I’ve never placed great pride in my ability to organise a top class holiday, but I feel like the trip to Santorini signed, sealed and delivered just that. It’s honestly a stunning island, with beautiful cycladic architecture that’s carved into the cliff faces and narrow streets, which you can probably read all about on TripAdvisor. But from my perspective, as someone who is pretty content with a decent beach and interesting places to explore, it ticked all the necessary boxes.
Being on an island that appeared like the template for all picture postcards, it was a haven for influencers. And you could see them everywhere, typically women, dressed in boujee outfits striving to capture themselves amidst the Santorinian scenery. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to generate an income through your own personal brand is a dream job of sorts and can unlock unique experiences that a 9-5 job could never get you. I’m also a huge believer in individual enterprise, and influencers are among those who are some of the most enterprising people in my generation. But as I was observing them, I wondered that something had to give way when so much time and energy was spent on the daunting task of influencing others.
The one thing I thought was, “That must be tiring.” That might be a naive thing to say given the money to be made through this medium, but it appears to be a mentally challenging ordeal. It’s hard enough to be your best self in the company of family and friends in even short bursts, so having to project yourself and your desirable lifestyle almost everyday must be a draining task. Some might argue that it’s not a requirement to show your personality, you can just show off the artistic pictures you’ve taken to please your followers. But with such a saturated market starting to appear, it’s not rocket science to realise that those who can come across as kind, funny and intelligent will form the longest-lasting connections with their fan base. And it’s difficult to come across as those things on demand, especially with a high level of consistency.
And as we all know or at least should do, life isn’t actually like an influencer’s feed. So many of the permutations of navigating life is never displayed, so we simply forget that it exists at all when we’re online. A representation of a person’s life without a second of sadness or devastation isn’t a true portrait of the life we all know and experience, and much has been made of the mental health effects that portraying an idyllic reality has on both the audience and the influencer.
The internet, particularly social media, is an immersive and all-encompassing alternative reality. You can’t really say it’s merely an ‘online’ world because that world has become so vast and influential that it would be unjust to ignore the impact it has on the ‘offline’ world. If you’ve never taken a week off social media, I recommend that you do just to see how the online world has crept into the offline world we all believe to be completely separate. I took three months away from all social media and it completely changed my relationship with the internet and how I perceived it to be. For much of my teenage years, I would never feel like it was a big part of my daily experience, but only when you take the time away from it, you realise the hold it has over you, which is a terrifying conclusion to reach. This socially inclusive set of tools is invisibly but very firmly grasping a hold of us, which led me to ponder at the influencers in Santorini, “Are you able to get out from this lifestyle if you wanted to?”
Much of the negative effects of social media have been placed on the shoulders of influencers, which I think is slightly unfair. Social media as an entity isn’t inherently bad, it’s our unhealthy relationship with it. In the same way that money or status are not inherently bad things either, it’s just we have developed obsessive and selfish bonds with them that can negatively affect us. And while influencers have to take some responsibility in what they’re promoting to their audience, this isn’t even what was going through my head. I was really curious as to how influencers log off, because it seemed a dangerous thing to me if they weren’t able to.
Downtime is one of the most important relievers of stress. People who work 70 hour weeks working in a city firm wonder why they are stressed out, and for all their brains, cannot work out that a healthy work-life balance is one thing that is needed to realign their chakras. And while my main goal on holiday was to soak up as much Vitamin D and eat as much souvlaki and gyros as was physically possible, the influencers were having to work. I mean, working by snapping yourself on an idyllic Greek island is probably better than sitting in an office that feels like an oven, but it’s still work. One of the main attractions of an influencer’s lifestyle is being able to travel across the world and be paid for it, but if you’re not truly experiencing these new settings with your own eyes and have the ability to unwind, is that a disingenuous thing to market to thousands of impressionable followers? And is that truly fulfilling for the influencer? Like I said, lots of questions ran through my head.
I think the main issue that content creators have all found themselves in through no fault of their own is the imbalance of quantity vs quality. I’m sure most influencers, if given the choice, would choose to work a couple days a week and have the rest of that time away from the pressures of social media marketing completely. But as some influencers have taken advantage of 24/7 platforms that traditional ‘old’ media didn’t allow by posting videos and pictures every single day, they’ve created an insatiable demand for content at the expense of the influencer. We, as mindless consumers, want more and more quantity, and so those on the internet are giving it to us at the expense of the importance of free time and disconnecting from the online world. There isn’t just the pressure to look and act perfect, that pressure is exerting itself all the time.
This isn’t supposed to be a dig at influencers or anyone who chooses to support themselves though putting their life on the internet, but it’s merely a question as to whether this lifestyle is sustainable for both we who observe them or those who present themselves to be observed. Because if we don’t have the ability to log off when we see fit for the sake of our health, we might reach a point where we both sets of people are unable to leave the online world for good.
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J Harris