|Most people think being an influencer is all about the glitz and the glam and having a luxurious lifestyle but these influencers carefully curate their feeds to maintain their image for brands to partner with them. / Photo credits by Floral Deco via Shutterstock|
Being an influencer on Instagram is more than the standard heavily Facetuned feed (if you’re a beauty influencer), and the gallery of low contrast, high brightness photos (if you’re more into travel). It takes a toll on the people who actually run these accounts. It’s a story that’s almost as old as the rise of the many influencers that exist in the market now, and it’s actively destroying those that remain on the platform today.
Daniel Volland, an optometrist who turned to the influencer life in 2014 and shortly left it a year after, explained that the stress of being an influencer usually takes its toll on the influencer’s financial situation. This could easily be very bad news if you’re a micro-influencer.
According to The Next Scoop, a website offering tips, trends, tactics and information on digital marketing, compensation as a micro-influencer is usually low because brands know that small-time influencers, like Volland, are pretty much prepared to accept non-monetary compensation in exchange for engagement and promotion.
The Next Scoop writes, “If monetary compensation isn’t offered to micro-influencers, it can become difficult for them to cover their costs involved. This makes their entire job very challenging, and they may need to negotiate monetary compensation with brands too.”
It’s this kind of problem that well and truly gave Volland pause--a particularly saddening thought he realized while he was staying at an Airbnb in Los Angeles, attacked by the realization that he was “embodying a cliché as an underemployed freelance creative in the world’s show business capital.”
Mental Health Strain
|Influencers that are starting their career in the influencer sphere only get low compensation and get taken advantage from big brands. / Photo credits by GaudiLab via Shutterstock|
Regarding the mental health side, BBC Worklife, a website offering news on careers, milestones, leadership, personal finance, economy, future of work, wellness and professional life, interviewed 34-year-old Jessica Zollman. Zollman began on the platform long before it became saturated.
Her experiences show that the career is sustainable only if you have the patience and mental fortitude to catch up with the fickle mind of the collective internet crowd. Ultimately, it is the consumers who decide what content gets featured. Their likes and views are what drive these influencers’ careers.
Zollman saw this firsthand when she started a career on Instagram way back when there were only less than a hundred influencers thriving on the platform. She began on Instagram in 2011 and later had to leave in 2013 to pursue a 9-to-5 job, thanks to a little something called market saturation.
She tells BBC, “People started noticing how lucrative doing that kind of work was, and so there became this new goal of becoming the influencer.”
While it clearly meant that the power to be big on Instagram was taken away from the few who had the advantage of being there first, it has quickly become such a tiring process of content creation. This is only exacerbated by the fact that neither Instagram nor YouTube seems to acknowledge that the people who run the accounts are always technically on the clock.
Like Zollman before she left in 2013, many Insta-famous personalities that have chosen to continue on this path are likely accepting less, if not nothing, just to promote their careers. It’s an acceptable business model if that’s just what you get at the start; it’s not acceptable when that’s the eternal reality of your job. Zollman tells the BBC that quitting the influencer lifestyle was the best decision she made because she no longer does she has to chase strangers online for validation.
The same problem was encountered by 24-year-old Alexandra Mondalek, a fashion reporter from New York. In an article for British news source The Guardian, Mondalek shared how the constant anxiety she was getting from staying on Instagram led her to quit the platform in 2017.
It looks like she had the right idea because research has found that the platform is detrimental to our mental health.
Danielle Leigh Wagstaff, the author of the study on Instagram’s link with the likelihood of anxiety and depression observed in users, says Instagram’s model of business has utilized our tendency to look at others to figure out where we stand and turned it against us.
“With Instagram, we have immediate access to all of these idealized images, which aren’t always an accurate representation of the world,” Wagstaff says. “People tend to post only their best images on Instagram, using filters that make them look beautiful. We have a false sense of what the average is, which makes us feel worse about ourselves.”
The way this new kind of marketing and livelihood is designed also doesn’t feel particularly enriching for the influencers themselves, who told writer Jenni Gritters that they often feel too “tied to a static, inauthentic identity.” They also said they “lamented their inability to put down their phones and laptops” as “taking a break is considered a big no-no” for their line of work.