The Health and Wellbeing sector is one of the most prolific on social media… but how authentic are the influencers we follow? And how do we ensure it’s an asset to our own journey and not a liability?
This subject struck me as one to write about this week as I met someone, in person, who is considered a significant social media influencer in the health and wellbeing space and I only ‘knew her’ , from her instagram feed. This particular influencer , is young and went through an enormous weight loss journey, documenting it on social media – gaining her a huge following within a few years. Her transformation has been immense and involved a mix of surgery, diet and exercise. She is extremely brave to have shared such a personal journey with the world – especially in the early days when the visuals must have been painful to share. She must have had access to a fair amount of funds with the treatments she has had, as well as access to nutritionists and trainers – so all credit to her. I’m trying not to be cynical how this makes someone an expert within 3 years on the subject of health and fitness – but let’s park that for now!
This level of public sharing has made many a social media influencer ‘famous’, as this level of apparent honesty and reality makes them relatable to large audiences. Mediums like Facebook and Instagram also allow a 2-way conversation with the general public, where they (supposedly) get to know this person and engage with them in their journey – together. The influencer appears vulnerable and caring and is utterly engaged with their fame – oops… I mean followers! They use their thread to make bold statements to inspire and motivate their audience and tell them how much they are there, to help them through their own journeys. They appear humble and jam packed with integrity. Hmmmmmm…
Then you meet the influencer in person and they could not be less engaged, less authentic, less inspiring or quite frankly, less interested in anyone else in the room except themselves. How very disappointing. Luckily, I’m not young (😏), easily influenced and am pretty cynical – so I had a sneaking suspicion my conversation with this person would head in this direction. But what about a younger audience, or a more vulnerable one.
I think this highlights a really important issue in the information we are delivered via social media influencers in the health and wellbeing space. It can be highly manipulated and very misleading, as too many of these people are a) not experts in any way b) not necessarily telling you the truth and c) looking for fame. I’m not talking about photoshop here – I’m talking about content.
It is totally understandable they need to convert their following into a business – if that is how they have built their personal brand. But if that is what they have done, they have an even greater duty to be honest, authentic and true to their word!
I use Instagram a lot for inspiration in my own training and to be motivated by people in the fitness space. But most of this is visual and purely content driven. I am more inspired by the words of people I actually know – as then I know it’s authentic. I’m inspired by people who have lived experience and have used it to help others. Helping others means A LOT more than taking pictures of yourself and sharing them with the world. And if this form of communication does create a money making enterprise – then in my opinion, you have an even greater role with society to make good on the following you have gained and the messages you are delivering. Famous people often say they don’t chose to be role models in what they do – as their job – act, make music, produce art, cook or maybe they have just been born famous. Sometimes, this is fair enough in my eyes. But when your sole source of income is derived from posting pictures and content on social media – you chose to be seen by the public and for that exposure to make you a living. If that’s the case – then you need to be who you say you are – offline and online.
I post some of my own journey on instagram and have people comment or follow, who don’t know me. For that reason, I believe its incredibly important for me to be as true to myself digitally as I am in person. There is nothing I would say online I wouldn’t say in person and if I am replying to a request or a comment – again, that is exactly how I would engage with that person if we were face to face. Granted – I have a minuscule following and comments are usually from my own friends calling me a nutcase or a mini-beast!!! Thats truly honest!! 😂
The influencers I follow who I do admire, are the ones who are experts – they give health and wellbeing advice I believe to be credible and their posts do not exist only of pics of their abs (I’m still trying to come to grips with how this is supposed to help me physically or mentally in my own journey unless I plan to spend life in a bikini!) but they post valuable content of training ideas, techniques and nutrition tips. There are plenty out there and they usually ensure there’s a little humour in their feeds too – cos let’s face it – life is better with laughter!
Social media can be a wonderful tool when it’s used properly. I love what it delivers in terms of constant content, learning and ideas. And for those of us with kids, we need to embrace it and understand it , as it’s not going anywhere and you will have a better relationship with your kids if you help them navigate the world we live in , rather than become obsessed with trying to change it. This only makes communication harder and the divide greater.
The key is honesty and authenticity. My 17 year old daughter is telling me this with regards to Instagram now. She is seeing through these macro-influencers whose sole purpose is financial – why should she believe their story or their recommendations when she knows they are ‘funded’.
Writing about my own journey took some convincing from friends to be honest! It feels like shining a very bright torch on your personal life and thoughts and that’s dam scary! However, when your friends and loved ones tell you that what you’ve been through and the tools you’ve used to come out the other side can inspire others – then I took the plunge to ‘put myself out there’. Helping others is extremely important to my own happiness. When someone tells me something I have written has inspired them – it makes me so incredibly happy. It gives what I’ve been through a purpose. I’ve decided it happened to me for a reason. To change my life for the better, allow me to experience life with more open eyes and to inspire others when they need it.
But when it comes to being inspired , always look to yourself first in my opinion.
I heard an amazing 21 year old girl speak last year and her words will stick in my mind forever. At the tender age of 6, she lost an arm in a terrible car accident. Her dream then had been to be a dancer and after the accident the only thing she cared about was finding a way to continue with that dream. She re-trained her body and was accepted into a top dance school at 17. Someone asked her what inspired her in life …her answer – her 6 year old self. How wonderful. How beautiful. 💖
I believe we can all find that resilience and grit in our own lives. We just have to look back at obstacles we have overcome and use them to inspire us and navigate our own journey.
You and those you love, provide you with the honesty and integrity you need to reach many of your goals. It’s great to use the resources we have around us, including social media, to help us too- but we need to be cautious of who we believe .
However, for the record – Wonder Woman was a huge inspiration to me as a young girl and she WAS real!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She lent me her costume!