Research Insights: The price of popularity – Investigating the mental wellbeing of social media influencers

Last Updated on Thursday, 6 June, 2024 at 9:42 am by Andre Camilleri

Celine Fenech earned a Master of Science in Management and Digital Marketing from the Faculty of Economics, Management, and Accountancy at the University of Malta.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably reshaped our relationship with social media, forcing influencers into a spotlight of unprecedented importance. Yet, alongside this newfound prominence, the burdens weighing on influencers’ mental health have intensified. The struggle to meet escalating demands and expectations has taken a toll on many, amplifying existing mental health challenges. In my comprehensive study titled “The Price of Popularity: Investigating the Mental Wellbeing of Social Media Influencers,” I delve deeply into this intricate dynamic relationship between social media and the mental health of local influencers.

Employing qualitative research methods, including in-depth semi-structured interviews, my study uncovers profound insights into the trials influencers encounter as they navigate the complexities of online popularity, as well as the overall importance influencer marketing has on consumer behaviour and brand perception. Influencer marketing has heightened the significance of social media by transforming it into a powerful platform for genuine and relatable brand endorsements, redirecting consumer trust from conventional advertising to influencer endorsements. This evolution has also poisoned social media as a pivotal hub for targeted marketing, empowering brands to reach niche audiences with unparalleled precision and efficacy, thereby fundamentally transforming the marketing landscape.

One particularly striking revelation emerging from my research is the unwavering belief that influencers have in the positive influence social media has on one’s mental well-being. Despite struggling with the constant pressure to maintain an impeccable facade and confront online criticism, influencers remain persistently committed to engaging with their followers and offer support. This genuine dedication underscores the vital importance of creating authentic connections and developing a united community in the digital realm.

Moreover, amidst the challenges they encounter, influencers exhibit remarkable resilience and determination to foster meaningful relationships with their audience. Their constant commitment to providing a supportive space and genuine interactions not only enhances the well-being of their followers, but also reflects a deeper understanding of the profound impact of human connection in the digital age. In essence, influencers serve as beacons of authenticity and empathy in an online landscape often characterized by superficiality and anonymity, thereby shaping social media into a platform that fosters genuine relationships and promotes healthy mental well-being.

Moreover, through the interviews conducted, the influencers expressed a firm belief in the positive impact of social media on mental health, despite acknowledging the various challenges they may face. They prioritize genuine engagement with followers, viewing it as a means to support and connect with individuals rather than solely for algorithmic visibility. Recognising the importance of mental health, they employ diverse strategies to manage negativity and criticism, emphasizing resilience and thoughtful responses.

Balancing their online presence with their personal lives is crucial for these influencers, who safeguard their privacy and set boundaries to maintain positive well-being. Taking breaks from social media is also seen as essential to avoid burnout and ensure content quality, and their motivation stems from personal alignment and authenticity, driving them to produce content that resonates with their values and interests.

Navigating controversies and maintaining credibility is challenging, particularly concerning authenticity versus brand partnerships and presenting idealized lives. Despite facing pressures, influencers remain committed to their roles, believing they can positively impact followers’ mental health through support, engagement, and genuine content.

The influencers’ experiences underscore the complexity of social media’s effects on mental health, acknowledging both positive and negative aspects. While finding support and connectivity online, they also recognise potential for negativity, stress, and self-confidence issues. Their experiences emphasize the need for further research into the relationship between social media and mental health.

The implications of this study extend beyond the realm of influencers, and resonate with anyone who interacts with social media. It underscores the imperative of establishing boundaries, prioritizing mental well-being, and cultivating genuine connections in the online sphere. By delving into influencers’ experiences and coping mechanisms, individuals stand to obtain invaluable lessons in resilience and self-care. Furthermore, my research challenges prevailing narratives surrounding social media’s impact on mental health by spotlighting its positive dimensions, such as community building and support networks. This shift encourages a more nuanced understanding of the role digital platforms play in shaping overall well-being.

Nonetheless, despite many limitations, my study marked a step toward comprehending the mental wellbeing of social media influencers. It serves as a foundational point for future research and the development of potential interventions aimed at supporting this unique online community.

This article is a summary of the student’s dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of a Master of Science degree in Strategic Management & Digital Marketing. The article is not officially endorsed by the University of Malta. The opinions expressed therein are solely those of the respective alumni and do not reflect those of the University of Malta.

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