Online Influencers and Maintaining Authenticity

The notion of authenticity is widely debated, what is like to present an authentic self online? how can you maintain being real and honest with a blogging culture that is increasingly powered by advertisements and product endorsements by bloggers and influencers. One thing to consider is the kind of messages an influencer continuously reflects though her or his content, messages like self-acceptance or individual choice, yet maintaining alignment with the industry a blogger/ vlogger is part of whether its fashion, make-up or whatever category.

The Case of Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks can be perceived as a supermodel turned television personality to multimedia businesswoman and social media power girl, she was able to position herself as a role model for young girls to lookup to by telling her personal story as a source of strength and inspiration for females in the United States. She positioned herself as a power girl, at the same time maintaining a distance from feminist movement, nor does she endorse any organization that is lobbying for positive representation of women. She is cleverly able to cultivate an image that embraces feminists’ ideals without relating to them. This act of individual identity unattached to a wider concept helped her to be accepted by the larger society as she is seen as nonthreatening. Her online identity is built around being her true-self, entrepreneurial spirit, and empowerment.

The thing with social media, and its detachment from the constraints of traditional mainstream media is that it helped celebrities like Tyra Banks to build an image of authenticity at the same time not turn her back to the beauty and modeling industry she started from. She positioned herself as an authority figure for female fans on how they can embrace their individual self. Bank’s is cleverly able to produce an identity with her physical image as her brand although she retired from modeling in 2005, while at the same time avoid being critiqued for being a bad role model for young girls.

Celebrity power appears online by many digital-media personalities through their ability to control one’s self online. This stardom level has produced the girl power culture where gaining the highest number of Instagram followers or YouTube views is considered an important achievement.

The authentic self can be achieved through confessional story, just like what Tyra Bank’s did by talking about the hardships she faced with her own image, the aim is to reveal a true self. This leads to the creation of a star intertwined with individual self or the influencer’s character. Think about it this way, prior to the social media influencer culture there was television celebrities which we first got to know them by watching them appear in films or series then we got a closer look about their lives through talk-shows and interviews. Social media influencers don’t go through this process, we learn about them through their posts and content and get a closer understanding of who they are through the narrative they tell us presented through their social media channels, of course, mainstream media introduced itself into the influencer culture and very often we started to see interviews with social media influencers on television (that’s a whole other story about how mainstream media is adapting to social media culture).   

I am not suggesting in any way there is a one right path for how influencers should position themselves and show their authenticity, I am rather sharing my analysis and observations about the economy of influencer and digital identity culture.       

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