Irish Influencers: Blurring fiction and reality

The mask of overpriced foundation has slipped, and Irish influencers are panicking.

Over the past few days, the Irish blogging community has been rocked by an Instagram account whose username is pretty self-explanatory.

BullshitCallerOuter has been uploading side-by-side snaps of Irish bloggers, influencers, and celebrities, with the aim of exposing that many of the top bloggers put forth an image on social media that is a complete work of fiction.

Since the controversy erupted, the debate has essentially split into two polarised groups. The ones who believe that this account should be classed as online bullying, and those that think it’s about time that someone called out these bloggers, who boast hundreds of thousands of followers, on their baseless representations.

People aren’t naive. We all know that everyone (myself included) doctors their pictures and whacks on a filter now and then. Facetune, an app that is basically cosmetic surgery sans knives, is another ball game altogether. You can make your nose smaller, your cheeks slimmer, your eyes bigger, you waist skimpier. When you use Facetune constantly, it’s easy to see how this can create a wobbly self-image.

When we pick up a glossy magazine, we expect that the models are photoshopped to look nothing like themselves. If anything, they’re templates. What we don’t expect, is the blogger we feel has shared their lives with us, their good days and bad days, their life stories – to be completely unrecognisable.

Because they usually market themselves as ordinary girls, and construct their identities around that Girl Next Door persona, it puts young followers in particular in a precarious position.

‘Influencers’ (it honestly hurts me to even type that), aren’t just influencing sales, they’re influencing their followers’ lives. I’m a 23-year-old woman with a great job and a supportive network of people around me – yet seeing these unattainable standards rubbed in my face with every swipe of my phone leaves a bitter taste in my mouth – just imagine what that’s doing to someone ten years my junior.

Standards that are so unattainable, that the woman who the picture is *based* on, cannot even reach it themselves.

As Andrea Smith points out in her superb opinion piece for the Irish Independent, this type of content online is costing lives offline. In 2016, a girl of just eleven years old took her own life because she didn’t like how she looked. Little Milly Tuomey documented her turmoil on Instagram.

This isn’t unique to the Irish blogging community. YouTube is also a particularly bad place for this, as pointed out in an excellent video by makeup guru Wayne Goss.

I’m not saying that setting up an Instagram account is the most constructive way of going about this. No one should feel as though they’re being attacked or shamed – a side-by-side comparison is not bullying, and it’s a slap in the face to those who have actually experienced bullying to label it so. Some of the comments left on the pictures are nasty and uncalled for, but it’s certainly not bullying.

The function of this account, at its core, aims to show people that they shouldn’t compare themselves to these women – because these women don’t exist.

And it is inevitable that it would boil over and something like this would happen, that someone would finally call them out. People are sick of being lied to, of being tricked into believing that if they drink something you’re marketing, such as Skinny Tea, you’ll have a waistline like the blogger, or if you use this particular overpriced foundation, you’ll achieve the same dewy complexion of the influencer.

But this isn’t real. This is a total work of fiction.

The cornerstone of blogging is honesty. There’s a huge degree of intimacy involved between yourself and your followers. The people that follow you aren’t customers or clients that you might have to deal with in a professional environment; the people that chose to follow you are genuinely interested in your life, and often they care about you.

What we should be doing is encouraging our favourite bloggers to be real with us. To go back to basics and remember why they started blogging in the first place.

Many of these women are entrepreneurs and are completely self-made. But why do they feel the need to alter their pictures so much? We’re all insecure, big bloggers included. Perhaps it’s the pressure to remain desirable to marketing companies in order to pay the rent, or the barrage of online abuse that successful women are so well acquainted with.

But there is something seriously wrong with this #influencer culture of what is essentially lies.

The smoke screen has faded. Please start being more honest. Make it your New Year’s Resolution.

And in the words of Claire Balding: “Let’s cut all the bollocks.”

 

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Featured image credit: Pexels.com – free stock image.

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