Dont Follow Social Media Influencers Blindly! #AAH
As social media platforms become more popular, the role of social media influencers has also grown. These influencers have a large following on social media and can use this influence to manipulate their rather naïve followers.
These influencers have amassed large followers by sharing their lives online and offering advice and commentary on various topics. While many social media influencers are genuine and well-intentioned, there are also those who manipulate their followers for personal gain. With millions of blind followers on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, these influencers have a lot of power to influence their fans. But how do they do it? How do social media influencers manipulate their followers?
Commercial Interests and Bias
Many social media influencers primarily profit from sponsorships and affiliate marketing (Boerman et al., 2017). They may promote products or services for financial gain, which can compromise the authenticity and objectivity of their recommendations.
For instance, a beauty influencer endorsing a skincare product might receive a substantial payment for their endorsement, potentially influencing their judgment and leading them to promote products that may not be the best fit for their followers.
Lack of Expertise
Despite their massive followings, influencers often lack formal qualifications and expertise in the areas they promote (Tang et al., 2017). They may provide advice on complex subjects like nutrition, fitness, or investment without proper training, leading to potential misinformation and misguided decisions among their followers.
For example, taking financial advice from a fashion influencer might not yield the best results, given their lack of expertise in the field.
Social media influencers meticulously curate their online personas, presenting an idealized version of their lives (Marwick and Boyd, 2011). This can create unrealistic expectations and contribute to feelings of inadequacy among their followers.
For instance, constant exposure to influencers’ luxurious lifestyles can lead to unrealistic aspirations and dissatisfaction with one’s own life.
While influencers may claim to promote authenticity, their online personas are often constructed and polished (Henderson and Bowley, 2010). This can hinder genuine connections and promote shallow relationships built on appearances.
For example, many influencers use Photoshop or filters to enhance their photos, which can create unrealistic beauty standards.
Social media algorithms tend to expose users to content that aligns with their existing beliefs, creating filter bubbles and echo chambers (Pariser, 2011). Following influencers who share your views can further reinforce these biases and limit exposure to diverse perspectives.
For example, political influencers with particular ideologies may perpetuate one-sided narratives, leading their followers to develop skewed worldviews.
Influencers often prioritize short-term trends and fads to maintain their popularity (Bucher et al., 2013). This can encourage impulsive spending on products or services with limited long-term value.
For instance, following a fashion influencer who frequently showcases the latest trends might lead to unnecessary spending on constantly changing wardrobe items.
Influencers are skilled at using emotional triggers, such as the fear of missing out (FOMO), to capture their audience’s attention (Peters et al., 2013). This can lead to impulsive actions and decisions driven by emotions rather than rational thinking.
For example, limited-time offers or exclusive deals promoted by influencers can trigger impulse purchases.
- Privacy Concerns- Following influencers often requires sharing personal information and preferences with social media platforms (Turow et al., 2018). This data can be used for targeted advertising, raising privacy concerns and the risk of exploitation.
For instance, the information shared with social media platforms can be used to create highly personalized ads, potentially influencing users’ purchasing decisions.
- Lack of Accountability- Social media influencers may not face significant consequences for promoting products or services that turn out to be harmful or ineffective (Neff and Nafus, 2016). This lack of accountability can leave consumers vulnerable to poor choices. For example, a health influencer promoting unverified dietary supplements may not face legal repercussions even if those supplements harm their followers.
- Influence on Vulnerable Audiences – Young and impressionable audiences may be particularly susceptible to the influence of social media personalities (Fardouly et al., 2018). This can result in poor decision-making and behavior among these groups. For instance, teenagers may emulate risky behaviors endorsed by influencers without considering the potential consequences.
While social media influencers can provide entertainment, inspiration, and valuable insights, it is vital to approach their recommendations and influence with a critical mindset. People should be aware of the commercial interests, lack of expertise, and potential biases associated with influencers. To make informed decisions, individuals should seek out diverse perspectives, verify information, and prioritize their own well-being and values over the influence of social media personalities.
Please note that we have also taken references from relevant articles online
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