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Influencing the Youth!

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Influencing the Youth!

Social Media Influencers and Their Claim

What are social media influencers? According to, the helpful definition of social media influencer is as under:
“A social media influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in the specific industry. A social media influencer has access to large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their shown authenticity and reach.”
Previous generations used to obsess over celebrities and stars. Now, social media celebrities have more influence on people than traditional celebrities as they seem more relatable to the audience. Social media websites such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitter gave opportunities to common people to earn fame. It, thereby, resulted in the rise of social media influencers. These influencers have a great impact on many people, especially youngsters. During teenage and early youth years, children and youngsters go through the self-identity process, trying to find who they are and who they want to be but youngsters today spend most of their time scrolling through social media; they take inspiration from social media influencers. So, it is important to find out who the today’s generation is idealizing and what impact they have on its thinking and behaviour to spend life.
The situation now is such that showbiz celebrities are collaborating with influencers to promote their projects.
Brands now also prefer collaborating with influencers rather than the traditional celebrities, due to the influence they have on youngsters and also because of their content. Influencer marketing is on the rise and is affecting the purchasing behaviour of youngsters. However, it is also true that some influencers do not mention whether the content they created is sponsored or not; they promote product against money and thus mislead the youngsters.
A few influencers create paid content in favour of political parties also. As followers do not know that it is paid content, they are likely to believe it and get influenced.
The food habits of youngsters are also being shaped up by the influencers they follow.
As influencers are creating attention-grabbing content, numerous youngsters waste their precious time on watching that.
A picture perfect life that influencers depict on social media has a severe impact on teens as well as youngsters in their early 20s. The unrealistic body figures, branded dresses and makeup, advanced gadgets and many such items of pomp lure our youngsters into adopting this vanity. These influencers even shape their thought as to what movies and series to watch and what music to listen to.
Latest research suggests that exposure to idealized images – especially those posted by influencers – may be fuelling negative social comparisons that make people feel bad about themselves. With the rise of social media, we have become a generation that is image-obsessed, ready to give up when we haven’t achieved our dreams. The use of social media affects the youngsters feel even more conscious about themselves than they already are. A recent study published in JAMA revealed that social media use is linked with higher risk of mental health problems among adolescents. Teens aged between 12 and 15 years, who use social media for three or more hours a day, had much greater risk of internalizing problems. This is a group of disorders including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia and bulimia. According to another study, the suicidal thinking and self-harm among youth has doubled from 2015 to 2021.
Most social media influencers are grooming opposite practices to what principles of morality preach. They do it out of the context of influencing the youth but more the wrong behaviour imposed, the tighter it gets normalized and the better it becomes a trend to follow. Like showcasing the weddings, with splendid, branded dresses, perfect decorations, beautifully designed themes and guests appearing dressed so royally, pre-planned and well-organized dance shows, the well-known photographers prepared to take the perfect shot anytime, anywhere and much more complexities, is its one example but there are much more trends to talk about which have been settled in our well-established culture. This all can be included in a culture of waste of money, time and energy. The thinking and energy of youth, which can be diverted in any direction either constructive or destructive, needs much consideration because they will, in future, have responsibility to construct the nation.
The mushroom-like growth of clothing, footwear and apparels businesses and their promotion is another big problem related to influencers. Their products cost a lot. They may be easily purchased by rich class but what about middle and lower class which constitute more than 80 percent of the society. Influencers wear and carry their sponsored products and are culprits of rising false materialistic standards in the society, drawing a clear boundary between the rich and the poor or the branded and the local.
Other bad effect related to constantly engaging with social media and influencers is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – a phenomenon that became prominent around the same time as the rise of social media. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most widespread negative effects of social media on society. FOMO is just what it sounds like: a form of anxiety that you get when you’re scared of missing out on a positive experience that someone else is having. For example, you might constantly check your messages to see if anyone has invited you out, or focus on your Instagram feed all day to make sure that nobody is doing something cool without you. You may also see pictures of something fun that your friends were able to do, feeling left out that you couldn’t go because you had another responsibility.
Speaking of Instagram celebrities, if you look at popular Instagram accounts, you will find unbelievably beautiful people wearing expensive clothes on their perfectly-shaped bodies. To nobody’s surprise, body image is now an issue for almost everyone. Of course, seeing so many people who are supposedly perfect (according to society’s standards) on a daily basis makes you conscious of how different you look from those pictures. And not everyone comes to healthy conclusions in this situation. It is obvious that many people, in search of social media fame, have definitely taken unhealthy routes to appear more attractive.
Now the question is: Can social media influencers cause impact in a positive way? The answer is a big Yes! Influencers can bring attention and awareness to important causes. Many top online influencers are engaged in some kind of social advocacy. Influencers’ goodwill posting isn’t for nothing either – it gets results. The exposure can propel a call to action and can spur meaningful dialogue on the topic.
With great power comes great responsibility. Influencers should avoid boosting something that may have negative impact on the society. They should not try to boost culture of ‘being branded’ and if they have to sponsor then they should mention. In addition they should genuinely review the products they use, so that by watching their reviews people should be saving money and avoiding bad purchases. Luckily, some influencers are trying hard to be honest in this aspect to their responsibility to have the trust of their followers.
Influencers should be promoting positive things like body positivity, financial awareness, social activism, good nutrition and ethical values. If they are considering themselves the trend setters, they must try hard to set the trends which make this world a better place to live. They should not show hypocrisy by condemning the dowry and appreciating royally celebrated events. Influencers should keep their personal interests aside and work towards the goal that serves a greater good to be called an influencer in a real sense. The urge to be known and privileged, which drags most of the people to be a social media influencer, must be addressed strictly and should be modified necessarily to be good for their surroundings.
Moreover, it is high time to be more aware of social media and to be self-reliant. The youngsters of our country must be educated enough to make decisions about what is, and what is not, best for them. For this, parents and family have great responsibility to have an eye on their children in their tender age. It must be known to them who their children follow online, who are those influencers and whether the content they create keeps a good impact on their children or not. Even if parents encourage independence, it is also important for them to nurture an on-going connection. A secure bond with a caring adult is an important resource that adolescents still need. This will not only help youngsters to avoid following bad content but will also give them an emotional support which they usually seek in the videos created by influencers. Social media literacy strengthens the core of the self-identity, self-esteem and good decisions about right and wrong in the adolescents. The young adults must not follow the ways of self-called influencers to take decisions and to live satisfied. They must always remember no one does anything for free. So, it is time to stop idolizing self-made and unfiltered influencers whose content is literally destroying mental peace and to be more self- focused. It should be remembered:
“When something online is free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” — Jonathan Zittrain
Social media may be a powerful tool and how people utilize the digital platforms is crucial; hence it must be utilized appropriately.

The writer is an undergraduate student of medicine at Khyber Girls Medical College, Peshawar.

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