The Kardashian Clan: one of the most famous families in America. With their huge social media platforms, containing millions upon millions of followers, they make a huge impact on many social media users. On these platforms they post many aspects of their lives: vacations, family, the products they use daily, etc., these posts are impacting their followers in many different ways such as self-image, mental health, and materialism. Social media influencers, like the Kardashians, have taken over the lives of many. Without them even realizing it. When scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat stories, social media users are constantly seeing celebrities and social media influencers posting their lives all over for many to see. The controversy is that the lives they portray for all to see, are typically just the good parts, the ideal parts. Social media influencers can give advice, share life stories, and spread awareness about topics and different products for which they have been paid to advertise. Social media influencers are often trusted by their followers, so brand companies are taking advantage of the influencers to advertise their products because their followers will see the ads in a superbly presented way. Social media influencers can shape their followers’ opinions on controversial issues and change the way they think about many different things, just by one post. In addition to the impact on their followers’ views on different topics, social media influencers also can change the way their followers view themselves. The posts by the social media influencers are most often edited, flawless, and always happy. This is not always a bad thing but it leads to their followers constantly comparing their lives to the social media influencers’ lives, which is not an accurate or fair thing for them to be comparing their lives to. Influencers have more negative than positive effects on their followers by making them have an unachievable, perfectionist desire, growing their materialistic wants, and leading them to have a bad body image.
Social media influencers make their followers believe in an unachievable perfection. Most social media users envy the lives of influencers. Social media is all based on the impression people make on others which leads to high comparison standards. For example, depressed people might see attractive profiles and become even more envious. Followers then feel the need to present themselves as put together on social media as well due to their want to be the social media influencers. There are three different types of perfectionistic self-presentation. The first is perfectionistic self-promotion. These types of perfectionists post only their flawless aspects and promote themselves as successful in every aspect of life so they can gain others’ approval. The second type of perfectionist is the non-display of imperfection. These perfectionists hide their less-than-perfect behavior and make sure their mistakes and failures are not revealed to others. The last type of perfectionist has non-disclosure of imperfection on social media. This means they will not be critiqued by others and they will not demand their perfection of others (Hellman 18). These types of perfectionists are more likely to be depressed as seen in Figure 1 from Emily Hellmann’s “Keeping Up Appearances: Perfectionism and Perfectionistic Self-Presentation on Social Media”. This leads to how perfectionism leads to mental health issues. Social media influencers display a luxurious life that followers desire. Being driven by an intense need for perfection like this leads to intense self-scrutiny, self-doubt, and self-criticism (Hellman 2).
An example of perfectionism and mental health issues is told in Hellman’s article. There was a woman who experienced rounds of self-harm as a result of her exceedingly perfectionistic standards. She experienced panic and a bad mood, which made her believe that her life was terrible. She began getting depressive symptoms and stopped participating in her normal activities. This then led her to believe her decreased productivity was evidence of her worthlessness. It was a cycle that continued to feed itself. Research like this shows a clear link between perfectionism and poor mental health (Hellman 3). The perfectionistic standards are unachievable, yet social media influencers’ followers do not understand that, leading them to believe they are worthless because their lives will never be as good as the “perfect” lives of influencers.
Social media influencers also encourage materialism in their followers. Their constant advertising of products leads to increased materialistic views in their followers. They can shape the followers’ attitudes and purchase decisions because of their influence and power. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “One of the reasons for this trend can be that social media influencers are considered as more “relatable” trendsetters than traditional celebrities, and they can spread advertising messages to the viewers in a more authentical and natural way” (Lou and Yuan). There was a test done with 171 university students that showed materialism and compulsive buying are correlated with celebrity worship. It also showed that celebrity worship, materialism, and compulsive buying are related to lower levels of well-being and empty self-theories. The results of this test are clear evidence for addiction to using celebrities as an escape from reality. (Reeves, Baker, and Truluck). This test shows that the more obsessed social media users are with social media influencers, the worse their materialistic wants will be because they worship the lives of these influencers and believe the items the influencers have will make their lives better too.
Along with personal materialism, social media users begin to judge people’s worth based on the things they own due to the following of social media influencers. The advertising seen daily on their accounts has a role in this mindset along with people relating their worth and others’ worth to material items. The belief that people are worth more based on the more they own is not true, however, because people with more material items are found to be less happy than those with less. But people have begun seeing others’ worth based on what they possess rather than their wisdom or personality (“Social Media Influence on Materialism” Divi).