Our Responsibility as Influencers

I’ve been doing a lot of unfollowing lately.

It’s happened mainly on Instagram since that is where I spend a lot of my social media time. I’ve already written about how I feel about non-credentialed information and the fact that it’s your responsibility in how you receive information and it’s that second post that kept me on the fence about writing this one.

In it, I argue that no matter what someone else says or writes, it’s your responsibility as the reader/viewer how you respond to that information. If it’s triggering, stop reading it, etc. I argue that it’s not the writer’s responsibility to anticipate every single person’s unique reaction to a situation.

HOWEVER.

I think that the more influence a person begins to have, the more responsibility he or she has to be mindful of the content that is being put out.

Our responsibility as influencers is just as the word implies — to influence. We build communities and share everything from products to ideas as a way to impart knowledge and opinions. It can be done well and it can be done selfishly. It’s the latter method that has me concerned about the influencer community.

When you become concerned with only your own life and your own beliefs, it can be easy to alienate people. It becomes easy to see your way as the only way or your choices, outfits, and foods as what everyone else should be doing. Regardless of if you want to or not, if you have a large following, you’re creating influence.

In reflecting on this, here are some things that I think we need to be careful of as influencers.

Do your research

If you’re not educated about a topic, please don’t compile all the information you’ve heard from other influencers and tout it as truth. Do some research. Learn some science.

The latest statement that struck me was an insistence to stop fluoride treatments at the dentist. The decision had no effect on me until it was followed up with multiple stories (at follower’s requests) stating that fluoride is EXTREMELY toxic, more toxic than lead, and will basically kill you (my words). It was stated that this information came from “studies,” yet I can tell you that a 10 second Google search gave me several reputable links as to why dental-level fluoride amounts are completely fine. An excessive amount of anything can harm you.

Whatever you’re espousing, especially if it falls in the realm of something people go to multiple years of schooling for, take the time to figure out the facts.

Consider your audience

One of the things I do regularly is analyze the statistics of my readers and followers. I know demographics, location, and other data points about who I am reaching on a daily basis. This helps me create content that speaks to those groups.

If your audience is primarily younger women, say 18-25, just keep in mind that this is an age of self-discovery, learning about the world, and one that is highly impressionable. It can be argued that the same is true, if not more so, for those younger than 18, but statistics don’t track this age group. Just assume that they’re watching too.

It’s easy as an (almost) 33 year old to look back and say “let them deal with it themselves,” but if I honestly take a step back and think about myself at that age, I was looking to anyone and everyone to tell me who to be, what to think, and how I could feel whole. My case was not necessarily typical, but it’s certainly not atypical, so just take some time to think about how others may perceive you.

Don’t blanket your statements

One of the main reasons I’ve unfollowed some larger accounts is because they have blanketed their statements as the end-all-be-all of what’s right. There’s no mention of “this is my decision but it’s fine if it’s not yours;” it’s presented in a way that is fear-mongering and very black and white.

I’m always interested in different aspects of health, so I enjoy learning about everything. That doesn’t mean I choose to do everything. I support people in whatever health decisions they have, but when I’m made to feel that my own choices are wrong because they’re not the same as yours, that’s where I draw the line.

Black and white statements are damaging in those people who are still unable to form their own opinions. This is how disordered eating and other maladaptive behaviors are perpetuated. Everyone’s journey is different and I think we need to respect that when we put out information.

 

I don’t expect this to change, or that some of us are even aware that we may be doing a disservice to our followers. People will still continue to seek out information that conforms to their own ideals and philosophies, even if that information may be damaging, so the only way to change that is to have everyone be more mindful, which I’m under no illusions about.

Just take the time to think about who may be watching or reading the next time you open your mouth. I think with a little more intention and education we can keep this a positive community.

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.

Follow:

16 Comments

  1. Paula
    June 21, 2017 / 8:51 am

    ERIN. YES. I actually stopped reading all but three of my favorite baking/cooking blogs a little over a year ago, because I was just exhausted by all the garbage out there. I’ve only recently come back to a couple others after deciding that I could still connect to them. It seems like a lot of readers value information on blogs the same way they would value information from reputable news sources; but a lot of bloggers don’t approach their writing as if they were journalists. And that’s generally fine, but there are limits to what you can responsibly advocate for without being fully informed. I always appreciate your intellectual and thoughtful approach to your writing!

  2. June 21, 2017 / 9:40 am

    I’ve learned early on to be careful about what I say. So many people trying to do my workouts or eat like I eat, but don’t understand how my body is different from theirs. One of the reasons why I went to nutrition school so I could educate others!
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Teriyaki Sriracha Salmon {GF, Low Cal}My Profile

  3. June 21, 2017 / 3:10 pm

    The fluoride discussion is super relevant as my city decided to remove fluoride from our drinking water. Well. The instance of childhood cavities has had a HUGE increase since then.

    The lack of critical thinking/assessment/whatever has really been bothering me recently. I’m not sure if it’s the political climate or what, but I’ve noticed I have very little patience for misinformation especially as spewed by “influencers”.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Five Things Friday #2My Profile

  4. June 21, 2017 / 4:13 pm

    Great post! I have a B.Sc. in Kinesiology & a Certificate in Athletic Therapy and am appalled by the number of bloggers with zero educational background in exercise physiology, sports injuries etc sharing erroneous information, I too have unfollowed a lot of them and refuse to share their posts.
    Janice – Salads4Lunch recently posted…Reebok Ragnar Niagara Race Recap 2017 – Leg 2My Profile

  5. June 21, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    So much head nodding as I read this! I find it an interesting blogging world now. Everyone is expected to be an expert now, like if you’re not writing evergreen how-to posts then you’re irrelevant. But many people are not experts they are just people who started sharing their daily life. It’s a tricky line to walk for sure. I find I struggle with it in the exercise realm because I am not qualified yet it’s something I’m interested in. So I try to check myself and only talk about what has worked for ME.

  6. June 21, 2017 / 6:15 pm

    Yep, I agree with a lot of this. Personal responsibility is crucial, but having an influential platform means RESPONSIBILITY. I think you do a good job giving both sides or sharing the credentials behind your thoughts/reasoning.

  7. So in agreement with doing due research. I sometimes read text that doesn’t make sense, or get the wrong information from established influencers. As someone who in some way “controls” the public, you have a responsibility to make sure what you’re saying is well thought out!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  8. June 22, 2017 / 8:40 am

    this is SO important. I think as influencers we all need to remember this and put this message out there that we carry this responsibility.

  9. June 22, 2017 / 10:46 am

    It’s unfortunate that all of this needs to be said, but influencer marketing is so interesting. Especially since I’m on the other side – my company occasionally works with influencers, but around fashion, so everything there is understood to be opinion and no one’s health will be impacted because we convinced them to wear booties. The fluoride thing kills me, yeah, people literally spend years studying dental health, but let me listen to someone whose only qualification is a social media account tell me how to care for my teeth? GTFO. Ange above brings up an interesting point – is it the political climate? Or is everything (politics, health information, etc) subjected to the same lack of critical thinking and self-research? When/why/how did we get so ignorant?!
    Maggie (Mag Mile Runner) recently posted…Training, June 12-18My Profile

  10. June 22, 2017 / 12:04 pm

    Love this Erin! 100% agree, we all forget that as readers we don’t have to trust everything, but as “influencer” we need to be honest of what we post about it and how we get to that information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge