How Scott Disick’s Relentless Instagram Giveaways Show Us the Dark Side of Influencers and Capitalism

It has become common knowledge that Instagram is an arena for brands seeking attention and engagement. While some sponsored content is unrecognizable as advertisement, most paid promotions posted by influencers are easy for young people to identify.

The Kardashian-Jenners are the front-runners in the rise of influencer power. Each sister is paid for many of their posts, like other influencers. Scott Disick, the father to Kourtney Kardashian’s children, (who has become famous by association with the Kardashian family) and has garnered quite a following for himself.

This week, Disick launched a giveaway on his Instagram account: the prize is tens of thousands of dollars worth of Louis Vuitton handbags and luggage, plus an additional 30 thousand dollars U.S. cash. The only entry requirement is to follow every account that Disick follows on his account. Billionaire Kylie Jenner is featured in a photo surrounded by the luxury items, which she has reposted. He has used this method of advertising before in the past.

Disick has 23 million followers. According to an online audit service, 77 per cent of his following is female. Thirty-four per cent of his female following is under the age of 24. Desperate for a chance at winning tens of thousands of dollars worth of prizes, millions of young women have rushed to follow the accounts Disick follows, expanding his clientele’s brand audiences with exactly the demographic they’re targeting: young women. Many of the participants will continue to follow these accounts, even when the giveaway is over.

Disick follows 75 accounts. Most of them are brands and influencers looking to broaden their online presence among young women. These 75 accounts are likely paying Disick to feature them in his following, including them as part of the giveaway, causing them to gain a mass following from the exact audience they’re targeting.

Now here’s the disturbing part: out of the 75 accounts Disick requires the participants to follow, nine are plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic augmentation. Another seven out of the 75 are accounts and/or brands that promote major forms of body augmentation, mostly bodybuilders promoting intense workout and diet regimes. Both types of accounts feature dramatic before and after photos of the people who use their services.

A large portion of Disick’s audience will follow all 75 of these accounts for a chance to win the luxurious prize, thinking that their entry costs them nothing. But for a period of time, these young women will be following brands and accounts which highlight the flaws of their consumers, and presents to them their product, which appears to be an attainable, realistic solution.

While this may seem at the surface to be a simple business tactic of supply-and-demand, this situation is particularly disturbing. In a cycle, these brands plant the ideas that women’s natural features are something to be insecure about, and after planting this idea, they will continue to financially gain from the insecurity they developed. Ultimately, what Disick’s following thought was a harmless and easy contest, doesn’t end up being free at all. Disick seems willing to feed his young, female audience to the wolves in order to profit himself.

When we look at this problem, we see the influencer issue in broad daylight. Young women are constantly ingesting the content of young, beautiful and rich celebrities who have every cosmetic resource at their disposal. These celebrities, in the case of Jenner and Disick, have lead their following to engage with the content of brands who recognize that young people are comparing themselves to these influencers. In the final step of the process, the brands profit from the insecurity that they and other profitable influencers planted in them in the first place. And it all starts with normalizing certain features while demonizing others, glorifying naturally unattainable bodies.

We see paid promotion all the time. It has become an integral part of the function of social media. But what we cannot do, as young people and as citizens in a capitalist society, is allow ourselves to become victims to those who look to profit from us. Social media is a beautiful tool that gives us a window into the lives of the unreachable; but we cannot allow it to be weaponized against us.