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GUVERCIN: Social media influencers need to promote positive change

Opinion Column: The Bigger Picture

YouTube. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. Facebook. All of these platforms have birthed a wave of socially-integrated, extremely rich, young and trendy group of people who widely self-identify as “influencers.” These people regularly post videos, pictures, tweets, commercials, brand deals and more from which they are able to make a large profit as they build their way up the social ladder. 

“A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach," according to Pixlee.

There are some influencers who have established careers as actresses, models, socialites and business owners who require an integration into media for promotion and outreach but do not use it as their only professional platform. Some examples would be Selena Gomez, Huda Kattan and Justin Bieber. 

There are also some influencers who use their platforms in meaningful ways. There is Yara Shahidi, an actress and activist who advocates for women, diversity and education and has worked with Michelle Obama on the Let Girls Learn initiative, and Lilly Singh, a YouTuber and actress advocating for mental health and female empowerment who served as a spokesperson at a United Nations conference. 

And then there are self-named “influencers” like Olivia Jade and Kylie Jenner, who may have other professional pursuits, flaunt lavish lifestyles, provide no means of relatability or positive influence on a wider audience and are merely products of wealthy backgrounds, agents, social connections and the glory of making life seem perfect on social media. 

Champion golfer Debbie Doniger provided her opinion on the social and emotional danger social influencers hold on children, and said: "Very few are actually being the best version of themselves. Because those ‘who are living their best life’ do not have to use selfies on social media to promote it … Social media is all a ‘show’ and should be viewed as such.” 

As consumers of social media systems, we are enabling these influencers to receive bounties in financial compensation and social status, when they are contributing nothing substantial to our society. We are also promoting a non-existent ideal lifestyle to a generation that is highly influenced by what they see on social media. 

Many of these influencers are very aware of their outreach and the power of their platforms, yet continue to take no responsibility in promoting social change, be it environmental awareness or mental health advocacy. What they typically use their platforms for instead is brand deals and promoting products to their viewers that they likely do not even use themselves. 

If you look at the world of YouTubers, there are many young and (frankly) talentless “content creators” who have dropped out of school to pursue YouTube as their career, and as soon as they start making money, they adopt a lifestyle that is not relatable to the average viewer. They set an expectation that one can make money and gain fame by doing absolutely nothing meaningful and disregarding education altogether. 

This is not to discredit those YouTubers who use their channels to both entertain and to inspire change, as there are many who promote awareness for certain causes, host donations and fundraisers and speak up about important issues. But when some of these people become millionaires before their 20s for doing nothing and get everything handed to them in life without wanting to give back in some meaningful way, there is reason to doubt and criticize the systems that got them to where they are.

Now, this is not all to say that you should stop watching certain YouTube videos or following certain people on social media, as everyone benefits from casual entertainment at times. But, the issue is socially and financially compensating these influencers to a point where they are idolized by younger generations and flaunt unrealistic lifestyles filled with largely unattainable and unhealthy habits. 

There are many more inspirational, intelligent, successful and motivating individuals that should be looked up to by younger generations and who are using their platforms in meaningful ways to instigate change. So instead of watching Tana Mongeau’s hundredth video, try watching a Ted Talk for once. Or, when you see your sibling watching Olivia Jade’s million-dollar closet tour or some sort of Fortnite dance challenge, do them a favor and show them something that is actually going to benefit them in life. 

We should start rewarding positive influencers more than we reward people who make little to no contributions to society or to the youth watching them, because ultimately, can you really call yourself an “influencer” when you do not influence at all?

Dilara Guvercin is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double   majoring in philosophy and psychology. Her column, "The Bigger   Picture," runs on alternate Fridays.


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