Influencers: unfiltered reality – or still a damaging illusion?

An investigation of the ban on online influencers using filters in beauty product promotion – and of whether the influencer phenomenon is more healthy as a result. 

To meet Olivia Nazari is to forget everything you thought you knew about Instagram influencers.

Influencers will; recommend anything they’re given for free? Not Olivia. If she is sent a shampoo, she’ll wait to see whether her hair enjoys it before promoting it.

Influencers will; not have time to try every product they have been gifted? Not Olivia. She will happily go over a deadline to ensure the product is good enough to recommend.

Influencers will; only use filters to make a product seem more appealing to their followers? Not Olivia. She will use filters but only to emphasise the quality of the product rather than to deceive the consumer.

Influencers will; promote any product for a pay-check? Not Olivia. She will do it for her own experience and because she likes the product.

Olivia Nazari has over 12k followers on Instagram and
shares midsize style and fashion content.

Olivia Nazari, a 20-year-old midsize fashion Influencer from Hertfordshire, is the antithesis of what an average person might imagine an Influencer to be. For example, in constantly questioning and second-guessing herself, morally and ethically. Her decisions on what to wear and how to promote it.

“Personally, I hate AD posts that feel like an AD. I don’t want to be scrolling through Instagram and see it’s like a sales pitch. I like to try things out so if that means missing deadlines and I am the worst at meeting deadlines for collaborations because I want to make sure 100% that this shampoo is good. I don’t know if it’s because I am small but, I do generally care if people are buying something I don’t agree with so, when I have worked with brands in the past and, I have tried it and don’t like it I don’t promote it,” she said.

Influencer marketing has evolved with Instagram becoming more popular for influencers and brands to advertise products instead of traditional marketing. Yet Olivia and her friends were so beside themselves with her appearing on an old-school billboard in Manchester that they wanted to drive 200 miles to see it in person.

Olivia was on the biggest billboard in Europe after her feature in the
Olivia Bowen say no to no filters campaign with In The Style.

“Media has changed and, it’s crazy how influencers who are just normal people, they are just people in their bedroom or snapping pictures on their phone and people have a lot more trust in them because they think oh she is just like me. I think with influencers, you can picture them slapping on the Bondi Sands at night. Whereas with a celebrity, you think, oh she doesn’t do that.

“A lot of people would be like I don’t have the time to try this fake tan I’ll just snap a picture and tan myself when editing but, I think tanning yourself is less effort than editing yourself – but I think every advert does that on the TV. They didn’t actually film the person after they put on Bondi Sands – they probably give them a quick spray tan or edited it a certain way. Like I don’t put on a fake tan and, after two minutes, I am tanned, I have to sleep in it, smell like a biscuit all night, I’ve got to wake up and wash it off. I’ve got elbows that are patchy. It’s not an instant thing.”

As a result of the misuse of filters, the ASA announced a ruling against influencers using filters to exaggerate beauty product promotion but, what effect is this phenomenon having on our mental health?

Neil Gregory, Learning and Development Officer at Mental Health Matters in Sunderland, said: “Young people may place their trust in a celebrity or Influencer, more so than they might a generic advert. If someone with poor self-esteem sees a product that ‘promises’ to correct a perceived flaw, for instance, smoothing skin, this product will be attractive to that person. This is because social media allows individuals to pick the content that they choose to share and hide any insecurities or perceived flaws. This can lead to a lowering of self-esteem and self-confidence which, in some instances, may lead to mental health difficulties.”

A demonstration of how easily it is change to your appearance with the use of filters and colour correcting apps.

Professor Carolyn Mair and author of The Psychology of Fashion, explains the illusion of Instagram and reality can be an issue due to what we see online is not a perfected life but can, be recognised as the ‘norm.’

She said: “One of the reasons it’s so easily problematic is that we measure our self-esteem against the norm of the societies which we live but, if our norm on Instagram is ‘beautiful’ but ‘digitally enhanced’ these are people who don’t look like this in reality.

“If we don’t measure up to this artificial reality and these other people, in reality, don’t look like that but, we can’t see that because it’s an exciting way to the pass the time and it’s addictive. We get drawn to it because we want to be fed this unrealistic world that exists there and that can damage our self-esteem and make us feel less good about ourselves when we look in the mirror and see how we are in reality.”

There is a fine line between filters and reality and this can damage our self-esteem.

Despite this fantasy, many people still choose to follow influencers because they idealise them and aspire to be like them.

Bobbie Thurman, a 20-year-old student from Warwickshire often feels affected by influencers in terms of what make-up she buys and how Instagram makes her feel. She said: “The ones I follow and engage with the most are raw and usually on stories and Instagram lives. It can be easy to compare myself and want to be *exactly* like the pictures on their feed but, this again depends on my mental headspace.

“I don’t personally mind the use of filters, it’s more about what the influencer says in the caption that stands out as an obvious sponsor or their honest opinion.”

Do you think the influencer phenomenon is healthy? Let us know on Twitter @Fashion_North and Instagram @fashion_north.


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