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Social media has truly become a platform for deception

If you haven’t seen a celeb posing with detox tea, or those distinctive blue SugarHairBear gummies, where have you been? Even without social media, it feels like these sorts of images permeate the news and our obsession with so-called ‘celebrities’ is no longer restricted to Hollywood legends or Brit-winning artists. 

With Instagram in particular, stars are rising seemingly out of nowhere, and social media allows reality TV stars faster access to winning over fans and maintaining their fame. Just look at the Kardashians: Kylie built her empire almost exclusively off her social media presence, receiving a reported $1 million per sponsored post alone.

But with the influence and impact of social media at an all-time high, do these ‘celebs’ have a responsibility towards their followers?

Of course they do. If you’re getting paid actual millions to post one picture of you holding a juice, the least you could do was check that it wasn’t going to kill you. 

In the BBC Three series Blindboy Destroys the Underworld, reality TV stars Lauren Goodger, Mike Hassini and Zara Holland were secretly filmed being asked to promote a fake diet drink which wasn’t yet ready for production. The made-up drink was called Cyanora, and contained hydrogen cyanide, a chemical which can kill you and was used in gas chambers of Nazi Germany. 

The responsibility should weigh on the shoulders of the Advertising Standards Authority, the social media platform and the ‘influencers’ promoting the products

Perhaps a bit of an extreme way to test the transparency of influencer advertising, and yet, Lauren Goodger effectively incriminated herself, in the heat of the moment stating that she’d never tried Skinny Coffee to try and secure the deal (a previous endorsement she had made on Instagram, claiming it had helped her lose 2 stone). 

Doesn’t this show us just how dangerous Instagram advertising is? For someone to promote something potentially life threatening, just to secure a pay cheque? It seems obvious that social media advertising should be transparent, and yet so often this is not the case. Maybe that detox tea worked for Kim Kardashian, but nutritionists and hours of personal training definitely helped.

And does the lack of transparency in advertising feed into greater societal problems? There are a lot of advertisements out there, but so many of the most controversial ones work by making us feel bad about ourselves, offering quick fix solutions for weight loss or better hair or a more photogenic face. So, not only are these ads largely lies and sometimes medically unsafe, they’re also stimulating mental health problems. Although these are not physical, they can be just as dangerous. 

It’s disgusting that people would lie when there are such serious consequences for their followers, but what is more worrying is that they clearly don’t think there will be consequences for them. Lauren Goodger has been in trouble before for false advertising claims, and yet she continues to make them.

The consequences of being untruthful or promoting dangerous goods needs to be enforced much more strictly

For those influencers who are always genuine in their advertising, this shouldn’t cause problems for them and it shouldn’t make their lives more difficult. At the end of the day, they’re still people, trying to make a life for themselves. However, for those who manipulate the system and use their position in a negative way, they need to understand the consequences of promoting something they don’t understand for a quick and easy pay cheque. 

The rise in social media advertising is to be expected, because it follows the modern-day spending trends and of course, brands are going to utilise this to maximise their profit. However, it needs to be carefully monitored, especially when the audiences of many of these advertisements are not in the position to properly understand that not all of the products promoted are actually safe. 

In 2018, CNN reported that 12.6 was the average age of kids signing up for their own social media accounts. As a result, they should not be held accountable for their gullibility. The responsibility should weigh on the shoulders of the Advertising Standards Authority, the social media platform and the ‘influencers’ promoting the products. The consequences of being untruthful or promoting dangerous goods needs to be enforced much more strictly. It’s not fair for big level influencers to get paid millions to cause harm to others.

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