although, these interactions are exposing users to the possible sight of damaging and triggering content from these platforms that can agitate and trigger the way they use and think of certain content on certain platforms (Karim et al, 2020). With the rise of digital marketing and the use of influencers for online campaigns on Instagram and Facebook this has allowed for quite a damaging outcome for certain users. Instagram is the most used social media platform for Influencers endorsed programs which can be identified also as opinion leaders due to their persuading nature on the platform from brand deals, collaborations and marketing opportunities through the app (Casaló et al, 2020). Many influencers and opinion leaders started off as normal everyday people unlike the traditional marketing campaigns which were highly well known celebrities in the campaigns. This marketing strategy was used to sell a product to a consumer  by using their fame and popularity (Driel & Dumitrica, 2020). Social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube have been known as platforms that rely on user generated content. In simple terms this means Instagram and YouTube rely on users to make the content, comment on the content and engage in the content in any form possible (Driel & Dumitrica, 2020). 

Along with campaign and collaboration deals on Instagram has led many users to feel self conscious and develop many body image issues due to the fake and highly edited world of influencers and how they portray themselves on Instagram. Many studies have shown that the most two mental health and body concern issues have been found to be body dissatisfaction and self-objectification (Tiggemann & Anderberg, 2019). Influencers and opinion leaders can be closely compared and looked at as the same as how celebrity endorsements opportunities were created in decades before now.  Many well known companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola used celebrities for example like Britany Spears and Jenifer Lopez to sell their product generations before social media was in trend and known. Body image and mental health concerns have been around for centuries, however, the difference with social media is how easy it is to access and be exposed to the world of influencers, opinion leaders and celebrity endorsement campaigns  because of how much access many people have these days to technology and social media apps where this content is shown more frequently (Tiggemann & Anderberg, 2019).

 Celebrity enforcement marketing was a popular form of advertising a decade a go. Using an athlete, supermodel and an actor was how many marketing agencies operated in order to sell new products and brands to the consumer. Although, since the rise in social media platforms and apps, influencers and opinion leaders credit themselves as “experts” within certain categories like fashion, beauty and lifestyle just to name a few (Schouten, et al, 2019). Not to mention, this creates a connection and relationship with their viewers implying that they are the best and most knowledgeable on the product, which brainwashes and creates a habit of the consumer buying products from a brand that their favourite influencer or opinion leader has endorsed and advertised on their social media platforms (Schouten, et al, 2019). It should be noted that many studies suggest that female celebrity endorsement and marketing advertisements perform more of a negative result to users’ mental health rather than using a male celebrity endorsements with consumers (Knoll & Matthes, 2016). Knoll and Matthes begin to share that this is due to women being more likely to compare themselves when they feel self conscious or have body image worries. 

Unlike when models would shoot for a marketing campaign in decades before now the way in which things are done in the modern world of social media with influencers and common users is much different and can be considered more damaging. With the rise in influencers and opinion leaders this has created a new world of editing after a shoot. This is due to influencers and opinion leaders majority of the time shooting content for products and brands themselves. This has now created a world of unrealistic bodies and is one of the main causes behind users suffering with body image concerns. Looking at editing apps for example, Photoshop and Facetune has allowed every day users to be able to manipulate an image of themselves because of these apps, unlike years ago when the only pictures that would be edited would be models in magazines (Kleemans, et al, 2016). Earlier studies showed that adolescents felt they needed to be skinnier to be prettier from model campaigns that had been shot for particular products and brands. However, now with social media these concerns are at a higher scale because of how easy it is for people to access editing applications. For example, adolescents and other users used to feel self conscious because of how a certain public figure would look in a campaign. However, in the world of social media even friends, family and people from your university can manipulate and edit their photos to look like a model online, which is causing a concerning negative relationship between mental health and body image for users. Not to mention, social media platforms like Instagram in particular is where a lot of these photos are being shared each and every day online which allows much easier access compared to model shots in a magazine years ago without the technological advancements that there is today because of the evolution of social media sites in the communities (Kleemans, et al, 2016). 

In a recent study conducted research into individuals who use social media platforms and others who just use messaging platforms which performed to have negative thoughts about their body. The study used to scale the research by Rosenberg Self Esteem scale. The results came back suggesting that in fact yes individuals are more likely to have cosmetic surgery who use social media platforms due to being self conscious from the content they see on social media platforms (Chen et al, 2019). The study suggested that individuals felt the need to get cosmetic surgery to look the same as many influencers and opinion leaders they see on the platforms. This relates back to the article by (Kleemans, et al, 2016) that many users in the community think that people they follow naturally look like they have come out of a magazine.  However, due to the wide range of editing apps available for use in this day and age it can be hard to distinguish how they look online versus in person (Kleeman, et, al, 2016). 

Overall, social media has allowed for users to connect with people from all around the world and this is a technological advancement that was not possible decades ago. However, with the popular use of Instagram and surrounding applications (Facebook, Twitter and TikTok), has led a fake world of users manipulating their bodies and faces to look a certain way to be accepted in the world of digital media. This is creating an unrealistic and negative environment for many users. For some individuals this is creating mental health concerns that did not exist prior to joining social media sites. Although, for some users it is opening old wounds and enhancing their mental health issues or introducing new struggles. 

Furthermore, it would be recommended to follow accounts that are inspiring to the users rather than following users who are seen as a competition for the user. Overall, it is clear there is a link between mental health, body image and comparison issues because of influencers and opinion leaders online. Do you follow people who make you feel self conscious or only accounts that inspire you?


Boczkowski, P., Mitchelstein, E., & Matassi, M. (2018). “News comes across when I’m in a moment of leisure”: Understanding the practices of incidental news consumption on social media. New & Media & Society, 20(8), 3523- 3539.

Casaló, L., Flavián, C., & Sánchez, S. (2020). Influencers on Instagram: Antecedents and consequences of opinion leadership. Journal of Business Research, 117(1), 510-519.

Chen, J., Ishii, M., Bater, K., Darrach, H., Liao, D., Huynh, P., Reh, I., Nellis, J., Kumar, A., & Ishii, L. (2019). Association Between the Use of Social Media and Photograph Editing Applications, Self-esteem, and Cosmetic Surgery Acceptance. JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, 21(5), 1-10. 10.1001/jamafacial.2019.0328

Driel, L., & Dumitrica, D. (2020). Selling brands while staying “Authentic”: The professionalization of Instagram influencers. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New media Technologies, 27(1), 1-10.

Hampton, K., & Wellman, B. (2018). Lost and Saved… Again: The Moral Panic about the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 47(6), 643-700.

Karim, F., Oyewande, A., Abdalla, L., Ehsanullah, Reem., & Khan, S. (2020). Social Media Use and Its Connection to Mental Health: A Systematic Review. California Institute of Behavioral Neurosciences & Psychology, 12(6), 1-10. 10.7759/cureus.8627

Kleemans, M., Daalmans, S., Carbaat, I., & Anschütz. (2018). Picture Perfect: The Direct Effect of Manipulated Instagram Photos on Body Image in Adolescent girls. Media Psychology, 21(1), 93-110.

Knoll, J., & Matthes, J. (2016). The effectiveness of celebrity endorsements: a meta-analysis. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. 10.1007/s11747-016-0503-8

New World Encyclopedia. (2021). Web 2.0. Research begins here New World Encyclopedia.

Schouten, A., Jassen, L., & Verspaget, M. (2019). Celebrity vs. Influencers endorsements in advertising: the role of identification, credibility, and Product- Endorser fit. International Journal of Advertising, 39(2), 258-281.

World Wide Web Foundation. (2021). History of the Web. World Wide Web Foundation.

17 thoughts on “The power of social media and influencers in communities

  1. Hey Georgia, loved your paper!
    Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with everything you have presented but I would like to raise a question, maybe get a few people thinking.
    Ultimately we control who we do and don’t follow on social media so why has there been a wave of these toxic relationships between influencer and user? Do we not have control over what we see on social media? Why aren’t users more actively unfollowing content that drags us down?
    If this interests you, have a read of this text I really enjoyed:
    Great work again on this paper!

  2. Hi Georgia,

    I read with Internet on the negative effects of social media on body image especially on the women. There are many manipulation of images by using the editing apps, thus, causing the photos or body images to be unrealistic.

    I think social media users need to exercise caution and be aware of these negative side effects and do not get carry away by it.

    Best regards,

  3. Hi Georgia!
    A great paper you have written! There are so many issues with body image and mental health that come from social media Influencers and their idealised bodies and lifestyles. There are now many Influencers showing their ‘flaws’ and the power of editing, lighting and filters on photos.
    I have previously questioned that if social media can cause so many issues for people, why are there no laws stating that people must share when they have altered an image? I found that there is a Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct called the ‘Body Image Law’ which came about in 2010 (Bromberg, et al., 2019, 185). We are yet to have an actual law like France and Israel (Bromberg, et al., 2016, 2). Do you think there should be a law not just a Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct to make people aware of alterations?

    1. Hi Alicia

      Thank you for taking out the time of your day to read my Conference Paper I really appreciate it.

      Thank you for referencing (Bromberg, et al., 2019, 185), I agree with (Bromberg, et al., 2019) there should be a code of conduct to do with alterations on social media and I think it will probably eventually happen here and around the world.

      In saying that I believe governments only step in when they can see there is $$$ to be made and I strongly believe until that happens they will choose to avoid the conversation unless some drastically news happens and it effects them personally.

      It is a growing problem and it will continue to be an issue as technology continues to advance.

      Thank you again

      Georgia Wily 🙂

  4. Hi Georgia,

    Great paper, I have always been interested in the impacts of social media on mental health as I think the content put on on social media these days most defiantly impacts the mental health of many young teens especially. You mention that social media has changed the way we communicate; it has moved from offline face-to-face to a lot more online interaction. I like that you made this point because it made me think about how this has lead to the increase in mental health issues due to social media. The online world is a barrier between what’s real and what’s fabricated. This means that content can be manipulated and what we see isn’t always the truth. Whereas with face to face communication, there isn’t that barrier and reality is more visible.

    I follow a lot of lifestyle, fashion, health and fitness influencers. For me, I feel like it is hard to decipher whether I am being negatively influenced by these influencers or not. When I see their content it inspires to me to eat healthy or workout, but there is a fine line into whether this is a positive act of motivation or if from seeing what they look like constantly, it makes me feel bad enough about myself to want to do those things to look like them. I think if done correctly, some influencers can be positively influential but like you say, most of the time this influence ends up being harmful. I would love to know whether you follow any influencers that you think positively impact you’re mental health and if so who are these?


    1. Hi Katrina

      Thank you for your comment!

      I also follow a similar audience of influencers as that is where my passion lays the most. I have defiantly cult unfolowed many influencers as I have proceeded to get older and I highly suggest everyone does the same it is a really refreshing task.

      I like to follow people I would have as a friend, if I follow an influences I can’t personally imagine being their friend then I unfollow me. I do this because I think if you can relate to them like normal people it is a better way to stay real with yourself and your attitudes towards social media and influencers.

      Who is your favorite influencer at the moment? and why?

      Many thanks

      Georgia Wiley 🙂

  5. Hello, Georgia! I do not use Instagram often, partly because it makes me feel dissatisfied with my body (as you explain) and more generally because it makes me feel dissatisfied with my own lifestyle. For example, before COVID-19 I loved to travel, and I found many beautiful images on Instagram posted by influencers with money, and therefore the ability to visit stunningly scenic locations and stay in spectacular accommodation which I will likely never be able to afford. Many of the images I see on Instagram appear unattainable to me, so they just make me feel jealous and sad. To avoid these feelings, I do not use the platform a lot. If I did, I might develop mental health problems.

    I understand that everyone has difficulties in their life, no matter how beautiful or wealthy they are, but I feel SNSs like Instagram discourages people from sharing their problems. Are you aware of any influencers on Instagram who have gained and maintained their following by sharing their troubles? Those are probably the influencers I should be following! In Alicia Lyons’ conference paper on the Fitspiration community here:, she talks about the #bodypositivity movement, which is supporting of the wide variety of physical traits women have. Can you think of any other Instagram communities which focus on encouraging users by sharing unaltered images of “real” people? Regards, Karena

    1. Hi Karena

      Thank you for taking the time to read mine conference paper, I really appreciate it!

      To answer your question on if there is any other influencers who encourage people to be their real selves, I really like Olivia Molly Rogers.

      She talks openly about her eating disorder that she once suffered with and is very into being your true self online and is known for being open with her natural beauty and self.

      I really enjoy following her as she bring a real positive feel to my news feed.

      Thank you again

      Georgia 🙂

      1. Hello Georgia! Thank you for your quick reply. I just looked at Olivia Molly Rogers, but she is not someone I would follow. She does look like a lovely person, but she is a Former Miss Universe, and naturally equipped with all the advantages you would expect to see in someone who has held such a role. I feel that regularly seeing images of her will negatively impact me by constantly reminding me that I will never attain her naturally photo-ready figure or face – rather than inspiring me to be the best person I can be. I am surprised that you recommend her as someone to follow, given the negative links between mental health and body image your article highlights.

        However, you encouraged me to do a little research to try and find an example of the type of influencer I am looking for, and I found Christina Wolfgram and Chinae Alexander. They seem like interesting, positive people who will not make me feel bad about myself – and I guess that is what we are all looking for in our influencers. Our preferred influencers are bound to be different, as we are interested in and inspired by different things as individuals. I will have to spend some time looking for others. I should probably be looking at people like my favourite authors, whose popularity is not based on their appearance. Perhaps it is time to give Instagram a try again! Regards, Karena

  6. Hi Georgia,
    I completely agree with your argument – the popular use of Instagram and surrounding applications has led to a fake world of users manipulating their bodies and faces to look a certain way to be accepted in the world of digital media, especially due to influencers on such sites.
    I like how you distinguished between influencers and celebrities as I often get this mixed up. Influencers are more prone to showing their inauthentic self on Instagram which is extremely toxic for their users and lowers their self-esteem.
    I think this has become such a prevalent topic and this makes me question their authenticity.
    The false expectations of beauty and body image have become really significant due to such influencers and often lead to mental health issues due to the unattainable standards set. I’ve seen this in a lot of fitness influencers and I have definitely fallen into the trap of trying to attain a body image somewhat like theirs. However, after educating myself, I realized that they rely on a lot of editing apps and poses which allow them to look a certain way which is something I don’t think a lot of users are aware of.
    With that being said, I’ve come across a lot of influencers who have now started to show their authentic self and educate their followers on how they post photos, before and after posting photos in order for their followers to get a better idea and to show them that we are all the same, with the same issues and that’s totally okay.
    To answer your last question, I’ve recently started following influencers who inspire me and who are realistic when posting about their lifestyles, etc. I’ve also unfollowed a bunch of influencers who’ve set unattainable standards and who I find to be unauthentic.

    I’d love to hear who you follow on Instagram and whether you follow people that only inspire you or both!
    Great paper 🙂

    1. Hi Saranya

      Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my paper I really appreciate it!

      I look back into my teen years on who I used to follow to the people I follow now and there is a big difference. The influencers I used to follow when I was younger I can’t even watch now because they are so fake compared to the ones I follow now.

      I really like Olivia Molly Rogers. She talks openly about her eating disorder she once suffered with and helps people love their natural beauty. She doesn’t overly edit her pics and is often on stories with no makeup on which is super refreshing to see.

      I just go through who I am following here and there to review if my opinions have changed and this helps with only following people I genuinely like and make me feel good about myself.

      Thank you again

      Georgia 🙂

    2. Hi Saranya

      Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my paper I really appreciate it!

      I look back into my teen years on who I used to follow to the people I follow now and there is a big difference. The influencers I used to follow when I was younger I can’t even watch now because they are so fake compared to the ones I follow now.

      I really like Olivia Molly Rogers. She talks openly about her eating disorder she once suffered with and helps people love their natural beauty. She doesn’t overly edit her pics and is often on stories with no makeup on which is super refreshing to see.

      I just go through who I am following here and there to review if my opinions have changed and this helps with only following people I genuinely like and make me feel good about myself.

      Thank you again

      Georgia 🙂

  7. Hi Georgia,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. Social media with influencers is such a tricky topic. I love the fact that they are “everyday” people and not celebrities as such. However, at what point do they become celebrities due to being social media influencers?
    I feel as though when looking at a social media influencer who is not a celebrity, the pressure for everyone else to look the same if a lot higher, as if that should be the new norm.

    I think you made some excellent points and enjoyed reading it.
    Well Done!

    1. Morning Melissa

      Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read my conference paper!

      I would say personally an influencer becomes a celebrity when they build a following of a million or more and have the iconic blue tick next to their handle. I say this because I strongly believe that they have a major influence on their following when they’ve reached this level of popularity.

      I agree that the pressure is a lot higher when you see a infleuncer who isn’t necessarily famous but comes across as a “every day” type of person. It would make the user feel like they can also look at way because they are living a normal life and don’t have the time or money that say a Kardashian has.

      I honestly believe that people should and need to follow people who inspire them and not people who make the user feel bad about themselves. I quite often go through and cult un-follow people who no longer make me feel good.

      Thanks so much again! 🙂

      1. Hi Georgia,

        I too go through and cull a lot. I think its important for both our own mental health plus also for the influencer, to keep them accountable.

        The world of social media influencing is such a tricky world and is constantly developing quicker than I think anyone really would have imagined.

  8. Hi Georgia! I totally agree with you, the current online environment that we live in is really toxic for our self-esteem and our perception of body image, especially due to influencers.

    I like how you said that influencers started off as normal everyday people as compared to using well-known celebrities for marketing campaigns. You could say that they are exploiting the authenticity that comes with performing the identity of a ‘normal person’ as people will trust that individual more easily. As a result it is creating false expectations of body image for them because as you said they think that they are following people who naturally look like that when in reality they are only heavily using editing apps to seem perfect.

    To answer your last question, I do follow some influencers who inspire me through their realistic beauty standards and who are not afraid to show their imperfections. However, it is really easy to fall into the trap of questioning your perception of body image due to the majority of influencers now setting this really high standard of how your body should always look perfect. What do you think about that?

    I really like your paper, continue the good work!

    1. Hi Marie

      Thank you for taking the time to read my conference paper, I really appreciate it!

      100% agree with you on falling into the trap of questioning your perception of body image. I also agree with you first point on the identity of a “normal person” becoming an influencer etc.

      You really connected with my conference paper and created a really great conversation behind it!

      Thank you so much, I am going to read yours now 🙂

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