Influencer Impact: The Social Media Landscape 2021

Tess Wolf, Staff Reporter

Like most 16-year olds in Connecticut, Chari D’Amelio likes to dance. Unlike most 16-year olds, she currently has almost 107 MILLION followers on TikTok. To give some perspective, that is almost the entire population of the East Coast of The United States, every man, woman, and child from Miami to Maine. So, in theory, all of those people get to see everything this teenage girl chooses to post. 

Today, the public’s information comes, not just from the daily news, but from social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Youtube. Billions of eyes are glued to social media influencers every day. As a society, everyone gives a lot of power to these people on our screens, even if they just happened to do an interesting dance or give funny commentary. There is disagreement, though, on how these influencers should use their power. Not everyone agrees on what subjects they should be addressing or even if they should be using their platform to talk about serious topics at all. 

There can be many positive effects of celebrities sharing opinions and information on issues like politics, body image, and climate change. “I think it’s beneficial because many of an influencer’s followers will see the posts, and that may help raise awareness of a serious issue,” explained Erin Mann ‘21. Even if people disagree with the celebrity’s perspective, at least they are getting out more information. For example, when Ariana Grande posted on Instagram about how to vote in the 2020 elections, her 217 million followers might have learned something new or at least gotten a nice reminder to look into how they were going to vote. Just having it show up on their feed might not seem like a big deal, but if she reminded a few thousand people to vote, in some states, that could have made a difference. Those constant reminders also affect your thinking, either consciously or subconsciously. When a post shows up a dozen times in a row, chances are someone clicks on it at least once, and then they have just learned whatever the intended information was. That new knowledge could then lead to increased support for causes once the public becomes informed. Finally, someone’s ideas could change if their idol shares either views because either they genuinely trust the celebrity’s opinion or because in the back of the person’s mind, they want to be more like the influencer. For instance, when TikTok stars like Charli D’Amelio and Sienna Gomez start posting videos about body positivity and their personal struggle with mental health and eating disorders, millions of kids are watching. If a few of them decide to eat that day because of that video, someone’s life could change. Sadly social media’s influence over body image can have negative consequences as well. 

One of the most significant negative effects of giving social media influencers power over such a large group is that many of these people’s “suggestions” also have a commercial aspect. Mr. Miller, the Director of Technology at WFS, explained, “. . . when it comes to their suggestions about what clothes to buy, music to listen to, food to order, movies to watch, etc. All of their recommendations or suggestions turn into big dollars for companies who sell those products.” This means that if celebrities like the Kardashian sisters constantly post pictures of their impossible body types and swear by their life-changing diet pills, millions of dollars get funneled into the diet industry, which profits from and perpetuates the insecurity of teenage girls. Simran Dattani ‘24, summed up both sides of whether or not it is beneficial for influencers to share their opinions by saying, “. . . in a sense it helps spread opinions which is good, but it could also be bad because of an influencer shares something toxic, then others are most likely to follow.” When scrolling through social media, seeing people in groups without masks on is a common occurrence. Constantly being shown images of celebrities partying during Covid and disregarding precautions affects people who might then think, “well if they’re doing it, why can’t I?” Finally, giving this power to celebrities who were not necessarily put on that platform to share their opinions can lead to singers like Kanye West running for president and the possibility of spreading misinformation to the public. 

In light of all of these pros and cons, remember that, while they do have significant sway in today’s society, many of these influencers are young adults who did not necessarily ask to be in this position. Lots of teenagers struggle to decide what to post on their social media accounts, so it must be infinitely harder when you have exponentially more followers and some comments saying things like “why don’t you use your platform for something good” while others say “just shut up and dance”. These social media influencers are still human, and it is hard to say whether there is really a right or wrong way to use their platform as whatever they share can be both beneficial and detrimental.