The ‘influencer’ effect
- Part of
Social media offers the potential to capture the attention of a large audience and people can become overnight celebrities or outright brands, known as ‘influencers’. Social media influencers, with their ever-growing following, may promote certain products, lifestyles or attitudes and can often persuade others to act based on their recommendations.
Some influencers have risen to fame through highlighting important social issues and causes and sharing balanced views and information. Others use their platform to promote aspirational lifestyles with fitness, fashion or interior design content, among others. There are also influencers who have become well-known for sharing extreme and harmful opinions which can negatively impact their followers by distorting their views.
It is really important to remember that influencers share intentionally curated content; it is often their job to do so. It is easy to compare your life with the carefully constructed images we see online however, it’s important to think critically about the content you are viewing and then ask yourself why the content has been created. What’s behind the content? Is this a promotion or an advertisement? Has the content been edited or constructed in a certain way? How realistic are the images? Are the views balanced? How does the content make me feel? Who or what is this content trying to influence?
Managing the influencer effect
Being exposed to influencers on social media can be a challenge for impressionable young people who may be susceptible to the positive and negative behaviours exhibited by them.
- Encourage open conversations with children and young people about who they look up to and why.
- Share alternative views and/or content from reliable sources to encourage children and young people to view balanced content before forming opinions.
- Encourage children and young people to consider their online reputation and digital footprint before sharing content.
Influencers often rise to popularity for sharing content about specific subjects, for example fashion, travel or gaming. Before believing everything an influencer shares:
- question the motive behind what they are saying, for example if the views they are sharing shock us or make us feel angry or sad, question how accurate they are and why they are being shared
- look for evidence to back up their claims – has this view or information been cited by major news outlets or reputable websites before? It’s important to get our facts straight and then form our own opinions
- discuss these views with someone you trust
Remember that many influencers are paid to promote products and services. Before spending money based on an influencer’s recommendation:
- question the necessity of that product or service – the influencer may tell you that it is fantastic or life changing because they have been paid to say that
- look for reviews on that product or service elsewhere
- shop around for a cheaper alternative
- shop around for a better price – influencers often share links to products or services from the company they are being paid by, and they often get extra money from any sales resulting from click throughs. The exact same product may be cheaper elsewhere!
- Whilst the lives of influencers may look desirable, they are only showing a small proportion of their lives, the parts they are usually being paid to share! It is important to recognise that nobody’s life is perfect. If content from a particular influencer is affecting your self-esteem or mental health, unfollow them and seek support from a professional or someone you trust.
- The moment we see posts that shock us, that make us laugh or make us feel angry or sad, is the moment when we are at our most vulnerable. This can make us susceptible to believing biased views or opinions and making unnecessary purchases.
- By clicking ‘share’, ‘like’ or anything equivalent on a controversial post, you could be causing harm to others by spreading hate or misinformation.
Views from the experts
A review of harmful content online
Jim Gamble QPM, Chief Executive Officer of the INEQE Safeguarding Group
Jim talks about the impact that harmful behaviours exhibited by online personalities or influencers can have and provides advice on how to support someone who has been exposed to or is engaging with harmful content.
App guides for families
'In the know'
Designed and created specifically with parents and carers in mind, this collection of guides equips you with the key information you should know about the most popular social media and gaming apps to help your child navigate their digital journey safely.
Classroom resources around the subject of social media
Resources for families
A series of resources to start a conversation with your family about using social media.
This lesson can help late primary/early secondary learners understand what a social influencer is, what they do and how they make money.