Illustration by Hannah Robinson
Society has told us to hate our imperfections, when our imperfections are what make us who we are. However, social media has etched this image of ‘perfection’ into our minds. We forget that it only gives us a selected window into people’s lives; the good parts, the “worthy” parts. With social media developing the way it has, ‘social norms’ have dictated a perfect, blissful, filtered life upon us. In reality nobody is perfect. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a brilliant thing and can be used for exceptionally beneficial purposes, but it also has its issues. For me, these come in the form of influencers. Not all influencers – some are incredibly beneficial, engaging with their followers about important topics. I am referring to influencers who claim to be ‘role models’ for fitness, health and beauty, yet advertise products and treatments to alter the way you look, with the underlying ethos that being your natural self is not enough.
I have seen posts stating that sucking on a magical lollipop can somehow suppress your appetite, swallowing a pill can make your hair grow 6-inches in a week, or drinking a special ‘flat tummy’ tea will stop bloating whilst making you thinner. These products sound too good to be true, right? Yes; that is because they are. These are just some of the things you can come across on social media these days. It is infuriatingly painful knowing that young, impressionable people fall blindfolded into this devastating trap of self-doubt, thus losing sight of their own self-worth.
These posts promote weight loss, which is a subject so tentative, whereby those who discuss it having to tread with caution. Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for NHS England, stated that “the risks of quick-fix weight loss outweigh the benefits, and advertising these products without a health warning is damaging.” These products are exceptionally dangerous and yet certain influencers are plugging them, giving followers the go ahead to purchase them. Although many of these products are advertised as “natural”, often they contain laxatives, namely one called senna. What these posts fail to mention is that by taking such products, they will most likely end up on the toilet, feeling violently ill. There are so many side effects that are not once mentioned. Not all are physical side effects either. Body dysmorphia is becoming an increasingly prevalent disorder amongst young people with teenagers worrying about their flaws, rather than focusing on their beauty.
It is also worth mentioning that many influencers will not use these products themselves. Sure, they will pose alongside them, but that is only for the money. They have access to expensive gyms, personal trainers, exclusive healthcare, skin treatments and dieticians. They will know the health effects that such products can have, yet continue to encourage youngsters to buy them.
Being an influencer is classed as a real and legitimate job nowadays. Showing off their flawless skin, makeup, clothes and figures on social media is a real-life job. The majority of the time, such photos are a filtered, photo-shopped ploy to get people to buy into harmful products. These influencers don’t care about the impact they have on their followers – they care about the amount of money on their paychecks.
I was once one of those young, impressionable teens who endlessly scrolled through social media wondering why I wasn’t an immaculate, flawless model. All along the answer was because I am me and being me is more than enough. We don’t need to look a certain way; we don’t need to be perfect. There is no such thing.
Appearance is such a temporary thing. It pains me that there are few influencers on social media that encourage young people to focus on their natural beauty, their education, and chance to make incredible impacts in the world. That is what this warped and disillusioned world of social media needs more of: people who want to make a beneficial difference. We need more Greta Thunbergs, not more Kardashians.
Don’t let an influencer make you feel inferior. Everyone is beautiful in their own unique way; you don’t need to change. Love yourself. Treat yourself as you would a friend, because the best friendship you can possibly have is one with yourself.