Over the last couple of months, I’ve found myself taking a break from binge-watching Netflix series, instead spending my time watching Youtube videos. I’ve watched more videos than I can count, all surrounding the same topic: fitness and lifestyle. Each of these 10-12 minute videos has perpetuated ideas of what my days should look like as a college-going 21-year-old student living in the midst of a global pandemic. Now you can call me ‘easily influenced,’ naive, or even a little silly for comparing myself to the lives of these internet celebrities — or you can call it human nature. It’s very easy for us to compare ourselves to the people around us. Sometimes we do it to make ourselves feel better, engaging in a kind of “downward social comparison” to someone we feel we are better than, and sometimes, similar to what I was unconsciously doing. It’s a form of “upward social comparison” wherein we compare ourselves to someone we feel is better than us, like me, comparing my daily quarantine routine to that of an online influencer.
When quarantine began a year and a half ago, a lot of fitness influencers started to promote content on their Youtube channels and social media pages which contained at-home tutorials and weekly workout challenges, motivating people to spend the extra time they now had to better themselves. Most of these videos by popular influencers garnered hundreds of thousands of views, if not more, and developed a massive fan following. This led to these very influencers having a chance to expand their brands, taking advantage of their exponentially quick fame (a fairly common thing in the world of social media), and enhancing the content they shared. The biggest change was the shift to more of a “lifestyle” focused brand. They began to post everything, from the very first thing they did each morning to the very last thing they did at night (their “daily routines” if you will). While this was great from their point of view, garnering the most amount of engagement from their audience, it was probably the most detrimental to people like me.
In looking at these Instagram posts and stories, I spent too long unconsciously thinking about how perfectly coordinated their matching sweatpants and tank top combinations were, while I was wearing two-day-old yoga pants and an old t-shirt from my freshman year of high school. Or it was about how wonderful their regimens were, be it early morning walks and at-home pilates, or beautifully cooked nourish bowls and salads, while I ordered takeaways and just about managed to work out a couple of times a week. Their lives seemed faultlessly curated, almost idyllic in nature, making me want to change mine. What I failed to recognize is that it was just that… faultlessly curated. I found myself in a vicious cycle of wanting to watch more of these videos, attempting to alter and pick apart my own life, and feeling frustrated when I couldn’t match up to them because of other commitments such as school, work, or assignments. I felt like I was at some sort of “media consumption saturation point” and I couldn’t take it anymore.
What I wasn’t remembering all this time was that these were their jobs. This wasn’t a hobby that they were doing for fun or something they only did in their spare time. Sure, it may have started that way, but it was also their source of income. They didn’t have to balance it with their own classes, assignments, and work; it was their only work. The full face of makeup and loungewear for an Instagram post was part of their job, and so was the fitness challenge they posted on Youtube. It was all part of creating their brand, one which could bring them the most profit and help them gain the most followers.
While none of this is to say Youtube personalities and internet celebrities aren’t passionate about what they do, it’s just to remember that they are in fact getting paid in some way or another for sharing the life they live. You may have a 9 to 5 job which you love, and so do they, it’s just that theirs looks a lot different than yours. We all know not to believe everything we see on social media, yet I found myself succumbing to what I thought was the casual and more “real” side of this social media. It wasn’t Hollywood and red carpets, but it was still far from what everyday reality looks like. It only goes to show that the contexts in which this “realness” is shared can completely change the meaning.
All in all, this was just a friendly reminder — if not for you, then for me, that the next time you see your favorite influencer posting about their workout or tagging details of their outfit, while you’re laying in bed scrolling through your phone, don’t feel bad about it. Instead, acknowledge the fact that they’re doing their jobs, and they’re simply good at what they do.