November 29, 2022

How Big of a Role do Influencers have in Social Media Body Image Issues?

By: Genevieve Mazzeo 

Have you ever been on social media and wished you looked like the person on your screen? Well, just about everyone else who uses social media probably has at one point too.

From the beginning of social media and digital advertising, we have continued to see unrealistic and almost impossible body shapes/types being promoted by various fashion brands and companies. With social media technology growing exponentially in the past decade, so did the technology for photoshop. Being a part of the Gen Z social media generation myself, I know how often brands and influencers would and still promote completely false conceptions of what the female body should look like. 

According to a YouGov Body Image Study done in 2021, about half of Americans (51%) say they feel pressured to have a certain body type, and three-quarters of US adults (76%) say that the media promotes an unattainable body image for women. Media is extremely influential in today’s society, but so are the influencers who also use social media.

Some of the biggest influencers on social media regarding fashion and body image are the Kardashian/Jenner family. Kim in particular is one of the first big influencers in social media history and has continued to make a very-well known brand for herself and her family. Already known for changing her body to look a specific way, she and her family have been known for using photoshop and editing to change their body image and overall appearance. For example when Khloe Kardashian posted this selfie on Instagram where people commented that she was pretty much unrecognizable. However, there are certain dos and donts (click here to learn more) that should be followed as part of social media etiquette. So, not everyone would appreciate the way social media is used by these influencers. 

Khloe Kardashian – Via Instagram: @khloekardashian

While the conversations around body image and photoshopping on social media have improved greatly, we continue to see brands and influencers promote unnatural body images and unhealthy eating habits. Just this past week at the infamous Met Gala event, Kim told Vogue that she lost 16 pounds in under a month to fit in the iconic Marilyn Monroe dress she wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy in 1962. Following the event, she posted on her Instagram story that she was “starving” and had not eaten carbs or sugar in a month. 

Even if she didn’t mean to encourage unhealthy weight loss, millions of people and young girls follow her account and look up to her. She is considered a “role model” to many of her followers and she explicitly said she took drastic and unhealthy measures to lose weight. It is not breaking news that influencers are considered role models because of their social media presence and that they are extremely influential on younger generations. Kim knows how influential her words are and going on social media saying she basically starved herself is so wrong on so many levels. It even got actress Lili Reinhart upset to the point where she ranted on her Instagram story and began with saying: “So wrong. So fucked on 100s of levels.”

Influencers at times do not realize the power and influence their words and actions can have over their followers and fans. Kim spoke out about how she was going to the sauna in sweatsuits and not eating any carbs or sugar for almost a month. This kind of behavior and the way she spoke out about the topic can negatively affect so many of the millions of people who follow her and experience any kind of body image issues or eating disorders. What she said can even be triggering for those recovering from an eating disorder. Overall, influencers need to understand how their words and actions on social media can affect millions of people. Being more conscious and not speaking about these topics is the first step we can take to help the body image issues social media has caused in today’s society.

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6 thoughts on “How Big of a Role do Influencers have in Social Media Body Image Issues?

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I find it very irresponsible that Kim Kardashian proudly posted about how she starved herself for the Met Gala. As Lili Reinhart mentioned in her story, Kim Kardashian has millions of fans who look up to her and who want to look like her. Unhealthy eating behaviors should never be promoted and especially not on Instagram. I think it’s dangerous in general that there are no features that protect younger adults in particular from this kind of triggering content. I hope the plattform starts doing more about the saftey of their users.

  2. Hi Genevieve,

    You bring up a lot of important topics around social media and body image in your blog. The first thing that came to mind for me was a Dove study I researched while doing my case study analysis. The statistics around girls editing themselves in photos before posting them are alarming. A majority of the girls from the study admitted they would feel more confident if photoshopping were not prevalent. It is alarming how normalized the concept of editing one’s looks has become. As far as Kim Kardashian goes, she took the encouragement of going to extremes to look a different way to a whole new level by sharing her unhealthy habits of starving herself. Even if she isn’t intentionally influencing others to do the same, she should recognize how much power she holds on her platform.

  3. I really enjoyed this post because I think it draws light on a very important topic in the media. Social media isn’t what it once was and has much more influence. When I first got social media, there weren’t any “rules” and you could post what you wanted without fear of criticism. Now, I find myself feeling insecure if I don’t look the best in a photo because there is so much more pressure around looking perfect. I really liked how you included the Kardashians because they have honestly changed the look of social media and introduced the idea of Facetune and body editing. I think the Kardashians have a responsibility on social media because they are so famous. They know how much influence they have and because of that need to be aware of what they post. I wish one day they would post an unedited raw photo to show the public they are real people too and real is beautiful.

  4. Genevieve,
    I think you made some really important points in your blog post. It seems like in order to be an influencer these days, you must have a certain body type or photoshop skills. Influencers really do influence people, including on how they want their bodies to look. It is one thing to influence a healthy lifestyle, and another to admit to starving yourself for the sake of your appearance. The Kardashians are well-known for their plastic surgeries, but that has only made them more famous. These body standards have evolved exponentially on social media, and what is now considered a nice body has been constructed by media and society itself. People should be able to feel comfortable with the way they look naturally, and I hope we see more influencers like that in the future.

  5. Hi!
    I’m really happy that someone did a post regarding this matter. I think it’s really important for people to continue writing about this subject because it is incredibly damaging and harmful. I think that it is only going to get increasingly worse due to the fact that social media is becoming more and more popular in the younger generations. The more people look at social media the more comparison there is.

  6. Hi Genevieve, I really enjoyed reading your blog post and couldn’t agree more. Influencers are just as their names suggest, incredibly influential so it is very important that they are aware of the power that their words have online, especially to their younger and more impressionable audience. Promoting such dangerous practices as Kim Kardashian did is very harmful and can encourage someone to want to follow in her footsteps, especially seeing the “positive” response or celebration that she received after losing so much weight.

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