We live in interesting times. Times when anyone with a social media account and a decent collection of numbers can proclaim themselves a “social media influencer”. It’s become such a derided word, that the mere mention of the word “influencer” is accompanied by an eye-rolling exercise.
Yet, such “influencers” are now the backbone of digital advertising. They are feted by brands, and paid to endorse products and services. The idea is because people with a following have perceived “influence”, in that they can influence people to buy a product or use a service.
That said, there’s been a bit of a backlash against influencers in recent times whether by critical fans or disgruntled fellow social media participants. But this is not a rant about how fake the industry is because it is.
What prompted this post is when I stumbled upon a post on Instagram a few days ago. And this specific post made me see red.
I have become rather inured to celebrity/influencer shills of beauty products and services. The fact will always be that a pretty face, sexy pose, and a curious tendency for their clothes to be too small for them or fall off their body, sells. Beauty brands have always used celebrities and models to sell their products before this. Now, that has shifted to using online personalities, who have perceived clout among their following.
At one time, I was critical of it. Now, I’m ambivalent. It does not mean that I’m accepting of this trend. I do maintain that brands should be much more discerning in their choice of KOLs (Key Opinion Leader) or influencers. While numbers are a good indication of following, they should look further and deeper and see if the KOL’s lifestyle and other products that they shill match the brands’ ideals. Also, there is a much larger pool of KOLs with smaller numbers, but who are far more passionate about the cause or industry, and who therefore, wield greater influence among their peers.
Lest you think I’m bitter, I’m not. I don’t speak for myself in this, as I do not profess to be a KOL, nor do I intend to influence anyone. As I often tell people, I don’t intend to influence. But if you are, I can’t help that! :D
Influencers should stop shilling Health products
But there is one category that upsets me greatly when I see it shilled online, and that is anything to do with health. Most often, these are related to products promoting slimming, or appetite suppressants. Things you consume. And that is what the Instagram post that made me angry is about.
This is the post in question, which I’ve screencapped.
Note: I have been informed that this screencapped post has been deleted from the account in question. Mayhap I hit a raw nerve? It’s hard to say.
I will preface this by saying I have no idea who this person is. But I’ve since found out that she is a popular local social media influencer and a model/celebrity – your usual run of the mill “influencer” locally.
I don’t know what she’s selling if I’m to be honest. Here is her caption extracted verbatim – you tell me if you understood this garbled jumble of words , seemingly put together with no thought at all. As a friend told me on Instagram, it was throwing a jumble of word spaghetti against the wall and hoping something sticks :D
Just a sachet an hour before dinner easily help to block carbs and melt fats from a heavy meal. It actually helps to liquify starch/carbs into water. In other words, it soaks up dietary fats into insoluble residue, turn into stool. #ad
Apparently, this revolutionary product first, blocks carbs and melts fats. But wait, it then liquifies starch and carbs into water. Amazing science right there! It sounds almost like something from Star Trek. Oh hang on, “in other words”, implying that I didn’t understand the earlier two sentences (which I didn’t), it soaks up fats and turns it into stool.
So, what does it do then? Block or melt or soak it up?! You tell me! But you know what? Your stomach and intestines will turn dietary fibre into stool as well, and in the process, absorb all the nutrients from the food you just ate, giving you energy and vitamins vital to survival. Isn’t that a much, much better option?
But dubious science and garbled gobbledygook aside, the fact is that this is being shilled to her followers, in an attempt to influence them into buying and consuming this product – whatever it is. From what little English I can string together to comprehend, it is essentially a dietary suppressant to aid in weight or fat control. This, I have no respect for, because products like this or appetite suppressants which this same girl promotes in a different post are unhealthy and can even be dangerous.
When I shared this on Instagram Stories, a reader who is a doctor shared with me that many of these weight loss supplements have ingredients that basically operate as laxatives. Chronic laxative usage can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, irritable bowel syndrome and altered lining of your bowel mucosa, among others. This is not even taking into account the undue stress you put on your liver and kidneys which can cause them to give up and break down. Take too much of these and you could even put additional stress on your heart to keep up with your weight loss. You could end up with a lifetime of medical distress and a mountain of medical bills, just because you wanted to lose a little weight. Is that worth it?
But more importantly, do these Key Opinion Leaders have an opinion on this?
I can tell you they do not. I’m not sure what they have an opinion on, but it will not be on the side-effects of what they’re peddling to their fans and followers. Perhaps they have an opinion on the amount of money they are receiving for peddling this crap on their platform.
I was told that this particular girl is just 25 years old. Like most social media influencers, she is tall, slim and pretty. Do you think she actually consumes the product she’s selling? I highly doubt so. What is far more likely is that she eats very little and exercises a lot. She could also be genetically thin. To use this advantage, to sell a slimming product to the masses is, to put it mildly, irresponsible.
Recently also, we have seen the Kardashians peddling appetite suppressant teas and lollipops to their following. Locally, we have celebrities/influencers who peddle supplements to “increase your height” or “supplements for babies to make them look fairer”. Do they even think about the side effects of that? Babies. Why on earth do babies have to look fairer?! And increasing your height? How does an oral supplement do that? If it worked, we’d be a nation of giants.
Influencers have a social responsibility to their followers and fans
I have spoken to many people who have lots of stories to tell me about their “influencers” friends. Most of them never try the products they’re posing with, be it skincare, makeup or supplements. They just pose with the product, have their assistant (or even the brand itself) come up with a caption which they copy and paste, and publish it. That’s it. That’s the truth. And as someone in the industry (as it were), it galls me. As a lover of beauty, it pains me because so much hogwash is being circulated by those with large followings.
I have maintained through the years that bloggers owe society a moral sense of responsibility. Back then, we had bloggers shilling drastic weight loss programmes where you subsist on a mere 500 calories a day, and hormone injections. Or you had bloggers undergoing medical liposuction and unnecessary treatments and then telling their readers about it, and offering discounts at their doctors. I was critical of it back then.
And I’m just as critical of anything to do with shilling health treatments or products today. Just as bloggers, who are the forerunners of today’s KOLs, have a moral and social responsibility to their readers, so do social media KOLs and influencers to their followers.
It galls me that anyone would willingly potentially endanger the life of someone who merely had the misfortune to admire, respect and trust the opinions of that person, in exchange for money. To this end, I am not saying here that the product being shilled in the example above, is dangerous. But if something you consume can simultaneously block, liquify and soak up what you eat, I think that’s dangerous, don’t you? :P It might be an excellent drain-pipe declogger, but I’d keep it away from my internal digestive system.
There is no shortcut to losing weight
It might interest you to note that our weight can fluctuate up to 2kg in a day. I recently went for a medical check up. The difference in my weight from the night before to the next morning was a reduction of 1kg. Did I lose 1kg in the night just sleeping? Apparently so. I should sleep more LOL! :D But as you eat and drink water through the day, your weight will creep back. Is it a bad thing? No, it isn’t. It’s just you being human.
It might also interest you to know I do not own weighing scales. I don’t believe in weighing myself, and I never know my weight at any point in time. It doesn’t bother me. Not being able to zip up my skirt does LOL! :D
When it comes to weight loss, know that there is NO short cut. If you want to lose weight, you just have to eat less, eat more healthy foods and exercise. The side effect of this is potentially better health. What we should be striving for is not to be thin, but to be healthy. What is far more important is to have a properly functioning body, and for that you need proper food and proper nutrition. Carbohydrates and fats are not all bad. You need carbs to have energy. From a beauty standpoint, you risk looking haggard and experience dry skin if you don’t have enough fats in your diet.
You also need fats to help you absorb vitamins and to keep warm and there is medical research to show that you need fats for your brain to properly function. What this says about those who block, liquify and soak up fats, I will not say :P
I have far greater respect for someone who actually promotes a healthy lifestyle, with proper balanced meals, not crazy diets, and regular exercise. Food isn’t our enemy. Our mindset is. I don’t believe in depriving myself of the foods I enjoy. Perhaps I have better willpower than most, in that I can exercise control in what and how much I eat. But that, as with everything, comes with training and discipline. Nothing ever comes easy, and nothing is impossible with a little hard work and discipline. I’m not skinny, but I’m not obese and my latest medical check up showed I’m fine. I think that is most important :)
If you are an influencer and reading this and feel I’m being unfair to you, then maybe think about what you’ve been shilling and think about your responsibility to your followers. Do you truly, honestly, believe in what you’re saying? Will it endanger them? Will it make their life better? Or do you not care because you’re getting paid, and “no one trusts influencers anyway”. If you can live with yourself, then carry on.
But if you have a conscience, then rethink your choices, and think a little further than yourself. Eat a little fat, let your brain work a little. And then tell me if anyone at all has any business shilling dubious dietary supplements and appetite suppressants purely to lose weight, all in the name of beauty.
Your thoughts are welcomed.