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.
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.