Admit it, the first thing you do every morning is check Instagram to see if your favorite influencer has posted new content. This article won’t be about how influencers are basically live and on-demand commercials - generally obsessed with trying to sell you stuff (you’re smart enough to know that already). Rather, it will address the psychological damage influencer culture does.
One of the most upsetting things you should be worried about is hearing a child say, “I want to be a YouTuber/influencer when I grow up.” It seems like it’s getting rarer to hear children dream about being an astronaut and going to space, or becoming a scientist because they want to find a cure for cancer. Instead what we see is the many impressionable young people today harboring dreams of obtaining a lucrative career fueled by achieving internet fame.
Why Is Influencer Culture Dangerous to Impressionable Young People?
There are so many reasons why this is such a harmful mindset for anyone to have, especially if they are young. If a person’s ambition in life is to gain value from public adoration, then they’re setting their life up to be on display for anyone’s amusement and entertainment.
Their self-worth will be determined by how much approval they can gain from other people - i.e. the number of followers and their subscriber count. This is not only a recipe for a lifetime of unhappiness, but it’s also a surefire way to lead a life of meaninglessness.
Their self-worth will be determined by how much approval they can gain from other people.
How Influencer Culture Affects Young Minds
Let’s think about it. The child who dreams of going to space, even if they don’t manage to become an astronaut, will have cultivated an interest in astronomy and physics. From this, they would likely grow up learning the methods of rational thinking, as well as developing useful marketable skills in the STEM fields.
The kid who wants to cure cancer, even if she never becomes a scientist or a doctor, will develop an appreciation for science and biology. As an adult, she will be able to keep herself better informed on groundbreaking medical discoveries and would be conscious about keeping herself healthy.
The kid who wants to be a famous influencer? They’ll fill their minds with bad ideas that will be detrimental to themselves in the long run.
The kid who wants to be a famous influencer? They’ll fill their minds with bad ideas that will be detrimental to themselves in the long run. They’ll learn how to manufacture drama online to keep followers engaged (like the James Charles vs. Tati Westbrook falling out). They’ll learn that if they present themselves in sexually provocative ways, they’ll gain the interest of sexually frustrated males (like Belle Delphine selling her bathwater). Or they’ll see that it’s okay to act in fraudulent ways if it meant for "fun" and for "content" (like Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau defiling the sanctity of marriage with their “fake wedding”).
A Recipe for Unhappiness
People who follow the mega-popular influencers are participating in the dopamine effect. The more scandalous and degenerate the influencers act, the more dopamine it releases in their viewers. The dopamine hit helps rack up the number of followers, which helps keep them relevant to the masses. Needless to say, influencers tend to do stupid things for attention.
The more scandalous and degenerate the influencers act, the more dopamine it releases in their viewers.
In essence, if someone chooses the life of public validation, they’ll be spending their lives pursuing destructive values that will be detrimental to their happiness. The more they marginalize their self-worth, the more they diminish their opportunity to lead a happy and healthy life.
In the words of King Solomon (about the unhappy man): “for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” A person will hate themselves if the work they do in life has no moral purpose. And there is no moral purpose in posting wildly inappropriate or sexual content of yourself for the amusement of strangers online.
A Better Alternative to Influencer Culture
Keep in mind that the problems addressed above do not apply to everyone on social media, but rather just to those who engage in influencer culture. There's a multitude of great people you can follow online (like authors, teachers, woodworkers, accountants, and even housekeepers) who use Instagram or YouTube as their platform to inform. Their day job requires them to still operate within the bounds of reality, and as such, their content will have useful real-life benefits.
Their day job requires them to still operate within the bounds of reality, and as such, their content will have useful real-life benefits.
Every good parent wants their children to be happy and lead good lives. But it is difficult for someone to be mentally and emotionally healthy if they choose to live their life in pursuit of the fleeting fame and fortune of internet success.
The pervasive intrusion of social media in a young person’s life today requires parents to be more vigilant and to caution their children on the dark side of influencer culture. Wise parenting will help you raise mentally and emotionally healthy and happy children who will forge their own way in life and who are not swayed by the detrimental effects of influencer culture.