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Aesthetic Overload: The Influencer Culture’s Impact on Self-Perception

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Stevens chapter.

The concept of “aesthetics” has taken center stage in the world of social media influencers, leaving viewers with a relentless sense of pressure to conform to ever-changing ideals of beauty and style. While the pursuit of aesthetics can be creatively inspiring, it often feels like an unending race, with standards shifting at a pace that makes it nearly impossible to keep up.

Social media platforms have given rise to a visual culture where aesthetics are king. Influencers, with their carefully curated feeds and meticulously planned posts, set the tone for what is considered attractive and stylish. However, these aesthetics are not static; they morph and evolve at an astonishing speed. What was deemed “on-trend” last week can quickly become outdated, leaving viewers feeling like they are in a never-ending game of catch-up.

One captivating aspect of these ever-evolving aesthetics is their ability to encapsulate complex themes and lifestyles with intriguing and evocative names. Whether it’s “coquette”, “old money”, “dark academia”, or countless others that seem to be spawning every week, these titles have a magnetic quality that draws viewers in, beckoning them towards a world of fascination. These aesthetics do more than just showcase fashion and style; they promise an entire lifestyle, an identity to adopt, and a sense of belonging to a particular community. This allure often prompts viewers to delve deeper, not only into the aesthetic’s visual aspects but also into the lifestyle it represents. Consequently, individuals may find themselves caught up in the pursuit of this ideal, oftentimes resorting to materialism as a means to align themselves more closely with the aesthetic’s values and appearance. This quest can lead to a cycle of consumerism as viewers strive to recreate the look, atmosphere, and experiences associated with the aesthetic they’ve been drawn into.

Because of its easily digestible content, algorithmic recommendation system, and influencer-driven culture, Tiktok has become a breeding ground for the acceleration of fast trends. Viral challenges and trends can erupt within hours, rapidly spreading across the platform’s diverse user base. The ease of content creation and democratization of influence mean that trends can emerge from unexpected corners of the internet, further amplifying the speed at which styles and aesthetics evolve. TikTok’s integration of the TikTok Shop has added an additional layer to this phenomenon, as creators quickly adopt and promote products associated with trending aesthetics, enticing viewers to follow suit in an ever-changing fashion landscape. The platform’s unique ability to make trends go viral and influence a wide audience has made it a driving force behind the lightning-fast evolution of trends in the digital age.

The creation of the Tiktok shop has introduced a new dimension to influencer marketing by allowing users with a certain number of followers to promote items directly on the platform. While this initiative offers an opportunity for content creators to monetize their reach, it has also given rise to a proliferation of disguised advertisements that can sometimes be indistinguishable from regular content.

The TikTok Shop allows influencers to endorse products or services in their videos and, in return, earn a commission on sales generated through their promotions. While this may seem like a win-win situation for both influencers and brands, it has led to a saturation of promotional content, often obscuring the boundary between authentic posts and advertisements on users’ feeds.

The challenge for viewers lies in differentiating between genuine content created by influencers because they genuinely enjoy a product or service and content that is solely motivated by financial gain. With a growing number of users participating in the TikTok Shop, it can become increasingly difficult to discern when something is an advertisement. This blurring of lines can lead to viewer frustration and a sense of being constantly sold to, making it harder to engage with content that truly resonates.

This development underscores the importance of transparency in influencer marketing. It’s crucial for influencers to clearly disclose when they are promoting a product for financial compensation, allowing viewers to make informed decisions about the authenticity of the content they consume. Additionally, platforms like TikTok must take measures to regulate the promotion of products to ensure that users’ feeds are not overrun by advertisements, striking a balance between content creators’ economic opportunities and a seamless user experience. As viewers, being vigilant and critical consumers can help us navigate this evolving landscape where aesthetics, advertising, and content often intersect.

Ironically, amidst the pursuit of aesthetics, there’s also a growing demand for authenticity. Viewers increasingly crave content that feels genuine and relatable. Yet, the paradox arises when influencers strive to appear authentic while adhering to rigid aesthetic standards, often resulting in content that feels staged and inauthentic. Ultimately, the pursuit of aesthetics should be a source of inspiration and creativity, not a relentless race to conform.

Maddy Tartaglia is a junior at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken New Jersey. Her major is Marketing Innovation & Analytics, with a minor in Psychology. Her personal interests include pop culture, music, art, and literature, and in her free time she loves going to New York, going to the beach, and to concerts.
Janet is a 4/4 Computer Engineering major at Stevens Institute of Technology. Her interests include art, photography, and literature, and in her free time she likes to read, bake, and hang out with friends!