Social Media Influencers and their impact on society

Jan 26, 2024
Social Media Influencers and their impact on society
Exploring the impact of Social Media Influencers on culture, education, business and the lingering concerns of misinformation, cultural imperialism and lack of accountability

Social Media Influencers (SMIs) refer to content creators, entertainment and art vloggers, online gamers, and online streamers, who have gained a sizable following on these platforms. Social Media Influencers have replaced traditional media in a large percentage of the media landscape today and are becoming more and more involved in the fields of education, business, and entertainment. In an era characterized by the omnipresence of the Internet, social media influencers have surfaced as dynamic endorsers from a third-party perspective. Their impact extends beyond promotional efforts, contributing to enhanced brand authority and reputation. Social influencers can have a profound impact on societies. What started with simple email correspondences has expanded to a digital universe with social networking platforms by tech giants like Meta and Twitter becoming a part of everyday life for millions of Indians. Nevertheless, everything comes with its set of benefits, yet concurrently brings forth numerous concerns.
Cultural Transformation
Social influencers can play a role in reshaping cultural norms and values. They may introduce new ideas, lifestyles, and trends, which can either challenge or reinforce existing cultural practices in a backward society. Influencers can influence consumer behaviour, impacting local economies. They may promote products, lifestyles, or businesses, affecting the economic landscape of a society.
Education and Awareness
It’s essential to recognize that the impact of social influencers on backward societies is complex and multifaceted. While influencers can bring positive change and awareness, there are also challenges and risks associated with economic disparities and potential negative consequences. Balancing the benefits and risks requires a nuanced understanding of the specific context and the responsible use of influence to promote positive societal development. Influencers can use their platforms to educate and raise awareness about important issues such as health, education, and environmental sustainability.
An increasing number of influencers are acknowledging the impact of education and leveraging their platforms to endorse learning. For instance, certain influencers collaborate with educational institutions to produce content aimed at enhancing student’s learning experiences. This may involve the creation of educational videos, webinars, or online courses accessible to students. Additionally, some influencers offer valuable tips and guidance on effective studying, stress management during exams and navigating the challenges of college life, thereby contributing to positive changes in society.
Business and Marketing
Businesses are increasingly utilizing Social Media Influencers (SMIs) to enhance brand growth and extend their reach. Also known as influencer marketing, this strategy involves leveraging SMIs, to promote products or brands. Integrating influencers into your marketing approach can generate excitement around your brand and increase website traffic. They also amplify the buzz around your business, potentially making your brand recognizable to consumers months later. Employing influencers to showcase your brand to their audience opens up new consumer segments, expanding your reach and garnering more attention for your offerings at a fraction of the cost.
Despite the fact that there are tremendous benefits to using social media, there are certain areas of concern such as privacy and security which are required to be addressed. One inaccurate or false piece of information posted by an individual on social media may lead to a negative impact on society. Some of the concerns include:
Uneducated Social Influencers
Influencers contribute to shaping cultural norms and trends. Uneducated influencers may lack the necessary knowledge or expertise in certain areas, leading them to spread misinformation or promote unfounded beliefs. This can contribute to the dissemination of inaccurate information among their followers. Uneducated influencers might inadvertently promote ideas or lifestyles that are not conducive to societal well-being, potentially reinforcing stereotypes or negative behaviours. Some influencers focus heavily on material possessions and a luxurious lifestyle thereby contributing to a culture of consumerism and materialism, encouraging followers to prioritize material goods and instant gratification over meaningful experiences or personal growth. Social influencers often have a political impact, as their opinions and endorsements can sway public sentiment.
Cultural Imperialism
Social media serves as a connectivity source for intercultural activities, but its predominant influence flows forcefully from economically strong nations towards developing ones. When cultures overlap across borders, they give rise to virtual cultures. These virtual communities often consist of homogenous participants, reinforcing the dominance of foreign societies rather than supporting pre-existing cultures. Western cultures, with their elevated values, tend to impress upon suppressed societies, especially those in third-world countries, resembling a colour-blind ideology perpetuated by powerful cultures. These virtual communities, also referred to as pseudo-communities, can give rise to unclear and unfolding hybrid identities, facilitated by social media’s provision of intimacy and engagement unhindered by space and time. Social media becomes a platform through which dominant cultures are consistently propagated, marginalizing individual identities. Thus, the influence of social influencers from more developed societies may lead to cultural imperialism, where the values and lifestyles promoted by influencers overshadow and erode local traditions and practices.
Lack of Accountability
Uneducated influencers may not fully understand the consequences of their actions or the power they hold over their followers. This lack of awareness can result in a lack of accountability for the content they produce and its potential impact on society. Social media influencers might not encounter substantial repercussions for endorsing products or services that eventually prove to be detrimental or ineffective. However, the potential risks associated with uneducated influencers highlight the importance of promoting critical thinking skills, media literacy, and responsible use of social media in society. Consumers should be mindful of the content they consume and engage with, seeking information from diverse and reliable sources.
Lack of Authenticity
Some influencers may endorse products they don’t genuinely believe in, resulting in inauthentic content and a loss of trust with their audience. Influencers might exaggerate product benefits or make false claims to boost sales, which can mislead and potentially harm their audience.
Legal Regulation
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) strives to ensure that advertisements align with its Code for Self-Regulation. This code mandates that advertisements must be legal, decent, honest, truthful, and free from hazards or harm while promoting fairness in competition. The primary goal of the code is to regulate advertisement content without impeding the sale of potentially offensive products, as long as the advertisements themselves are not offensive. In line with this commitment, the Department of Consumer Affairs has introduced guidelines under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. Influencers are now obligated to disclose promotional content. Non-compliance with these guidelines may result in penalties for offences.
Social media platforms and their algorithms hold considerable influence in magnifying misinformation. Prioritizing engagement and sensationalism over accuracy, these platforms create a challenge for both influencers and users to differentiate between reliable and false information. Effectively addressing the misinformation issue necessitates a shared responsibility among influencers, social media platforms, and users. It is crucial for young individuals to recognize the possible drawbacks associated with social media influencers and to make well-informed choices regarding the content they engage with and the products they purchase. Additionally, parents, educators, and policymakers should actively contribute to fostering critical thinking skills and promoting responsible consumption habits among the youth.

Source: kashmirreader