The Influencer Dream: Positive or Dangerous?

Social media: an online world full of millions of creators, limitless information and opinions, and endless possibilities. Yet many people are beginning to question… is social media really a positive thing?

Influencers are individuals who create content on social media platforms. They receive an income to entertain their audience and drive consumption of products through collaborations with brands. The term “influencer” stems from the idea that these content creators have the ability to influence behaviors of fans to begin or expand trends.

Today, many students in the United States idolize the thought of being an influencer. Being self-employed, receiving free packages from desirable brands, being offered trips and experiences that go beyond the typical teenage experience; all good things that seemingly are what being an influencer is all about. However, what happens when the attention becomes suffocating and the possibility of being “canceled” takes over as your biggest threat?

Of the 90% of the Woodgrove student body who use social media, 61% pay attention to at least one influencer. Influencers can make money in a variety of ways: sponsorships, commissions, product promotion, follower count, or even earning a living wage just for posting to social media. Depending on fan base and amount of followers, an influencer can earn hundreds, thousands or even millions for a single post.

Influencers post a “real” version of themselves, but most of the time there are management teams behind the scenes making every post and video “feed perfect.” This creates an impossible standard for teenagers to live up to. Negative body image, anxiety, and depression are just a few side effects of teenagers trying to be “perfect” like their favorite influencers.

Influencers themselves face uncertain job security and a lack of benefits that normally come with permanent employment such as healthcare and retirement plans. Additionally, the amount of online hate and criticism can be damaging to an influencer’s mental health.

From the perspective of a consumer, Junior Madison Thurman says, “Influencer culture can become negative if an influencer is only in it for the rewards. The fan base can be wrongly influenced.”

On the flip side, parts of influencer culture can be positive. Providing a platform to be a role model and share experiences that help others is a key part of being an influencer. Sharing products in an honest way can be a great method to get small businesses or underrated products on the map. Some influencers started as regular people, providing a success story for youth, and encouraging them to chase their dreams and pursue their passions.