How Influencers Can Help, Rather Than Harm, Mental Health

How Influencers Can Help, Rather Than Harm, Mental Health

We’ve all seen social media fakery. Influencers with perfect lives and even better bodies. And while influencers and their attached marketing efforts only grow – now worth about $6.5 billion – the negative mental impact of social media use and abuse is only just starting to be felt.

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Researchers have found that using social media obsessively causes more than just anxiety – in fact, testing has found that spending too much time online can cause depression, ADHD, impulsive disorder, problems with mental functioning, paranoia, and even loneliness.

This is concerning – especially when one considers that the average person spends nearly two hours a day using social media, which amounts to five years and four months in a lifetime.

The truth is that rather than being part of the problem, influencers have an incredible opportunity to provide the solution by promoting healthy social media habits through their platforms.

The Sway of Social Media

The meteoric rise of social media was always going to come with unintended consequences. These platforms have changed the way people live, so it is no stretch to consider that they also change the way people think – especially when one considers this alongside the power of imagery.

Pictures hold power. Instagram is built entirely on the fact that imagery helps us tell stories, communicate life and share important moments. Imagery, therefore, takes on new meaning when viewed compulsively and without context. Influencers usually present picture-perfect presentations of their lives and often such edited and unrealistic images skew the way users view themselves.

For example, a report from the Independent details that 41% of Gen Z members surveyed in a study said that social media makes them feel “anxious, sad, or depressed” – emotions which are anything but social. The truth is that the rise of social media has seemingly coincided with the rise of low self-esteem; therefore, influencers today must respect the online power they wield.

Making A Difference

The good news is that influencers can help and want to help – rather than harm – conversations surrounding social media and mental health by using their platforms for good.

Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are giving rise to a new phenomenon in which users treat their accounts like chat rooms for mental health, amassing tens of thousands of followers in the process. Influencers and brand owners alike have begun using their feeds to raise mental health awareness and even share their personal struggles.

Further, it is remiss to suggest influencers themselves are immune to mental health issues. Take Elle Mills in her YouTube burnout video and Zoe Sugg’s brave honesty about her struggle with crippling anxiety. Influencers are people, too. It is important to contextualize their online perfection with reality, and influencers speaking out about their own mental health struggles is certainly a step in the right direction to removing any stigma.

Fixing Our Feeds

There is simply no stopping social media. Users continue to flock to the platforms and influencer marketing as an industry is only growing in market relevance and social significance. It is with this in mind that mental health conversations must follow. This is not some sort of far-away issue. No, adverse social media side effects on mental health are happening right now.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways by which users and influencers can curate their feeds for a healthier outlook. For example, the rise in wellness influencers demonstrates an industry desire to positively sway social media use away from purely the aesthetic. A coming crop of influencers – like Candice Kumai, Jo Encarnacion, and Jules Hunt. – are using their platforms to promote healthy habits and perspectives.

These creators subvert the expectations of influencers by delivering a positive message that is powerful and relatable. Further, they can offer compelling campaigns when partnered with the right company. Jules Hunt, for example, partnered with snacks brand Off the Eaten Path to position the brand as a product which can improve one’s wellness.

Meanwhile, users should not be afraid to delete, block, mute and unfollow other users who negatively impact their social media experience. Social media feeds are curated especially for each and every one of us – so, do not be afraid to let the algorithm know what you do and do not want to see.

There are tools in the social media toolbox for a reason. Social media should be a place where you feel comfortable and where you can be social. Consciously consuming and curating your feeds will go a long way to ensuring healthy interaction between user and platform.

In the end, both sides of the social media equation must use these platforms with mental health in mind. Users and influencers must choose healthier behaviors on their favorite feeds to ensure the negative mental impact of social media no longer continues.

This article is written by George Manley, co-founder at Souler