Social media is a tool that has helped people all over the world stay connected. It has set a precedent for communication unlike anything the modern world has ever seen. As a result of this advance in technology, the average individual also has access to celebrities at every turn. While on the surface this may seem beneficial to those who have an interest in the celebrity lifestyle, these people may be unduly influenced in a way that is detrimental to their mental health and well-being. Social media directly affects body image and self-esteem, and promotes lifestyle expectations that are unobtainable to the average person, which directly contributes to celebrity culture among teens and young adults. According to a study conducted by the YMCA, 62 percent of 15 to 16-year olds felt that social media had ramped up expectations over their personal appearance. 58 percent of those surveyed said that these ideals of physical perfection were driven by celebrity culture and they considered this to be the main influence driving their self-esteem. When celebrities post pictures of themselves on their personal social media platform, they unwittingly publicize the ideal of beauty in most of society: thinness. Though most of these images are photoshopped (by the publications that feature them or the celebrities themselves), the message that beauty usually comes in a certain form is still clear. There are however, those like Julie Pennell, author of “How Facebook Can Affect Your Body Image”, who say that if young women use social media sites like Facebook for its intended purpose, like staying in touch with friends and family, they will be “less likely to have body image issues from the networking tool”.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Trying to live up to these often impossible beauty standards set by celebrities or regular people on social media, wreak havoc on a young person’s self-esteem since younger people are often more impressionable and look to outside influences to help shape their self-identity. Social media also promotes celebrity culture by raising expectations for lifestyle choices and encourages a keeping up with the Joneses mentality. When young people see pictures of exotic vacations or extravagant events such as high-end weddings posted to social media, this can warp their views on what these events should be and how they should look. They may be too young to be able to experience these things now, but in a decade or two, these images and new ones they will inevitably come across in the future, will be in the back of their minds when planning their next trip or major life event. This pressure to measure up to lifestyles of the wealthy, many of whom are celebrities, can lead to depression and feelings of low self-worth.
Baroness Greenfield, former director of research at Oxford University, states that “Some Facebook users feel the need to become ‘mini celebrities’ who are watched and admired by others on a daily basis”. This also promotes a culture of people who compete amongst themselves, with who has the fancier car, or most expensive clothes, or can spend the most money on things they deem important in their social groups. Spending habits also are influenced by social media. A hot young actress posts a picture of her new high-end designer bag on Instagram? That same bag just may end up on many of her young followers’ Christmas wish lists that winter. Celebrities or online ads are not the only culprit of increased spending however. According to a new study conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, nearly 90 percent of respondents feel the need to compare their own wealth with that of their peers. This intense need has resulted in 57 percent of these respondents stating that they have purchased items and experiences with money they had not intended to spend.
Advertising on social media sites also plays a large part in influencing impressionable young minds to spend, or encourage their parents to spend money on things they think they need to fit in or not miss out on the latest trend. While social media is beneficial for many, it can lead to issues with long-term effects, especially for younger people who often don’t have the self-esteem or coping skills needed to ward off negative thoughts of self-worth due to what they compare themselves to online. Beauty ideals, lifestyle expectations, and excess spending habits lead to a culture that mimics and is driven by celebrity lifestyle.