Social media is a technology that is computer based that allows communities online to digitally interact with each other by sharing information, interest, ideas, career advices and other inspirations. Also perceived as a social tool, social media are very commonly used in work places as a motion of communications among coworkers (Leonardi el al., 2013). A social media user is most often defined as an individual who interacts with the tools or platform, directly or indirectly by downloading the platform, using the application and data sharing linking the company of the social media and the individual together. Social media can also become a sphere of addiction where the individual eventually imprison oneself without the acceptance that they are being trapped inside a black hole. The purpose of this paper is to explore the positive and negative repercussion of individuals who entitled themselves as “influences” on social media (Leaver, 2015).
Digitization has taken the recent generation into a whole another dimension where communicating digitally became essential for most individual. Staying in touch to an online universe came to be a norm today where an individual remaining in touch online with a phone in hand wherever they go is totally normal and where an individual walking around free hand will almost seem eccentric to online counterparts (Barry et al., 2004). Social media has been a way of communication in the new digitized world today where many youngsters and adults, both, uses the applications in their daily schedules. Remaining connected online and sharing and receiving mutual responses from other internet user made it what attracts these individuals to the online platforms. Leaver (2015) mentions in her writings that digital communication and mobile media, with a long range of applications and platforms are rapidly increasing in the life of many families and is affecting the way they interact with each other in many distinctive ways. Social media became one of those medium that brought changes to this new lifestyle with digital communications. In his reports Hunter (2020) mentions how in the present time social media grew very crucial in the world of work as well as the world of leisure and that both the outcome from communication and collaborations on the platform built into the life of its users and became very beneficial for the latter. Through the experience of digitization and social media, people around the globe are given the opportunity to share and interact with their topic of interest online and communicate with each other. Social media on this level became of very integral part of many people’s lives as they share their daily lives online 24/7. Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are visited frequently by users to update what is going on in their personal life. The following paragraphs will explore in depth Instagram as a social platform, the so called “influencers” on the medium and the strange addiction to “attention” from the audience.
Instagram is a photo sharing platform commonly used amongst teenagers to share selfies (self taken pictures) and for foodies (people having a common enthusiast for gastronomy) to share the picture of their latest food adventure (Bev, 2016). As of 2021, Instagram has a total count of 1.074 billion users worldwide (eMarketer, 2020 as cited in Mohsin, 2021), making it a huge milestone for the photo-sharing network company. The number is 73.5 millions more than what the company expected from its number of users in 2020, contradictory to the prediction of statistic experts who calculated the company to hit this number in 2024. Instagram also has a very important tool called “hashtags” which allows users to find certain topics or specific ones under the same post or category. It is commonly used among internet users to regroup matching content to make browsing more easy. An example Bev (2016) presents in his article is using the ‘#bookstagram’, a merging of two words commonly used on the platform, to allow fellow book enthusiast to find posts about books more easily. Instagram is works more appropriately through its own application as mobile phones applications today are much more developed and very easy to use compared to a web browsing website. Instagram via the app allow the user to narrow down searched topics in the search bar for results, tags, posts and other top results, a feature which you cannot do on the website. Within this statement itself it shows that people who usually uses this social app more than often has their cell phone in their hand. Another feature mentioned in Bev’s (2016) writings is that when a person is uploading a picture, the app allows the users to have a broad choice of filters to apply to the photo to slightly modify before sharing the final product to the online communities. Given the growth of the social media app, many company took the opportunity to seek out for special users to boost their own popularity. These special users are often refer to as ‘social media influences’. Individuals who were able to grow personally on the platform with a great numbers of ‘followers’ and ‘fans’. These individuals are sponsored by famous brands worldwide to make their audience engage in the product and services being sold by the company (Song et al., 2019).
What exactly are social media influencers or as referred to by researchers, ‘SMIs’. Social media influences symbolizes a brand new kind of third party independent endorser that are validated by a brand to promote certain products. Social media influencers are able to shape the perspective of the audience’s attitudes via blogs, posts, tweets or by other means of other social media (Freberg el al., 2010). The perspective on social media influencers differs from one organization to another. While some organizations sees it as an alliance other perceives it as a competitor possessing confrontational voices. Why such views? Zhou et al. (2019) claims and compares in his article that the phenomena of social media influencers are like a diseases that is spreading fast and rapidly. Influences are spreading their habits and behavior rightfully or wrongfully viewed, to their audiences. Ranpariya et al. (2020) asserts that influencers does not always refer to the followers count as many accounts on social media, especially Instagram, have spend a sum of money to obtain followers thus the need to consider the amount of engagement and interaction between the individual entitled as ‘influencer’ and the organization. A proper statement to define social media influencers would be as per Enke and Borchers (2019) a third party actor who did create a consequential amount of appropriate relationships with distinct abilities to impact on organizations stakeholders throughout content production and distribution, the influencer’s personal appearance on how they are viewed on the web. Why is it that organizations finds it hard to trust any influencers on social media platforms? Simply as Khamis et al. (2019) argues in her article that there is a self-branding aspect attached to the titled of social media influencers. While others motivated and advocate the idea of being a social media influencer, self branders were on the other side criticized for ethical and practical approach for not having a professional appeal to the matter. Khasmis et al. (2017) also states that due to the unprofessional approach of self branders, it has become a norm for users on Instagram with high popularity or followers to self entitled themselves as ‘social media influencers’ which goes against everything genuine influencers worked for. The original bonds between organizations and influencers was thus broken as trading between the two was no more valid. Where recognized influencers worked certifiably self branded influencers worked for fame, popularity and the advantages that came within being entitled as an influencer on social media (Kaul et al., 2016).
The account of social media influencers does not stop here. There is always a record of seeking attention for validation associated with the definition of social media influencers partly in many contexts, writings and the perspective of how they are viewed online. While a lot of people can disagree with this statement, Kircaburun and Griffiths (2018) argues that internet addiction has become a very popular topic of discussion among researchers and teenagers and young adults are the age group that falls under the category of those who are the most affected by the use of social media; an age group where ‘SMIs’ and self branded influencers falls under. While influencers acts as a bridge between consumers, advertisers and the organization they are often delve into the black hole “attention for validation” (Gritters, 2019). This impingement affects particularly individuals with small popularity or followers who wonders if they will reach the status of “influencer” eventually. There is always this idea of wanting to build more followers and grow bigger on that platform but at what cost? Influencers tend to compare themselves to the ones bigger than them or doing better or has more fame which eventually with time forces them in wanting to do better as they feel insufficient as there is a lack of response from the audience. Are they not liked by the content they provide? In her composition Gritters (2019) mentions how influencers found themselves entangled to an immobile fake identity as they portrays an identity that the audience wishes to see. Their social media became a space where at the end of the day they felt trapped within their own sphere of comfort. In their pilgrimage to stardom, influencers on social media ceaselessly shift to sexualized labour as it has a dangerous prospective in capturing the attention of the new monetized digital era which becomes a booster in their career as influencers as they gains more attention from the audience, deals from specific brands and free ‘goodies’ from others. However the practice of incorporating sexualized labour in their social media influencer career eventually has a repercussion on the individual’s life and mental health (Drenten et al., 2020).
On a closing note, influencers do not always have it easy in the social media world as compared to what they appear to deliver. For many this very chic lifestyle has many black tainted spots which many a times is concealed by other factors in the life of a social media influencer. At the end of the day, seeking validation from the same individual who will only see what they want to see and control the influencer, applying a reverse psychology effect, will only be detrimental to the person paving its way into the world of influencers. To conclude this paper the digitization of the new world has taken the social media sphere by storm where there is a risk of losing your own identity online and social media influencers are a perfect example of this phenomenon, which is also very contrasting to the choice of title for this dissertation but also why it was chosen as title.
Barry, J. R., Lee, A. E., & Messershmitt, D. G. (2004). Digital communication (#3). Springer. https://link-springer-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/book/10.1007%2F978-1-4615-0227-2#about
Bev, H. (2016). Instagram. The school librarian, 64(4), 1-211.
Drenten, J., Gurrieri, L., & Tyler, M. (2020). Sexualized labour in digital culture:instagram, influencers, porn chic and the monetization of attention. Gender, work & organization. https://doi- org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1111/gwao.12354
Enke, N., & Borchers, N. (2019). Social media influencers in strategic communication: a conceptual framework for strategic social media influencer communication. International journal of strategic communication, 13(4), 261-277. https://doi- org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1080/1553118X.2019.1620234
Freberg, K., Graham, K., McGaughey, K., & Freberg, L. A. (2010). Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality. Public relations review, 37(1), 90-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2010.11.001
Gritters, J. (2019). How instagram takes a toll on influencers’ brains. The guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/08/instagram- influencers-psychology-social-media-anxiety
Hunter, P. (2020). The growth of social media in science. Embo reports, 21(5). https://doi-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.15252/embr.202050550
Kaul, A., Dilip, C., Freberg, K., Mishra, S., Kumar, R., Pridmore, J., Lee, s. Y., Rana, N., Majmudar, U., & Carroll, E. C. (2016). Social media: the new mantra for managing reputation. The journal for decision makers, 40(4). https://doi-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1177/0256090915618029
Khamis, S., Ang, L., & Welling, R. (2017). Self-branding, ‘micro-celebrity’ and the rise of social media influencers. Celebrity studies, 8(2), 191-208. https://doi.org/10.1080/19392397.2016.1218292
Kircaburun, K., & Griffiths, M. D. (2018). Instagram addicting and the big five of personality: the mediating role of self-liking. Journal of behavioral addictions, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.15
Leaver, T. (2015). Researching the ends of identity: birth and death on social media. Social media + society, 1(1). https://doi-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1177/2056305115578877
Leonardi, P. M., Huysman, M., & Steinfield, C. (2013). Enterprise social media: definition, history and prospects for the study of social technologies in organizations. Journal of computer-mediated communication, 19(1). https://doi-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1111/jcc4.12029
Mohsin, M. (2021). 10 instagram stats every marketer should know in 2021 [infographic]. Oberlo. https://www.oberlo.com/blog/instagram-stats-every- marketer-should-know#:~:text=1.- ,How%20Many%20People%20Use%20Instagram%3F,for%20the%20very%20first%20time.
Ranpariya, V., Chu, B., Fathy, R., & Lipoff, J. (2020). Instagram influencer definitions and the need for dermatologist engagement on social media. Journal of the American academy of dermatology, 83(6), 449-450. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2020.07.100
Song, Y. A., Lee, S. Y. & Kim, Y. (2019). Does mindset matter for using social networking sites?: understanding motivations for and uses of instagram with growth versus fixed mindset. International journal of advertising, 38(6), 886-904. https://doi- org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1080/02650487.2019.1637614
Zhou, F., Lu, L., & Mariani, M. S. (2019). Fast influencers in complex networks. Communications in nonlinear science and numerical simulation, 74, 69-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cnsns.2019.01.032
17 thoughts on “The epitome of social media influencers.”
I agree the with points you mentioned in your paper. In Mauritius, we cannot point out who is a real influencer. Media entitled certain individuals as influencers based on their follower counts but in reality these individuals are hardly influencing a change. Their sole purpose is to promote their self branding or advertisement for other brands. In the end, the role of an influencer is debatable as most of them do not cause a change in society. Do you think that media should stop promoting “fake” influencers?
Hi Ignesh! Thanks for your comment! To simply answer your question, I believe the media itself does not know the distinction between a fake and a real influencer. If you take on our local influencers for example which am sure you are familiar with, how would you describe them? and what change has they bring upon the society? For media in general, they are like most people, if an individual has a great number of follows and is “famous” to them they are an influencer and they would not got in depth to know whether they are real or fake or genuine or not as maybe there is paid promotion involve here.
Thank you for a fantastic read. I’ve read a lot of papers on how social media influencers refrain from portraying their ‘authentic self’ or ‘true identity which has led to an unattainable lifestyle and mental health issues. However, I really like how your paper explores the dark side of these influencers and allows us to see how much pressure their followings have on them.
Social media has influenced our lives in almost every aspect and this is both a negative and positive impact of social media. We tend to be fascinated by what others are doing online, how they live their lives, and what they are. This constant admiration for influencers puts pressure on them to deliver content that they feel is appealing to their followers. I agree that influencers have been entangled in an immobile fake identity as a result of social media, as they attempt to portray an identity that their followers wish to see.
We, as consumers see the highlighted and best stories and photos of influencers online, yet we sometimes fail to recognize the amount of effort that goes into each post and how time-consuming and how much stress this causes on one’s mental health.
I think the pressure and expectation that gets attached to the word ‘influencer’ on social media has led them to become their ‘ideal self’ or portray someone they’re not in order to build their followers and build their image online. This makes me question the authenticity and geniuses of these influencers. Where should we draw the line in terms of the expectations we have on influencers? Are we expecting too much from people who are exactly the same as us except for the fact that they have access to platforms which gives them a voice?
Hi Maddie, a great topic for your paper and I really enjoyed reading it but at times did feel a little lost on the overarching argument you were trying to get across to the reader. The idea of influencers is a topic I am really interested in and I definitely agree with you when you mentioned that the physical number of followers one may have on social media does not correlate with the reach and more importantly, influence, they have on their followers. One area which I think would’ve been interesting for you to look into, and potentially give you an even stronger argument, is the idea of influencer marketing.
There is a clear, new marketing trend which coincides the rise of influencers with paid and earned types of media, as brands are now aiming to pay influential social media users to promote their products to their follower base in an authentic and genuine manner, in hopes to return more business for their company (Chopra, Avhad & Jaju, 2020). In saying this, I was wondering if you had any further thoughts on points you’ve already discussed in relation to influencer marketing, and whether you believe it has it’s benefits or not?
Congratulations on a great paper and good luck!
Chopra, A., Avhad, V., & Jaju, S. (2020). Influencer marketing: An exploratory study to identify antecedents of consumer behaviour of millennial. Business perspectives and research, 9(1), 77-91. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2278533720923486
You discussed some interesting points in this paper. I agree with you that social media has brought an influx of ‘influencers’, who can have a significant effect on their viewers. There is a fine line between posting content for enjoyment, and selling out with over posting of paid ads and sponsorships. Many influencers can get caught up in monetising off their followers, and their platforms change into kind of advertising page instead of their authentic content. I have seen many influencers address this and cut back on sponsored posts, choosing only to advertise products that align with their beliefs. I can imagine it would be easy to get caught up in the marketing opportunity that social media provides, I think it is important for influencers to always be conscious of what they are promoting as their actions can have a large influence on others. Do you have any examples of influencers who use their pedestal for positive change, as well as influencers who you believe have sold out to the financial opportunities?
Great paper on a very relevant topic. How comparable do you think modern day influencers are to traditional “community leaders” or celebrities? Do they exhibit a similar influence or is it different and more intimate?
Hey Anurag! Thanks for your comment!
I would personally say that there is a big gap between traditional influencers/ celebrities and modern ones. To begin with, how they interact with their audience is different and their approach too is different. Not to mention that traditional influencers would speak from personal experience more and would take a longer period of time to evaluate a product before setting a final thought on it and review it to the public compared to modern ones. Modern influencers would take less time to evaluate a product and approach it to the public. Also to reply to the second part of the question, modern day influencer do not really know the barrier between what to keep private and what to not keep private! They sometimes go over the limit and blame the audience for the over reaction!
I like your approach on the dark side of influencers. As many of them put a filter on their life to show the world but in reality, all this is an act. On Instagram we’ve seen how influencers affect the life of general public, people feel the need to look a certain way to please viewers.
Small influencers feel the need to meet the same standard and all this start to stroll their mental health at some point. Do you think this will decrease or it will become the new normal in the society?
Hey Irfaan! Thanks for your comment!
To answer your question, based on the current situation of self entitlement, I would believe it will become a norm for every Instagram users who has a big follower count! They will automatically feel the sensation of being an influencer just because they have many people following them or interacting with them!
First of all, very interesting piece! It is without doubt that social media redefined our lifestyles along with the world current situation, has pushed people to have a presence online.
Like you’ve mentioned, the dilemma influencers faced such as resorting to risky conducts or the issues with fake identities caused by competitiveness or as a mean to achieve their goals for popularity, is a subject for debate with social media ultimately being the focus. Given the tools are easily accessible, people are certainly influenced and tempted to try adapting to trending topics. I totally agree with you about the contrast of the influencer’s chic online lifestyle that is very often admired by audiences while being in the dark of their offline life.
I believe that the excessive comparison and seeking attention all while claiming authenticity is the normality that social media brought upon us. Although aspect like genuinity is always hard to discern especially in an online environment filled with almost imitative personae, perhaps it could still be told apart from the influencer’s behaviour being reflected to that of his/her fan based. On this chaotic subject, can we really shift all the blame to social media and to what extent? Why has it become an obsessively weird form of escapism to indulge into the lives of others?
Nevertheless, we should indeed not be quick to judge for what we see is not always real.
Thank you for your comment! It was very well in depth and understood my position on the topic! As for the questions asked, I’m afraid I cannot answer you roght now as the reason of this dark sided pace is still very confusing to myself, I would say that ‘attention’ was the driving force for these people but then again what is the impact that pushed that attention aspect and like you said in the end, we cannot be too quick to judge as what we see is not always real!
Thanks for the comment again and have a great day!
Hey! Influencers are so prominent in our day-to-day lives with their opinions on literally everything and anything being shared constantly on their platforms. This definitely plays a role in society, especially in consumerism – e.g. the brands people buy, the places people go to eat or drink etc. Social media definitely relies on these influencers to keep the platform ‘influential’ and relevant to society.
My paper focuses on the #notallmenbutallwomen movement and touches on influencers and how their voice on their large platforms can be used for good! Give it a read and we can discuss influencers using their platforms for good! https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/27/instagram-female-empowerment-and-the-notallmen-movement/?unapproved=670&moderation-hash=08eac872c545604b51b91c90d7ab02f5#comment-670
Thank you for your comment.
I do agree with you, influencers can use their platforms for good purposes however I wanted my paper to focus on let say a bit of the dark side of the word “influencer”. As mentioned in my paper and my previous reply to Marwah, today the term influencer has less meaning to its genuine connection to what really is an influencer and nowadays it is more of a battle of popularity, meaning im more of an influencer than you are just because I have more followers than you.
Your paper seems quite interesting, I indeed did not hear about this movement and would love to read about it! I’ll give it a read later today!
Have a great day!
You are absolutely right, basically having millions of followers on social media platforms does not always imply a person is more influential.
I just wanted to know, are you privy to any examples of influencers who use their voices to inform, motivate and inspire their followers with their dreams of positive social change. (that you did not include in this paper).
We are sharing the same kind of argument about the influencers. I have some points in my paper that might interest you. I invite you to check it out and share your thoughts.
Thank you for your comment!
Of course there are influencers who uses their voice to motivate and inspire people, however I wanted to point out the fact that self-proclaimed ones are unfortunately overshadowing genuine ones. My focus was more on this aspect, I do apologize for I did not properly mention it in the paper, but it is a sad reality today and unfortunately not many know of this, which is why I wanted to write on this topic. In my personal opinion from what I had observed from my time on social media, people do not think of influencers as the bridge between point A (brands) and point B (the audience) but rather as, lets say a popularity issues. For some, you are an influencer if you have millions of followers. Which I believe is not true at all!
I will definitely check out your paper! Cheers! Have a great day!
It is very interesting to know how influencers and how they are very important to the success of a social media platform. You mentioned that they are able to shape peoples’ decision-making, some examples would have been nice to see.
Anyway, great paper.
Thank you for your comment!
As mentioned in the paper, influencers acts as a bridge between a company and potentials buyers on the platform. While some influencers get goodies to promote other are paid to promote the goodies and thus giving the company the assertion that the influencer will do their maximum to sell the product as such lets say you saw some nice hoodies online but never had the thought of buying them however after seeing an influencer’s review or post about it, you might want to give the product a shot because it was well promoted to simply get you in the hole of buying the product. Another simpler example would be, the influencer is someone that you like and seeing them wearing the product would make you want to have it too.
I hope my reply was helpful, if not I’d be glad to go more in depth for you to have a clearer view on it.
Have a great day!