So you want to become an influencer?

How the obsession with becoming a social media trendsetter can have unintended consequences for young women everywhere


The advent of social media and its reach has meant that anyone can become an influencer today. The chances of succeeding in the creative field are better than ever before. Brands are investing billions of dollars in online content creators to advertise their products that would have previously been used on models and celebrities.

But how does one become an influencer, and what does it really mean? It is not simply posting content on your social media frequently as youths are prone to these days. An influencer has a job to keep posting content online regularly to keep the audience engaged and monetise it.

It sounds pretty easy. However, the success rate for an influencer depends on their followers and the engagement of the audience including likes, comments and purchases using the links.

A report published in the Morning Consult showed that three-quarters of American Gen Z and Millennial trust influencers when choosing brands and products. They don’t just trust the influencers more than celebrities, 54% would want to become one if they had the opportunity.

On Instagram, someone with less than 50,000 followers is considered a micro-influencer, but if one has around 250,000 followers, they could make nearly $3,800 per post.

It is impossible to talk about influencers and not mention Kylie Jenner. In 2019, Jenner was Instagram’s highest-paid influencer earning over a million dollars a post. She has her fair share of haters but Jenner has been so successful as an influencer because she continuously generates aspirational content while maintaining her authenticity. The family name doesn’t hurt either.

Jenner’s posts mainly revolve around being a mother, her family and her love for makeup. Brands want to work with her because her use of social media to connect with her fans making them feel heard has turned her into an influencer you can trust. Love her or hate her, she has influencing figured out.

But as appealing as it seems to generate an income and become famous by posting content on social media, very few succeed. So what happens to the faceless influencers who fail?

Not becoming a successful influencer can negatively affect one’s self-esteem because they put a lot of time and effort into the process. If they cannot reach the status, they question their self-worth. They start estimating their value based on followers and sponsors.

“When someone’s self-esteem is so wrapped up in their social media presence, it can be hard for them to see their value outside of that,” says Sindee Gozansky, therapist and founder of “A Simple Therapy” in Maine, USA.

Young women start to believe they are not good enough, and failure in the social market is perceived as a rejection at a personal level. “This can also be harmful to a young woman’s mental health, reinforcing the idea that external validation is necessary for self-worth. Lack of influencer status affects self-esteem by causing feelings of inadequacy and low self-confidence,” adds Gozansky.

This vicious cycle can lead to depression and anxiety and may also lead to other emotional disorders related to eating, body image and obsessive thoughts.

Anisha Joshi, a dermatologist at Healthy Choice Clinic, often consults patients deeply affected by social media. She has had to tell most of her young patients that it is not possible to look exactly like a celebrity or an influencer.

“Most patients have unrealistic expectations, and we have to counsel them about the treatments and procedure options regarding the time it takes and the outcome,” she adds.

“Most patients I have counselled are not happy with their looks, they want to have perfectly symmetrical faces without any pores or pigmentation, they want fairer skin. And they are ready to go under the knife to achieve that.”

The problem with spending too much time on social media platforms hoping to become the next Kylie Jenner is also that rather than thinking about college or career goals, young people get too busy promoting their lifestyle brand, building their audience, and checking their insights to spend time on anything else. And then, if they don’t make it, they can feel lost and without purpose.

Social media is a dangerous platform for comparison and self-doubt, and not succeeding as an influencer can affect young women’s self-worth and other aspects of their lives.

While some young women do succeed in the field, the danger is how it affects the lives of those who do not. Before putting all your eggs in one basket, it is essential to realise that there is a possibility of failure, and not lose sight of one’s authentic self.

Social media analytics is not everything. It is essential not to let social media consume your life and to have a strong identity outside in the real world. Many women have gone on to achieve great things because they didn’t allow their self-esteem to be defined by more online analytics.

Adds Gozansky: “Being an influencer is so seductive to young women because of the perceived social value, acceptance and importance it promised. And, what is seductive is not always in our best interest.”

Anjana Rajbhandary writes this fortnightly Nepali Times column Life Time about mental health, physical health and socio-cultural issues.

Anjana Rajbhandary