Influencers. Think what you will, but there’s no doubt their name holds true: they’re influential.
In a world that feels more and more online, influencers are maintaining their hold on popularity. Now more than ever, we find ourselves with time on our hands, mindlessly scrolling through social media and seeing image after image designed to inspire admiration, or even jealousy. After all, isn’t that what influencers are for? They show us a better, prettier, more polished life. Sure, we know it’s not real, but as we stare at those bronzed thighs, flat stomachs and plump lips (while slumped on the sofa in our pjs), it’s easy to forget.
Should we, therefore, force influencers to label enhanced images?
It’s a difficult question. At what point do we force others to take account for our own susceptibility? We know that many of the images we consume online are edited. In fact, there’s been a recent push for awareness of this subject. If we choose to look at these images, even though they’re hurting our self confidence, that is ultimately a decision we have made. We should all take responsibility for our own actions.
And that is why I think that labelling enhanced images should be a requirement on social media.
Being an influencer means accepting the burden of responsibility for others on your own shoulders. A great person once said, “With great power comes great responsibility” and while, perhaps he wasn’t talking about social media, the perspective remains the same. Millions of young, impressionable teenagers absorb this edited material. They pinch their stomach and pose in the mirror and pat foundation on their face in the attempt to achieve frankly unrealistic results. We are teaching a new society of young adults who believe in the unobtainable. We are teaching them that the way they look isn’t good enough. We’re teaching them to eat less and work out more so they can look like their idol.
There’s been a backlash against this. I’ve lost track of the articles I’ve read exposing celebrities and influencers for editing their pictures, or railing against the impact that Photoshop has on society. I’m not here to talk about eating disorders, of which I have no personal experience, or the destructive results of low self-confidence. I’m not here to shame anyone or advocate for banning Photoshop. All I’m going to say is that each and every one of us should take responsibility for our actions – and to consider the long-term implications of those actions.
I fully believe influencers should label edited images. If society and our youth can learn the difference between realistic and unrealistic, this will have an impact on their self-worth. Given the sway influencers hold, it’s a sensible and responsible action to take. Being in the public eye requires sacrifice, and the sacrifice of fake beauty is one worth paying; especially when it so deeply affects the mental health of our youth.
However, I also think consumers should take responsibility over their actions. It’s easy to get sucked into the social media cycle but it’s also vital that we teach our children to recognise when consuming certain things can impact our confidence and mental health. If we can learn to switch off, in a world that is so habitually switched on, I think we’ll be the better for it. Think about what we view and why, and more than anything, let’s love ourselves.
That, my friends, can only come from within.
Photo courtesy of Mateus Campos Felipe