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Is Social Media Selling A Healthier Lifestyle?

There must be positive grounds for 97% of young digital natives citing social media as their go-to shopping guide.

A blogger sitting on the floor with leg bells and a laptop in front of her showing a sports bottle to the camera in a living room.
4.95 billion people use social media. Credit: Shutterstock/Orion Production

Social media is on the one hand a modern-day fount of unsupported claims and profiles peddling unhealthy habits. On the other, influencers, including celebrities, elect a lifestyle promoting healthier eating and drinking, workout routines, and steps to skincare that shouldn’t necessarily be ignored.

During a CNBC interview in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg described “The Facebook” as “an online directory that connects people.” It was for sharing “your interests”, and “who your friends are”, to “check out people’s online identities, and see how people portray themselves.”

For a while, that much was true and in some ways, nothing has changed.

What is social media selling?

Six skincare products in hands in front of a pink background.
Not having a skincare routine in today’s world is almost considered a crime. Credit: Shutterstock/Orawan Pattarawimonchai

Wrapped up in a recorded package typically no longer than 26 seconds, someone with a reliable number of followers is telling viewers what to do and how to do it. Try wall Pilates to get that lean body. This purple paste will whiten your teeth. Facial cleanser comes before serum.

Better drinking habits

Betty Buzz, non-alcoholic beverage on a supermarket shelf in Los Angeles, United States.
More and more people are becoming ‘sober curious’. Credit: Shutterstock/The Image Party

An opinion piece in The Irish Times revealed that “Gen Z and millennials are drinking wine like grown-ups, while their parents are drinking like teens.” In addition to an apparent rise in grape partiality, there is a clear contrast in generational ideals. Drinking is becoming less about escapism, and social media has a band of sober influencers and fresh-faced fashionistas fostering moderation.

The rise of mocktails, coupled with a -7.6% figure capturing the rise in spirit sales among Zoomers in the U.S., indicates a sharp swerve from customary knocking back after a long day’s work towards fruity, unfermented flavors. Blake Lively’s sparkling soda Betty Buzz and Katy Perry’s De Soi are some of the recent trend-setting beverages on the market.

Not everything needs to be non-alcoholic though. How could one not be impressed by Kendall Jenner’s 818 tequila brand, or ignore the contentious narrative around Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott’s hard seltzers? Vintage Instagram posts, teasing footage, and a refined online aesthetic are spreading a nuanced attitude towards alcohol—quality over quantity.

Better eating habits: “The sound of love, guys”

It may have started with cookbooks like Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals, but social media is spreading not only the simplicity of cooking but also communicating an appreciation of food. Chefs like Max Mariola and The Pasta Queen emphasize traditional Italian methods and ingredients with a side of love.

Feeds are saturated by clips of “girl dinners” which often feature healthy recipes for some self-love. Users are interested in Jennifer Aniston’s viral salad, replacing bread with lettuce leaves, high-protein dishes for “batch cooking”, and detox fruit bowls.

Let’s not forget that there are still plenty of creamy, carb-filled ideas to be discovered online. The trick? Get your algorithm hooked on the low-fat and health-giving food porn.

An increase in physical activity

A man sitting on his living room floor looking at his phone with weights sitting beside him.
The WHO’s Global Status Report on Physical Activity 2022 shows that over 80% of young people and 27% of adults don’t exercise enough. Credit: Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen

During the COVID-19 pandemic, once the initial panic and blind optimism abated, people learned to live in lockdown. For some, it brought a mostly sedentary existence, whereas others used the borrowed time to get in shape.

Alongside TikTok’s 180% increase in popularity among 18 to 25-year-olds, at-home exercise became widespread, from 10-minute burst workouts to yoga. Influencers posting workout routines enjoyed an almost cult-like following and offered discipline during a period of unwonted freedom to do nothing. And pressing play on a saved reel or YouTube video still takes precedence for many over going to the gym.

The reign of skincare routines on social media

@rhode

@Hailey Bieber’s nighttime tretinoin routine featuring glazing milk 🥛✨ available now on rhodeskin.com 🫶

♬ Similar Sensation (Instrumental) – BLVKSHP

While there’s nothing wrong with slapping on soap and simply rinsing, it might confound Hyram Yarbro and a multitude of others opting for a lengthy ritual.

Kim Kardashian recommends a daunting 9-step routine, Hailey Bieber strives for the complexion of a “glazed donut”, and an online army of dermatologists offers guidance. Frankly, most are plugging their own products. But regardless of strategic sales work, they are spotlighting the importance of taking care of our skin.

What are followers not buying?

An image of a laptop keyboard with little figurines holding up orange post-its that read either "no" or "yes".
Comment sections are more often than not used for internet trolling. Credit: Shutterstock/dajingjing

Followers aren’t buying change. Influencers and followers are engaged in a lethal relationship, where one move out of character by the influencer results in a sense of betrayal on the follower’s part.

“Do plus-size influencers owe their followers an explanation when their bodies change?” asks Katie K. M. Baker in The New York Times. This dependence on a steadfast persona defies the basic fact that people change.

A new market has opened for the so-called “virtual influencers”

Lil Miquela alongside Bella Hadid in an advertisement for Calvin Klein.

Instead of partnering with real people, more marketers are using virtual influencers, essentially digital avatars, to promote their products. These computer-generated characters, such as Lil Miquela and Aitana Lopez, are tailored to appeal to a target audience.

Through an online presence powered by AI technology, virtual influencers are just like your favorite trendsetter. However, they are either animations or designed to look life-like. Controllable, available 24/7, and cost-effective, they pose a terrifying but practical threat.

Is all of this healthy?

A girl trying to suck in her tummy to look thinner in the mirror.
A survey carried out by The Mental Health Foundation (UK) found that 40% of teenagers were more concerned about their body image as a result of using social media. Credit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture

Not exactly. Having access to content that inspires us to better ourselves has the potential to make us healthier. Zoomers and millennials could be the most sober and self-aware generations so far. Yet the “infodemic” of weight loss solutions, beauty standards, and lifestyle choices found on social media feeds anxiety, FOMO, insecurity, and depression.

Eventually, with different interest groups having access to controllable entities like avatars, the future of social media is headed in an unpredictable direction. So maybe we should be thankful for the flawed but human influencers we have now. In other words, social media could become the virtual voice of healthy reason but there’ll always be another with something else to say.

Written By

Hi there! My name is Anna-Maya and I'm from Ireland. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in English Studies, I moved to Barcelona to discover a different pace of life. Writing, good company, food, and travel, in that order, form my list of priorities.

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