In a recent conversation I had with a 6-year-old, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I want to be an influencer,” she quickly responded.
I was caught off guard by her response but smiled and said something like, “That would be really cool.”
Days later, I found myself still thinking about this interaction. How the heck did she even know what an influencer is? The conversation made me reflect on just how different the world is now compared to when I was a kid.
It made me wonder about how influencers are shaping our future generations and about whether they are damaging for young kids and teenagers or not.
Ever since social media became a thing, I was all about it. I was the first one to know what celebrity was dating who, who were the popular influencers and what was trending.
Like most teenagers, I was glued to my phone pretty much at all times. I didn’t want to miss breaking celebrity news or a viral video. My fear of missing out was at an all time high —for people I had never even met.
Lines between my real world and the virtual world were blurred. As I got older and became more conscious about my social media intake, I noticed just how much I not only paid attention to the trends but how much I compared myself to influencers and celebrities I was obsessed with.
I remember sitting in my dorm room one day after scrolling endlessly on social media. I had received a bad grade on a biology test that day and was feeling more single than ever as all my friends seemed to be getting engaged like clockwork.
I hopped on Instagram and saw post after post of influencers I loved who were married, living in Hawaii and building successful careers. The terrible feelings about myself built and I remember physically throwing my phone on the floor in frustration.
I think most people my age know this experience all too well.
When you’re constantly exposed to people who have a lifestyle you want but don’t have, it is inevitable for feelings of unworthiness to bubble up inside of you.
Until the rise of influencers and social media, celebrities seemed out of reach, unattainable and different from the average person. However, social media has made these people seem more relatable, attainable and something to strive for.
Instead of seeing a glamorized picture of an actress or musician in a magazine, we see the inner workings of their lives. It is hard to remember that although these photos are less glamorized, they are still very much curated and intentional.
We see women with perfect bodies traveling the world with their beautiful families and friends —and smiling while doing it. We see people building gorgeous homes, jetting off on glamorous vacations and never seeming to be working. We see what they’re eating, how they’re exercising and what they’re wearing.
It’s hard to remember that influencers are not merely using social media to share their lives, they are promoting their businesses, curating content and growing their audience.
As someone who has always loved social media and has even thought about working in the field, I think influencers do have a unique platform to grow their careers and build their brand. I am the first to admit I still love keeping tabs on my favorite celebrities and influencers.
But idolizing them is a slippery slope of dissatisfaction with our own lives and relationships. When we see their lives as something we should attain one day and believe their carefully curated feeds should be our goal, we can lose sight of the beautiful, fulfilling lives that are right in front of us.
Prioritizing true connection and building our own lives can help us to feel more authentic and grateful. The problem with influencers is we become invested in their personal lives. We watch them experience milestones and grow their following. We begin rooting for them, keeping up with them with no real connection to them. It is a one-sided relationship.
As “Unlocking Us” podcast host and researcher Brene Brown says, “In our social media world, it’s increasingly difficult to determine what’s a real attempt to connect and what’s performance. The only thing I do know is that it’s not vulnerability.”
So while I don’t think it’s wrong to follow influencers, I do think there needs to be a mindfulness and balance in consuming their content. It’s important to identify what life YOU are building. Remembering that your life story, goals and relationships are uniquely yours can help to keep things in perspective.