Millions of us wake up every day, grab our phone and check Instagram. We scroll, like posts, follow someone here and there and go about our day. But how would our relationship with Instagram be if we had 61,000 people watching our every post?
Is social media fame as glamorous as it looks?
This is what 19-year-old Valentina Carrick deals with. Carrick (@chovvder) arose to Instagram fame two years ago, and now has over 61,000 followers on the platform.
Being a social media influencer is something many people strive to be, but for Carrick it came out of nowhere.
“It’s been about two years when I would refresh my page and realize I was gaining about 2,000 followers once a day,” said Carrick. “It happened shortly after I shaved my head. A lot of people were shocked about the drastic change and I received attention from it, good and bad.”
Carrick notes that being an influencer is not all its chalked up to be. She has received hate comments attacking multiple things including her body.
“I was underweight and utterly scared to post any photos below my shoulders and when I did, I was called anorexic or was glamorized for being sickly thin,” said Carrick.
Our culture has become so invested in other people’s lives that many of us feel entitled to comment on Instagram personality’s pictures.
“I believe that modern culture of social media voyeurism is the 21st-century version of gossip. We are hard-wired to be interested in what other humans do,” said Mihaela Popescu, a CSUSB communications professor. “We love to know what strangers do online for the same reason that gossip is appealing; it provides us with a sense of recognition, belonging, and entertainment, all at once.”
Instagram stars don’t only attract massive amounts of followers, but also companies who seek influencers to promote their products. Carrick felt uneasy about businesses reaching out to her. She lists this business element as one of the reasons that made her feel pressure during the climax of her social media uprise.
“There were a lot of companies asking me to promote their products and would send me a free item in the mail,” Carrick said. “If I took too long to post, they’d message me repeatedly inquiring about my post. Although I enjoyed some of the products, I felt like I was being used.”
Social media has now become a core tool used in marketing plans. Because of this Popescu believes social media fame will only get bigger.
“Marketers know that if a social media ‘idol’ were to endorse a brand, that brand would see a spike in sales and everyone (other than the users, of course) will profit,” Popescu said. “Social media fame is not going anywhere.”
The biggest brand so far to reach out to Carrick is Italian fashion house Gucci. Even with this huge accomplishment under her belt, Carrick still received criticism for working with the company, following the racial scandal that recently occurred.
“I posted a behind the scenes picture during my shoot with Gucci and I was unaware of the controversial sweater they released which some found to be racist,” said Carrick. “After I posted my collab, I was called racist and ignorant.”
The dark side of social media is not something people think about when wanting to be an influencer. Carrick feels like her followers think they know everything about her and forget that she is just another human.
“I’m 19, I go to community college, I work two minimum-wage jobs and I screw up constantly,” Carrick said. “But of course people are still going to come to a full conclusion on me solely off the photos I choose to share.”
Social media can have more than just a surface-level effect on people that most of us turn a blind eye to.
[su_quote cite=”Mihaela Popescu”]We all stage our posts to appear at our best and get depressed when we don’t measure up what others’ have posted. However, millennials are facing more severe risks: bullying, loss of privacy, isolation and polarization and the risk of manipulation.[/su_quote]
Carrick acknowledges that social media fame is a lot of good with a lot of bad and claims to have a love-hate relationship with her fame. She finally learned to not feel like she’s “walking on pins and needles over an internet post.”
To her, the best part about having a large platform is being able to help others.
“I surround myself with plenty of creatives and whether it is art or music, I’m easily able to spread their work,” said Carrick. “On a more serious note, when my aunt had breast cancer, I raffled off one of my paintings to help and people donated to the cause.”
Through all the negativity that comes with being an influencer, Carrick is still grateful that people care enough to follow her. To the people that strive to be in her position, Carrick’s advice is to be as authentic as you can be and not let a follower count define you.
“People treat you differently when they’re aware of your internet status,” said Carrick. “Just be yourself because there are already so many others attempting to shape into the cookie cutter version of ‘beautiful’.”