The aim of this paper is to show and explore the different aspect of how the lifestyle influencer community is using social media platform like YouTube and Instagram to reshape the identity of the generation z which relate to the topic of communities and social change. Many aspects has been analyzed to better understand how the woman and men are being objectified, how influencers advertise product and services to just be rewarded at the end of the day and how this have an impact on the YouTube and Instagram users. This paper showcase mainly about how the generation z should be aware of how the lifestyle influencer use social media platform and to what extent it is connected to the business world. The famous Trinidadian American rapper Nicki Minaj who did her major pectoralis and her glutes to fit more into the digital era and she also objectify woman and support it through her videos and songs. Even though what the way she portrays ger song is consider as objectifying women , people still follow her as an idol because they don’t see the story behind, they go for the big picture only which thus lead to them believing in the wrong way how digital era works and do the same. This paper stresses a lot on the how people are forming an identity by watching other people who are social media influencers and create content as a job , rather than having their own unique identity.
Keywords: #lifestyleinfluencer, #influencer, #identity, #reshapingofidentity, #community, #YouTube, #Instagram, #NickiMinaj, #hypersexualization, #bodyideals, #attentioneconomy, #influencermarker, #insecurities, #bodymodification
Influencers are people who test a product and share their opinion on an online platform, a marketing tool used by numerous businesses on an online platform such as YouTube and Instagram (Karina Sokolova et al. 2020).
Influencers are people who are known for having a power on the purchasing behavior on an individual and they have a mass audience on their social media platform that allows them to promote brands and large or small companies. Influencers can be just any social media platform users or celebrities like the Hadid sisters, who managed to reach the number of followers required to have a good influence on the social media uses (Hughes et al. 2019). Becoming an influencer requires a lot of content work as content should be delivered on the social media platform to keep the interaction between the users and the influencers on. Jones Bradley (2008) wrote a book which talk about an interview with 21 web 2.0 influencers: in this book influencers mention that a good influencer is someone who is always engaging with the audience on an online platform and someone who specify in one category of influencer, which thus mean that influencers who manage to gain a lot of audience are people who deliver a specific content to their audience and this is how they keep the interaction on. For instance, this paper focuses on lifestyle influencer who chose to portray travel experiences, beauty, fashion, food, health and fitness and so on. Lifestyle influencers focuses on one specific category where he or she will base the whole social media platform on, for example the American Model Kendall Jenner is a social media persona where she’s categorized in a fashion Instagram blogger who advertise brands like Vogue, Estée Lauder and so on. According to Karina Sokolova et al. (2020), there’s more than 700 million people that use one social media platform like Instagram and there’s mostly female rather than male users. Instagram is a social media platform that is recognized an account that’s about attention and validation whereas YouTube is recognized for validation and discovery. This paper is about the encouragement in shaping the identities of generation z by Instagram and YouTube influencers community which relates to the theme communities and social media. For instance, influencers community influence the generation by giving the perfect ideology of life by initiating that it is part of their work as all of their content is being sponsored by a business, at the end of the day they are being rewarded for what their posting, they tend to promote business in a way that will fall in the category hyper sexualization but people will see it more in a way that this type of body is considered as beautiful which will shape the identity of the person as he or she will do the same in order to gain the attention on an online platform.
Business – sponsored content
Influencers create content based on what the business demand and when influencers will post their content it will often state that it is sponsored but even if is being sponsored, people will see only the content and will go buy what they saw and let themselves be influenced which will affect their way of living by changing their perspective. Businesses approach influencers as marketers have seen that the traditional word of mouth have moved online and its proven to be efficient, influencers are reaching more people than the traditional word of mouth. Influencers work for small business as well as large businesses in order to share their opinion about a specific product to their followers which is a form of advertising. Often business look for influencers and ask them to test their service or product, advertise the service or product, which then they pay the influencers for their service, this type of method is known as paid advertising. Karina Sokolova et al. (2020) explain that there is a difference between celebrity endorsers and influencer marketers as influencers marketers is more likely to reach the mass audience rather than the traditional celebrity endorsement even if influencers marketers does not promote the product in a professional way and have the sponsored word attached to it. As per the article wrote by Karina Sokolova et al. (2020), business approach influencers based on the number of followers they have as it means that the product will be see by a large number of people, but this method also impact on the identity of the person following that influencer.
By the interview conducted by Jones Bradley (2008), the influencers role is to test a product or service offered by any companies, then gives an overview opinion on the product on the social media platform, the influencer mention that their work is portray the perfect image of the product or service on Instagram or YouTube which makes it questionable on credible is the product or service. There is a difference between the online life of an influencer and the real life of an influencer which most of their followers doesn’t know and this stands as an advantage for both parties, the influencer and the business. Jones Bradley (2008) also mention that its mostly about doing business with the influencers as at the end of the day it is about being rewarded for the effort of doing the advertising. The influencer promotes the product by creating its own content to make the video or picture interesting enough to attract customers where celebrity endorses – everything is prepared and the image or video will be edited by the crew, the celebrity just have to pose for the image or act for the video. The influencer community mostly consist of people who will create content for business as part time job and David Gefen (2000) stated that people are more inclines towards online buying, the new generation which have a majority of people with low self-confidence and low self-esteem will tend to believe any influencer and buy the product without questioning its authenticity.
For example, a lifestyle influencer that post about health and fitness, will promote brands and product that will help people stay fit and healthy and this somehow will the ideology of beauty and what’s accepted in this society. Neyens Evy et al. (2017) argues that the generation z, especially the female factor, are body conscious which makes it easier to influence people in this domain as they will want to lose weight and gain a good body figure which they think its considered as “beauty” and they will not question the way Its being projected to people as they will trust the influencer blindly and also set an idea in the head that “if it’s being sponsored then it should be good” (Jung Eun Lee et al. 2016), this shows that the influencer community is reshaping the identities of the generation z by using social media platform like YouTube and Instagram.
Hyper sexualization of pictures/videos
Influencers on YouTube and Instagram post pictures and mini videos where they are showing their body. It is portrayed in a manner where if indirectly say to the audience that showing body parts is what is called being beautiful and famous. As mentioned earlier, celebrities are also influencers that have massive audience where their account is verifies by Instagram to state that it’s the original account of that celebrity. Taking for example: the famous Trinidadian American rapper Nicki Minaj alias Barbie, who is also a huge Instagram influencer with currently 133 million followers, also known as the most influential female rapper artist, Jones Bradley (2008) mention that people who got a mass audience on social media platform is considered as an influencer, the “Queen Rap”. Nicki Minaj name herself as Barbie and she dress and portray herself as how Barbie is, which is also another big stereotype. Her songs is mostly sexual words, for example: the song Anaconda, (a) she puts skinny clothes to portray her hour glass figure, (b) her makeup, hair, nails are all fake, (c) the lyrics are in a sexual way where it objectify women. Nicki Miniag’s songs are about objectifying woman and portraying how woman should be used in a sexual way. As an Influencer she has a huge impact on her follower’s identity. The way she portrays herself on online platform forms an ideology of what beauty is and that woman should do to attain the attention economy of social media platform like Instagram and YouTube. Nicki Minag is one way to prove that the influencer community on Instagram and YouTube has been encouraging in shaping the identities of generation z by the way they act and post pictures to gain popularity and recognition. Nicki Minaj also did plastic surgery where she did her body parts like the major pectoralis and the glutes to make herself look more “beautiful”, which made her get the hour glass figure and this clearly send a message to the audience that this is what “beautiful” means (V Swami, 2009).
Hyper sexualization of pictures and videos are almost everywhere, even in the advertising industry. For instance, a scenario where a perfume is being advertised: the video would be about a man perfume which will have scenarios as (a) shirtless man with eight abdomens getting ready for a dinner date with a girl, which means that a guy with a good physic is what’s “beautiful”, (b) after meeting the girl with a thin body and clear skin, the girl will be portrayed as how good the guy smell and that the dinner is already a success because of the fragrance, this objectify woman because it shows how a figure of a woman should be and how it is easy for woman to fall for guy, it shows woman as vulnerable. This type of scenarios are almost in every advertising video where it portrays the perfect figure of a man or woman and the human body will be objectify. On Instagram and YouTube, these types of advertising come as pop-ups which increase the visibility of the video and Influencers agree to let put those pop-ups on their videos as they are getting paid for agreeing and allowing it (Jin S. Venus et al. 2016).
Setting up beauty ideals and Insecurities
According to V Swami (2009), body appreciation is more about a person liking the body of someone else rather than appreciating their own body image and this was mainly caused by social media platforms where influencers talk about perfection rather than being realistic. Instagram and YouTube helps in boosting insecurities within the community as they give options of filter where there’s modification of the face occurs.
This paper demonstrated the different aspect of how the YouTube and Instagram influencer community shape an ideology of the perfect life in the mind of the generation z and how generation z is moving towards the influencer community to seek for validation and appreciation. This paper show that the influencer community is more about a business rather than showing how a product is, an influencer can test a product for a day than advertise it the next day without really waiting and seeing the result of this product. The YouTube and Instagram influencer create envy within its small community as many people will follow an influencer to gain knowledge, but influencers showcase the beauty ideology and perfect lifestyle most of the time which create envy. In this paper, it shows that insecurities occurs mostly on social media platform as influencers show the body figure to gain more attention and show the perfect lifestyle to prove that everything is about spending times in luxury hotels which leads to showcasing that money is the way to happiness. It shows that a person who cannot afford plastic surgeries, good times at hotels, dress like the perfect girl or boy would, doesn’t have a specific lifestyle or dressing. It leads to an ideology that the person should be unhappy and work day and night compared to any normal person. Lifestyle influencers are also a reason why the generation z are going towards the digital era and spending more time on their laptop or smart phones rather being connected with people in the same room. This paper shows that people are more connected to the digital era and that they should do what they personally believe in and understand that social media platform is one sided. Lifestyle influencers created an image of life and the generation z are focusing on and allowing the identity to be shaped instead creating their own identity by experiencing real moments in life.
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17 thoughts on “The encouragement in reshaping the identities of the generation z by the lifestyle influencer community on YouTube and Instagram.”
Wow, what an interesting read! I think that the concept of the influencer community shaping an ideal life is very interesting. Influencers are basically infamous celebrities – we just relate to influencers more as they seem like regular people. I think that is why their lifestyle becomes something that regular people like you and I envy. My question to you is, do you see this changing, or do you think that we will all get worse and envy their lifestyles even more?
Thanks again for sharing your article!
All the best,
I enjoyed reading your paper. It gave me insights on several things. Sure, marketers’ aim is to sell the products and make profit out of it. Most adverts today, are persuasive and not really informative. This is why there are reviews everywhere on websites and social media platforms from independent parties.
Talking about hyper sexualising and thus the Nicki Minaj example of Anaconda, that video was six years ago. Sure, a decade ago and even in the present, there are several videos which promote such things but along with that, however, there also are contents which promote body positivity. For example, the ‘NoMakeUp’ campaign and the ‘Love Yourself’ campaign.
For the third point you made, I completely agree with you. As written in my own paper, influencers are one of the reason why social media users are faced with unrealistic body image and facial appearance.
What changes do you think should be brought to avoid the problems you mentioned in the paper (providing misinformation to viewers and customers)?
I had a great time reading your paper!
I do agree with you that influencers play a huge role in marketing a brand. While marketing a product, eventually the audience expect to get honest reviews from the influencer. Do you think that some influencers have a hybrid identity so as to appear more honest towards their community?
Do you think that by showing body, influencers want to project self confidence? Do you think this does promote body positivity or people are having a misconception around this?
Hope to hear from you soon!
I liked your focus on Web 2.0 as well as Gen Z as I feel that they are what/who are currently contributing to the new yet ever changing adjustment of identity. I also thought that it was very intelligent with how you described online influencers as marketing tools, you are not wrong. I could not agree more with influencers being what shapes our online identity but it makes me wonder why they are the chosen ones.
Is this due to lack of guidance by the algorithm or are we unsure of who went want to be so we just follow anyone? How can we gauge who the right people are that should be setting an example and what even makes them the right people?
With business, can we really say that “business is just business” or should we start cracking down on how things are advertised and think about the consequences that it may cause to others?
Hyper sexualisation is a very big topic to discuss – this is where I think maybe people go wrong. Seeing yourself differently to others is normal but setting a toxic body standard online and having people glamorise you for it is not right. It links very well to your paragraph on the beauty industry. With Gen Z being in the digital era, as you said, it has become very common for people to believe everything that they see online and this is why I believe that is what causes the toxicity of creating our identity when we are so impressionable to what we should look like in terms of fashion, beauty and body. Why can’t we do what we think is right/makes us feel good when it’s not at the expense of hurting someone else?
I really enjoyed your paper and would love to know your thoughts.
Thank you for reading my paper. You made a good point; how can someone know who to follow or to not follow? Well, I think it should be based on several thinking as in – is the content that they are providing are authentic and genuine, has the product been really tested. The audience should ask themselves a lot of questions before following any influencer. They should figure out if it Is really going to help them in their daily life and if following the influencer, will not led to a big change in their purchasing behavior. I feel like for influencer, in the end, it is a business as they are receiving something out of it. All of the efforts they will be putting in creating a content will result in gaining recognition, free service/product from the company and so on.
I think when it comes to advertising, people should be more aware of the fact it is just an adverting, the company is just to make the advertising in a way that it will attract people, but company should change the way they project women and men, because the world is changing a people fall more for the actual product and not for the person they took to be in the advertisement. So I think that women and men can be portrayed differently and still look convincing for an advertisement.
I hope I replied to your questions and thank you again for giving me the opportunity to express myself more on this topic.
I think that is a great answer. Genuine people are the best to follow as they show that they accept themselves for who they are and so should we. This sets an excellent standard for being a role model/influencer.
Should companies be more transparent with their advertising as not all people are aware of what is advertising and what is not? People do tend to fall for the product over the person, I definitely agree. Rather than making people look manufactured, they should make them look like the everyday person with diversity shown, therefore normalising it.
Thank you for your reply.
this is exactly my thought too, companies can hire any person with any types of hair, skin color and body figure to feature in their advertising. And a human can be in his or her “natural habitat” and still attract customers, in the end what matters is the product and the colors of the advertisement to attract customers.
Thank you for sharing your opinion on this topic.
Your conference paper has touched on a topic that has been discussed in some shape or form since advertising began, long before the dawn of the internet and social media influencers. I am of an age that grew up without computers or the internet and businesses advertised in magazines, newspapers, billboards, on TV, etc. and for a very long time a common saying being bandied around advertising firms was that ‘sex sells’. The ‘ultimate body’ has been a part of advertising for a very long time and even though both men and women have been objectified it is women who have borne the brunt of this form of advertising. Generation after generation have been subject to businesses attempting to influence their life choices through promises of good looks, riches, respectability popularity, etc. through advertising.
One very big difference that generation z are facing is that the advertising being portrayed by social media influencers is not subject to any code of practice that protects consumers that previous forms of advertising (mentioned above) are subject to. Certain forms of advertising must conform to a set of rules and regulations but I don’t believe this is the case with social media influencers and their ‘opinions’.
You make a number of important points regarding generation z and the life choices they are making based around influencers ideals that they are being paid to share online. I hope as many people as possible get to read your paper Shruti and assist the younger generation to be very wary of who they listen to and follow online.
Thank you Shruti for a well written and thought out paper.
Thank you so much for sparing some time to read and share your opinion.
Your paper was very interesting to read and I totally agree with your arguments. Through your paragraph on business and brand endorsement, by saying that there is a lack of authenticity within the brand endorsement or product reviews done by influencers thus resulting in unethical behavior impacting on the purchase intentions of the audience would you say that influencers somehow manipulate their audience? You made an interesting point relating the Barbie to the objectifiaction and hypersexualisation of women was thoughtful as this is indeed a stereotype which has been omnipresent for years.
From your paragraph on hypersexualisation, you mention that the media as well perpatuates the idea of objectification and sexuality for marketing purposes, do you think that influencers’ identity was forged into believing that this was the ‘norm’ through the media as this idea of hypersexualisation has been perpetuated through the media for years, what is your opinion on that?
I invite you to read and comment on my paper which attrays to the topic of influencers as well: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/27/the-lifestyle-and-fashion-influencer-community-on-instagram-stimulates-portrayals-of-identities-by-adjusting-and-adapting-to-fake-ones/
Awaiting for your reponse!
Thank you for reading my paper. Concerning your questions, I would say that influencers does show the product’s effect on the skin correctly so yes, it is manipulating. Many influencers unbox the product and instantly gives recommendation to buy it, when actually a product takes minimum a month to show its effect on the skin or body.
Your second question made a point somehow because maybe influencers are the one who were affected as in, they were the one who unknowingly changed or formed their identity due to the type of work they are doing. I feel its about how comfortable they were doing it because the influencers work gave a person the ability to gain fame and money, so the person won’t bother to do a self-reflection in a week to see if what they were doing was in a good manner or not.
I really enjoyed reading your paper and I agree with the points you’ve made, especially where YouTube and Instagram have large influences on generation Z. Digital media has become exceedingly significant within society today which allow for communities to be established both online and offline. While the majority of the communities pride themselves on living a healthy lifestyle and self-love, a few other communities pride themselves on the opportunity to influence the younger generation who have not yet found or put themselves in a community that they identify with. These types of community are significantly important as they tend to influence these younger kids and they ultimately shape generation Z.
Thank you Saranya. Indeed, social media platform is part of a big reason to why the generation z is more focused on the point of view other people/gaining attention rather than focusing on how they can make their own life better.
I really like your paper and the topic you have chosen. It tackles an important issue in our digital era. Generation Z is building their own online and offline identity and it may be greatly influenced by the style, language, and lifestyle of their favorite influencers.
Do you think that it is only the influencers that are creating this or that the businesses behind them have also their part to blame? And do you think that it is the responsibility of influencers to teach life to their young audience?
I remember in one interview that Cardi B said that it was not her role to be a role model for the kids, it was the role of the parents to be a role model for their kids. interview here: https://www.facebook.com/Nightline/videos/cardi-b-on-being-a-role-model/834783386855888/
Do you agree with some points?
I will be more than pleased to discuss it with you.
You can also find the link to my paper below:
Hope to hear from you soon.
Thank you for reading my paper and I’m happy to know that it’s a topic that interest you. Indeed, the generation z is building their own identity by letting themselves being influenced by the digital era.
I think that the business are not to be blame directly because it’s part of their job, if they want profits, they are meant to market their product/service, they have to reach a maximum audience to be able to sell and make profits. As mentioned in the paper they reach out to influencers because in this digital era, influencers reach more people than the traditional marketing and they are being rewarded for their service. So personally, the influencers have impact on the public more than a business do or else they wouldn’t reach influencers to market it.
Influencers do it as job which means they will not really think about if it is really good for the audience or not. If an influencer test a product that was given by a business and see that its bad quality and speak about it on his/her platform, it will have a big impact on the business but how many times did you really see an influencer speaking the pure truth about a business ? They are always there promoting a business so somehow; they either just don’t advertise the product or will advertise it in way that he/she will tell you to go test it yourself, but you will never be provided by a honest opinion.
I think the influencers should speak more facts as this will make businesses provide a better service/product because they would realize that if the product/service is not good then this will cause a big loss as the influencer will speak about the product/service as it is and will not try to make it look like it’s a good thing.
Influencers is causing more impact on people so yes; they should provide an authentic opinion on anything that they do so that people have both side of the content and make their own opinion about it. Influencers should show to people what life is really, instead of portraying only the good side.
Thank you for sharing the interview, Cardi B stated that she is not supposed to be a role model which is true, that’s not her job and no one actually asked to be a role model for kids but as a person who have a great influence on people, she was supposed show the facts about life. On of her song, WAP – part of the lyrics is about men’s physic and create an ideology of how it should. The lyrics also speak about how an intimate moment should be which definitely create a perception in a person’s mind on how it should be carried out when actually there’s many other ways and the way the lyrics portrays it – its vulgar. The lyrics literally portray that women are only satisfied by the amount of money that the guy have in the bank and how women are expected to be treated.
And coming to the point where she mention that it’s the parents job to be a role model, yes, it’s true but the kid learn by what he/she see and hear around. In this digital era, you agree that you don’t have a be an adult to have access with social media platform, it expected that you will find a 12-year-old kid on Facebook so at this age, seeing those lyrics will have an impact on how he/she will want a relationship to be and having a perfect figure means attractive and accepted.
The song could be made in a way where it does not target an intimate moment between two individuals.
Im pretty sure that you agree with the fact that you can’t prevent this generation from having access to social media platform, so do you think that the influencers should show the bad and the good moments of life and speak about all the facts about a product that they are advertising? And rappers like Cardi B can use their talent to show to people that it’s not always about the men or women’s figure and use it to empower gender equality, normalize having a man cooking and having a stable relationship which speak about mental and physical health ?
I hope i replied to your questions, and i will for sure engage with your paper.
I absolutely enjoyed reading your paper and totally agreed with your arguments. YouTube and Instagram are becoming powerful tools influencing generation Z. While some communities preached for self liberation and body acceptance, other seized the opportunity to target the uncategorized young audience who are still looking, building and learning on self identity. There seems to be some underlying social and political aspect pertaining to the exposure of social media platforms. I remember Cardi B promoting nudity in her videos, using foul slangs and normalizing it which the younger generation believe to be completely ‘normal’. At some point, we can see how both social media platforms are playing ‘neutral’. For e.g they are promoting and encouraging body positive movements to share meaningful contents for their community to embrace their uniqueness and love their body image as well as encourage sponsored influencers or artists to showcase their beauty ideal with surgeries and allow promotion of fitspiration and diet. Do you think that this might clash at some pointing time ? This get me thinking that social media platforms will lose credibility towards its audience, what are your thoughts about it ?
Awaiting for your response !
Also do check my paper, I’ll be glad to hear from you.
I totally agree with you, social media have both sides as it is promoting body positivity as well as surgeries. Social media platform can be used In multiple ways but people like The Kardashian-Jenner sisters for their majority along with their mother have been known to promote plastic surgery, they had lip injections, breast implants, and hips and buttocks as well the sisters in this family all perpetuate the idea that one’s appearance needs to be altered for them to be accepted, it is important to note that by altering their appearance this also impacts on peoples’ identity. I feel that people are getting more into the digital era with their eyes close – what I mean is that they believe anything what they are being given without analyzing if it is good or if the influencer is just doing it because it’s their job and they are getting more fame by doing it. I think there won’t be any clash because people are swallowing whatever influencers are giving because it was not the case, why is it so important for some athletes to normalize having belly rolls ? and why the majority lifestyle influencers who focus on gym; speaks about getting a toned body rather than being healthy ?
I hope I responded to your question and apologies if I went a little bit out of subject. This topic really trigger me and I wanted to know what is your point of view on gym influencers who promote gym supplements ?