We are all guilty of mind numbingly scrolling through picture perfect images of others on social media apps like Instagram. In fact, there are ninety-five million photos uploaded daily on this popular platform, making it impossible for us to look away. As a generation, we are obsessed with monitoring what others are doing and wearing. Social media sites like Instagram has become less about connecting with your friends and more of an online marketing campaign as fashion brands collaborate with Instagram influencers and celebs like ‘The Kardashians’ to promote their products on social media. This process of advertising is manipulating us, and affecting our mental health more than we care to admit.
Corrupt culture of Instagram influencers: Kardashians edition
As social media has soared in popularity over the years, social media influencers have also been catapulted into fame. Being an ‘influencer’ has become a new, successful career path for many. This seems like a heavy title and you might be wondering what exactly are these everyday individuals influencing? The honest answer is they are influencing what you wear, what you eat and how you see yourself in the toxic mirror they carefully build in front of you. They have the power and capacity to do this in the masses as thousands and millions of followers follow their every move.
Here are some ways influencers are effecting your mental health.
Frantic face-tuning and false advertisements
Concept of photoshop is normalised.
Influencers on social media are known to photoshop their perfectly planned pictures to appear thinner and flawless in the clothes they're advertising. A perfect example would be the Kardashian family who accumulate nearly a whopping one billion followers on Instagram alone. Yet, they are constantly caught up in photoshopping scandals, despite having colossal influence. They set unachievable goals for those who look up to them as role models. Following in their favourite influencers’ footsteps, young boys and girls start to edit themselves in order to look more like those they see online.
Fashion influencers are editing their images to make themselves and their clothes look ten times better, surely this is false advertisement?
Broken body image
Body image is the way someone views themselves and their own bodies, sometimes in relation to others. Other than advertising the latest on trendy clothes, shoes and accessories, influencers have started selling diet pills and appetite suppressants.
Kim Kardashian advertised a ‘Flat Tummy Lollipop’ to her 217 million followers. She described this unhealthy substance as ‘literally unreal’ in order to promote it. Many influencers provide discount codes on clothing, Miss Kardashian did the same with this product as a method of encouragement.
So, you cannot deny, she is definitely living up to her name and influencing. But exactly how harmful is this influence?
The answer is extremely. Research on 'Social Media and Female Body Image' found that negative body image and body dissatisfaction are major risk factors for eating disorders. Researchers have seen the number of eating disorders, particularly in young women, increase of the past few decades.
Value of validation
As humans, we have an uncontrollable desire to fit in. We seek approval from those around us which means keeping up with the latest fashion trends. Have you ever asked yourself ‘Why am I posting this picture? Why does everyone need to know I brought new baggy jeans? Who am I trying to impress?’
The answer simply is everyone. We want to please everyone because we want likes, we crave compliments, and we love the satisfaction from knowing that others validate us and our influenced purchases.
“Seeing the ‘likes’ roll in on posts can activate reward pathways in the brain that are similar to the ones activated in addiction, especially in kids and teens,” Dr. Neha Chaudhary, M.D., a child psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School
This unhealthy way of thinking means there is an immense pressure and competition for 'likes'. Social media platforms and mental health experts are increasingly concerned with the way metrics like likes, shares and follower counts is affecting users' mental health negatively.
Therefore, is it impossible to stay on trend whilst taking care of your mental health? No, there are many fashion brands that advocate mental well being and care about you as a consumer. Here are a few.
Fashion brands that care about your mental health
A popular activewear and fashion company. Athleta created the 'Wellness Collective' which is a place for digital content, event information and perspectives for women on how to lead a balanced life that includes attention to mental health and self care. Further reading here on practical ways to look after your mental health.
An international clothing brand that offers the latest fashion for women and men. In honour of World Mental Health Health Day, Boohoo launched a multilayer social media campaign in support of speaking out, raising awareness, and ending stigma. The campaign will include a series of honest conversations with Instagram influencers about challenges they’ve experienced and ways they’ve addressed their mental health. The brand also announced its partnership with World Federation for Mental Health and encouraged customers to support the charity and raise awareness.
A small UK label with a message of solidarity. The aim of the clothing label was to create an edgy yet purposeful brand that would demystify the topic of mental illness and ultimately empower the wearer and prompt the right conversations. There is also the Heartstrings collection, designed to raise funds for The Mental Health Foundation.
How to keep up with your mental health?
It is important as consumers to stay alert and spot any false advertisements and pretences made by influencers whose job is solely to sell. Make sure to research the fashion industry and its involvement with social media. Most importantly, do not compare yourself to others and have confidence in what you're wearing and how you're wearing it. A helpful article on how to be dress confidently.
Remember: the aim is not to keep up with Kardashian fashion, the aim is to keep up with your mental well being.
A news article on how the Kardashians have changed the fashion world
Here is an informative article on the effects of fashion on teenage mental health
An article on 8 brands that support mental health awareness
An interesting blog on the impact of influencers on your mental health