The simple question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is something that everyone has been asked at least once in their lives. As college students, this type of question may bring many of us into the depths of our stress, and frankly make us never want to speak to the person who asked us this ever again. However, when you’re a kid this question holds a world of possibilities. There is no doubt that many of us said that we wanted to be rich and famous, and be like the people we saw in our daily television shows that we watched after school, or the intimidating adults we saw in our parents’ magazines and newspapers. Now, this idea of being “rich and famous like a moviestar” has turned into “rich and famous like that perfect person I follow online”.

How do they “Influence”?

Instagram was invented back in 2010 and was originally intended to be a simple photo sharing app where people could comment and like on their friend’s photos. In recent years, it is hard to ignore the growing rise of “influencers” that have taken over this social media platform, constantly advertising for brands and flaunting their paid sponsorships with companies that want to market the demographic that these internet celebrities attract. Whether these influencers got their start on Instagram itself or other apps such as Youtube, Twitter, or Snapchat, there is no doubt that people follow them to see what they are doing and what products they either hate or love. If not for this reason, what else are you really following them for? Internet celebrities such as Alexis Ren, Kylie Jenner,Emma Chamberlain, James Charles, Huda Kattan, David Dobrik, and so many others have gained a following well over a million, posting about their lifestyle, beauty hacks, and other things that make their followers believe that they are living the best possible life.

College student scrolling through influencer, James Charles’, Instagram page. Photo by Casey Wood

A lot of social media influencers are experts in the art of marketing themselves and painting their profile as a perfect advertisement for companies’ products. Some even say that companies and brands prefer to work with these social media celebrities because they appeal to “regular people,” and make their products and overall brand seem more “authentic.”

This idea of being a celebrity and fame itself has changed rapidly since the birth of social media, allowing people to gain an immense following by simply posting photos of their lives and branding themselves in a certain way. However, not everyone feels the same about these influencers.There is no denying that whether you love them or hate them, they are still succeeding in their goal of being talked about–one way or another.

What’s Your Take?

We decided to ask fellow students on Hawk Hill what they thought about influencers in our society and if they necessarily feel affected by this sudden shift in fame. When asked the question, “If a popular Instagram influencer said they enjoyed a restaurant in the city, would you be willing to spend your money at the restaurant based on their review?” 67 percent of people who answered the poll responded yes, and 33 percent responded no, stating that they would not try this restaurant based on an influencer’s review. Although a majority did they say they would trust this review enough to spend their money on a service based on one review, there was still a significant amount of people who did not feel this sense of trust, and were not willing to spend this money. However, when asked about these social media influencers compared to regular celebrities who rose to fame before this technological era, many people felt that a certain category had an overall stronger influence in today’s day and age. 

We decided to compare legendary Friends and American sweetheart Jennifer Aniston to social media matriarch Kylie Jenner (who has built her brand so successfully through her social media following that she became the youngest “self-made” billioniare”). The results of this poll were interesting, with 34 percent of people saying that Aniston was a more influential figure in society, and 66 percent believing that Jenner held this title, showing this shift in overall fame and popularity in today’s generation.

Watch this video to see what three Saint Joseph’s Hawks think of “Influencers”:

Video by Matt Charleston

What Does All of This Mean?

Trends are ever-changing. However, technology and the use of social media as a means for communication does not seem to have anything close to an end in our futures. There is a possibility that this social media influencer trend will end, and a new form of fame will emerge. These are the questions that will determine our future, and the way that our online world will function. Maybe wanting to be “rich and famous” like we did when we were kids is not as difficult, or as much as an unrealistic dream as we once thought. 

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