Influencer Culture: The Creator of Unrealistic Beauty Standards

Discussing both the positive and negative impact of influencer culture.


Topless woman with brown hair.

Social media platforms have increasingly become popular throughout the decades it has been around. From MSN to BBM, to Instagram and Snapchat. The rise of these platforms has been so prevalent that many have been able to create and build businesses off of them and receive monetary gain from them by dubbing themselves influencers. The growth of influencers has led to a whole culture being created that has had both negative and positive effects within our society, a main example of this is beauty standards. Beauty standards are defined as variable standards of what it means to be attractive. This is contingent on the feminine beauty ideals that are present in a given culture. In today's society, the beauty standard for women is a small waist, long hair and flawless skin. They are required to have this "perfect image" when nobody is perfect. Men similarly are required to have a "perfect body" and be "tall, dark and handsome". Whilst this may be the standard, its impact of it on society is not entirely positive,


What impact has social media and influencer culture had on our beauty standards?


First, we must ask what is influencer culture and who are influencers? An influencer is defined as someone in your niche or industry with sway over a target audience, an audience that can be persuaded on how to act based on their actions and recommendations. From this comes influencer culture, the social phenomenon of individual internet users developing an online community over which they exert commercial and non-commercial influence.


By these definitions, influencer culture has negatively impacted our beauty standards by swaying society's perception of ourselves. The growth of photo/video-based engagement on social media has resulted in self-objectification and body dissatisfaction, it can be argued that this is due to the over-exposure to "idealised" body types. Additionally, apps such as face tune, photoshop and the constant use of filters cause us to edit our perceived flaws which can be harmful. All of this can cause decreased appearance satisfaction, low self-evaluation and higher insecurity. This is largely a result of women unconsciously comparing themselves to peers, influencers and celebrities. However, it is not only women who experience a negative response to influencer culture and its beauty standards.


Results show that body dysmorphia has a higher prevalence among males, with 54% showing signs as compared to the 49% of females. It can be argued that social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok reinforce the standard of beauty for men and heavily emphasises the focus on hyper-masculinity and the need to have ruggedness and a muscular physique.


Is the standard unrealistic?


This is a question that can be debated. Many may argue that society's beauty standard is mainly situated within health standards. Good skin, physique and a healthy body helps to lead to a long life and positive lifestyle. Whilst this is true, the importance of body-positivity regardless of situation, size of the "standard" means that everyone should be able to feel beautiful within themselves regardless of what society says. Influencer culture sets up expectations of beauty by manipulating people's beliefs that race, body size, skin colour and ethnicity are the factors that distinguish beauty instead of what people actually look like in reality.


Furthermore, whilst the beauty standard does affect all of us a whole within society, we must recognise that there are also groups of people that are not included within the conversation when it comes to the standard. For example, the male and female standard is predominantly based on white men and women. Other groups such as black, Asian and Hispanic are ostracised from the main standard and it can be argued are put into a sub-topic within societies beauty standard - the black "beauty standard". The point being made here is despite being part of society, society's beauty standard excludes these groups.


'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...'


Despite the negative impact that influencer culture has had on our beauty standards, it is not all bad. Body positivity is definitely on the up rise and many more people are becoming comfortable within their own skin, body and appearance. This is due to singers, celebrities and social media influencers advocating for body positivity and encouraging many to love their natural bodies. Nowadays many body-positive influencers share videos, images and messages that serve as public reminders that our differences are to be celebrated.


Additionally, we have singers such as Lizzo and Billie Eilish pushing the importance of loving yourself and your body shape. Many celebrities have also begun dissolving lip and cheek fillers and removing bum and breast implants to encourage others that their body is fine and to preach the dangers of plastic surgery.


This growth of body positivity shows that beauty is not and should not be decided by society but within yourself. Our own eyes can deem what is beautiful, including ourselves. We must not allow society's unrealistic beauty standard to warp our definition of beauty, Ways to escape this negative narrative on social media would be to unfollow accounts, find a healthy community and take breaks.


If you would like to have more body positive people on your feed, here is a list of body-positive influencers you could follow:

@bodyposipanda

@mypaleskinblog

@danaemercer

@tessdaly

@alexlight_ldn


Emmanuel Asiedu-Kwatchey