According to exclusive new research commissioned by Stylist, one in three women continue to follow influencers on social media, even when they make them feel bad about themselves. Here’s why we need to curb this damaging trend.
Our relationship with the influencers we follow on social media is absolutely fascinating. Just think about it for a second – not only do we see their posts on social media as soon as we wake up and just before we fall asleep, we also get to know their personality on an intimate level, even though we’ve never seen them in ‘real life’, let alone meet them face to face.
On the surface, this relationship may seem pretty harmless. After all, most influencers aren’t looking to have a negative impact on their followers, instead trying to inspire, motivate and have an ultimately positive influence on their audience.
But there is a fine line to tread here: sometimes, the reality of comparison culture – the term used to describe our impulse to compare ourselves to other people – is that influencers could be making us feel worse about ourselves simply by posting about an achievement, their relationship or even a new haircut. The big problem with this? We don’t seem to be doing anything about it.
According to exclusive new research commissioned by Stylist, 33% of women continue to follow influencers on social media even though they make them feel worse about themselves. Whether it’s because of the pressures of certain beauty standards (even those achieved through editing apps), or because we feel the need to punish ourselves because we don’t live up to the expectations society places on women, one thing’s for sure: it’s about time we quit.
Luckily enough, the conversation around social media is changing. Instead of following the accounts and influencers that make us feel like there’s something wrong with the way we look and live, there’s an increasing movement to follow accounts which actively make us feel better, because who needs negative energy in 2020?
“Although social media can be seen as a dangerous place that makes you feel bad about yourself, I think there’s an amazing, positive side to it,” model and influencer Gemini Nia previously told Stylist. After spending some time speaking openly about the impact of society’s beauty standards – and tackling Instagram’s “perfection myth” through her #myrealselfseptember hashtag, Nia shared some of her top tips for using social media in a positive way.
Alongside taking the time to identify the accounts that make you feel bad about yourself and unfollowing them, Nia also recommended curating a feed full of positive accounts which actually make you feel better about yourself: “Take the time to invest in your space. I think it’s so important to make sure on your feed you see positivity and you see unfiltered images. This could be accounts that show you their realistic lifestyle, among the glamour of it all. That will help you just become more confident within yourself.”
Former Stylist guest editor Jameela Jamil has also shared how she uses social media in a positive way, suggesting three accounts we should all follow to make our feeds a more positive and fulfilling space.
“Try to find things that make you feel inspired to do something with your life rather than just look a certain way,” Jamil previously explained to Stylist. “People like Lena Dunham are great to follow on Instagram. Amy Poehler has this account called Smart Girls, that’s really interesting. It’s full of really inspirational, amazing women.
“I have an Instagram account called @i_weigh. It’s just loads of women, and men, and people of every sexuality just owning what it is they like about their lives, rather than obsessing over their looks.”
There are many things that make social media a wonderful place, but it’s also important to acknowledge how damaging our time online can be if we don’t keep a tab on who we’re following and the types of content we’re consuming.
Platforms like Instagram have given us the chance to curate our own media experience – so it’s up to us to make sure we create a feed full of uplifting, positive content.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Love Women series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers.
1. We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
2. We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
3. We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
4. We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals
5. Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.
As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.
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