Is Social Media Normalising Obesity?

Is Social Media Normalising Obesity?

Over the last few years, the ‘perfect’ body image no longer seems to exist. As a society we have learnt to embrace the diversity of women’s bodies, loving every shape, size and skin colour there is. The trend of being supermodel skinny is slowly dying and women are realising to love all the little imperfections that make us unique. It’s funny how history has a way of repeating itself. As we look back over the past few centuries, full figured, curvaceous women like Marilyn Monroe were supposedly the ‘ideal’ body image however a few decades later that soon changed with women being pressurised to look skinny and be a certain weight. In today’s world we’ve come full circle and women are now starting to love themselves for who they are, cherishing every lump and bump they have.

But are we getting a little too comfortable with those few extra pounds?

From the thigh gap trend to the hashtag #thickthighssavelives it has become very common now for individuals to post photos on social media of themselves with next to no clothes on showing off their curves with captions like ‘body positivity’ or ‘love your fat’ which most of the time I’m all here for. Take American popstar Mellissa Viviane Jefferson, professionally known as Lizzo for example. She has become one of the most influential figures in the body positivity movement, constantly posting images of herself on social media flaunting her curvaceous body. I do admit it is a breath of fresh air seeing women of her size so happy in their own skin however let’s be realistic, she is unhealthily overweight and her body size, in my opinion should not be desired. Her attitude towards loving yourself is amazing and it’s exactly the kind of content young women should be seeing these days however is it normalising obesity? Normalising obesity can not only mean that we can’t see it but it’s more likely to happen.

Social media has been utilised for many body positivity campaigns and a very successful one that comes to mind is the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, which aimed to build self confidence in women and young children by involving all kinds of women with realistic bodies from a range of different ethnicities. I feel this was a very smart and empowering campaign that portrayed the right message to women showing that you don’t have to be thin to be considered attractive.

Another campaign that tried to jump on the body positivity bandwagon was Cosmopolitan when they made plus size model, Tess Holliday the front cover of their October 2018 issue. This campaign encountered major backlash as the model was a UK size 26 and people felt it was promoting obesity. One individual who was particularly annoyed about this campaign was TV presenter Piers Morgan who immediately took to social media to voice his outrage. “As Britain battles an ever-worsening obesity crisis, this is the new cover of Cosmo. Apparently, we’re supposed to view it as a ‘huge step forward for body positivity.’ What a load of old baloney. This cover is just as dangerous and misguided as celebrating size zero models,” he wrote on Instagram. 

Now I’m not the biggest Piers Morgan fan but I do have to agree with him on this one. Making the world more obesity friendly helps those who are already obese to feel less stigmatised and improve their self-esteem. The World Health Organization (WHO) regards childhood obesity as one of the most serious global public health challenges for the 21st century. This in fact could be very true if young people are growing up seeing campaigns just like this. I am all for loving yourself and being comfortable with how you look but I don’t agree with promoting an unhealthy body image and allowing people to believe its ok to be overweight as there can be serious health problems that stem from it.

In the UK:

  • 67% of men and 62% of women were classed as overweight or obese in 2017
  • At the age of 10-11 20.1% of kids in the UK are obese and 14.2% overweight

There are many health risks associate with obesity such as:

  • High chance of getting type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Various cancers such as bowl or breast cancer
  • High chance of a stroke
  • High blood pressure

We all know that for most people the desired body image is not to be overweight or obese but the more that social media pushes these images in our face, it’s more likely to become acceptable. I understand that many of these campaigns using plus sized models or influencers showing off their curves on Instagram is a way of showing women they should be comfortable in their skin which is the most important thing. However, it could have a long-term negative effect on young people growing up if they are constantly seeing obesity being promoted in a positive way. What I’m trying to say is that we should not allow social media to brainwash us into thinking as long as we are happy it does not matter how physically healthy we are. It is very much possible that we can get to a place were both our bodies and minds are equally healthy with just a little bit of exercise and a balanced diet every day.

Aloisia Loughran is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Social Media influencers are taking over the world!!!

Social Media influencers are taking over the world!!!

Using social media influencers as a marketing tactic is a very popular and effective method to reach a large audience and increase brand awareness. Credibility, attractiveness, and relatability are among the key indicators of an influencer’s ability to influence. The rise in social media has changed media consumption massively as the years have went on. On average people use social media each day for at least 1-4 hours a day and let’s be honest, I even notice myself spending way too long scrolling through Instagram making my average daily screen time keep longer and longer!!

Social media influencers engage their audiences in and in their own unique way entice them to keep reading and come back for more content which they would enjoy. I guess we could say an influencer is simply someone who can influence you with the content they produce and their opinions. If you like a person and enjoy what they post you are much more likely to try and be like them, follow in their steps and we could also say ‘copy’ what they do. For instance, let’s say your favourite influencer is wearing an outfit that you really like, you are much more likely to buy this outfit after having seen in on someone you look up too. This is then when all different types of brands will start to sponsor influencers and their content and pay them to makes posts including their products or wearing a piece of clothing so that people will go and buy it.

Influencers need to gain your TRUST. And so they have by expressing their honest opinions about certain products mostly good which makes you want to buy it but also many will express a bad opinion about a product if they did not like it which then will gain a lot more trust from their followers as they will believe that this influencer will only promote what is good and is not just promoting products for the sake of it. They have an audience who listens to them. Social media Influencers have built their following progressively, one by one, this following may have taken years to build up. They are also extremely aware of the wants and needs of their following, so being cautious about what they promote is very important as it’s their reputation that they need to protect, so they should be trusted with what and how it’s promoted. They know their audience and following the best due to building it with their content produced. So, listening to input given by their audience is very important.

With just the touch of a button, people can share, retweet, repost, like content any of their favourite influencers content which in turn raising more recognition of this influencer. If someone is to look past an advertisement of a product an influencer has the capability of making them notice again as if an influencer someone likes and trust says this products is good then they will believe it and possibly purchase for themselves.

Let’s talk about Kylie Jenner – at the young age of 23 Kylie has an outstanding 201 million followers on Instagram, Kylie Jenner is an extremely looked up to on this social media platform. From modelling her and sister Kendalls clothing brand to sponsoring brands such as PUMA to also having her own makeup brand, Kylie Jenner is certainly making a fortune. By demonstrating and testing out her products on her on face this drags people in to the loop of buying what she uses as let’s be real who wouldn’t want to look like Kylie Jenner?

This is one of Kylie Jenner’s lip kits

Isn’t it crazy how influencers use the internet and social media to earn a living but could you imagine if one day everyone got fed up with the likes of Instagram and other social media platforms? What would happen then? I know it is very unlikely as social media as become a huge part in everyone’s lives but we could always think ‘What if?’. It has happened before… Who remembers BEBO?

Alisha O’Hagan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter.

Corporations and Performative Activism on Black Lives Matter (BLM)

Corporations and Performative Activism on Black Lives Matter (BLM)

I remember waking up on the 25th of May 2020 thinking it would be another monotonous day in lockdown but it is a day that shocked millions around the world, the day George Floyd was murdered by members of the Minneapolis Police Department and the ensuing outrage as a result of this awful injustice which spilled over onto social media, this is where I was first introduced to performative activism. Performative activism can be defined as when an individual acts out of a desire to increase their own social capital rather than out of true devotion to a cause.

Since then it has become an ever-increasing trend to “perform” activism. This is a simple task that can come in many different forms, whether that be posting a black square on your Instagram, retweeting a post calling for the killers of Breonna Taylor to be brought to justice or following a page that creates generic social media posts made for Instagram or snapchat stories. From there it is nothing more than a copy and paste activity and after you have posted a few quotes or pictures you are now an activist. Being a modern-day activist seems to be about saying more while doing less. As a result, it establishes a culture where one can carry on the charade of caring. It creates a world where people believe that by posting a black square on Instagram that they will help to end injustice and racism. This act can be seen as the epitome of performative activism, over 29 million people participated in #blackouttuesday and posted a black square on their Instagram, however the online petition to bring justice for George Floyd received fewer than 20 million signatures. Unfortunately, businesses and brands are also held to these measly standards despite many exploiting the very people they claim to support. As a result, this allows brands to repeat popular phrases of support and offer a hollow condolence to the victims. Again, this is all performative and does little to further the cause, instead this is simply a marketing ploy by corporations wanting to cash in on the latest “trend”.

Even as recently as a decade ago it may have been an extremely risky marketing decision for a business to have a political alignment. However, as the line between politics and profit becomes ever more blurred companies will try to gain from these “trends”. This can be seen in companies such as L’Oréal, who on June 1st posted “Speaking Out is Worth It” in support of Black Lives Matter. The irony is that the company had previously fired a black transgender model called Munroe Bergdorf after she spoke out against white supremacy in 2017. These hypocritical and performative displays also take place in sport as seen in the NFL. After Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the US national anthem to protest police brutality and has since been blacklisted by the NFL. The organisation then posted a message condemning police brutality this year. This can also be closer to home with the Football Authority who historically have dealt with instances of racism poorly as can be seen in the handling of Luis Suarez while he was playing in the Premier League, he received a ten-match ban for biting an opponent but only an eight match ban for racially abusing an opponent. This is despite their recent performative attempts to show support for black lives by having Black Lives Matter printed on all Premier League shirts.

In stark contrast to L’Oréal is Ben and Jerry’s, the company has taken the morally astute high ground and outright condemned white supremacy within America. They worked with several advocacy groups on how to best phrase the unequivocal takedown of racial discrimination and injustice. They have long been an ally to the Black Lives Matter cause and have prioritised racial justice as one of the main issues the company cares about. They also have several articles on their page educating people on BLM and have a page showing you how to donate money to different organisations. A sport that has performed more than the bare minimum for the BLM cause is the NBA. The athletes in the NBA are overwhelmingly diverse with around 75% of athletes being black as a result they have used their platform to encourage voting. They do this by creating portals to simplify voter registration, using their arenas as polling centers and giving free parking to those who need it. These examples show that it is unlikely these corporations will be able to dismantle racial inequality alone, however this shouldn’t stop them taking part. I believe that every big corporation and has a social responsibility and should exercise it. They should look from within and locate any problem areas they may have and address them. These problem areas could include a lack of diversity in managerial roles, working down to pay disparities. There should be training to create a more accommodating workplace for people of colour. Corporations will need to assess the impact they have on the black community and address the damage done. Such activism does not need to be flaunted on Twitter or Instagram but instead, in time, should speak for itself. As actual activism can only take place for the right reasons.

Joel Currie is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

The Royal Resurgence – How the Windsor’s used Instagram to ‘get down with the kids’

The Royal Resurgence – How the Windsor’s used Instagram to ‘get down with the kids’

Being the ruling family doesn’t necessarily mean that your subjects are likely to like you. This is most certainly the case when it comes to the Windsor’s. Since the Queen came to the throne in 1952 they have had their fair share of PR disasters which have needed a lot of ‘fixing’.  Most recently they have jumped on the Instagram band wagon and have embraced the platform in all its glory. 

While I’m sure the Queen is not sitting in the throne room, with her IPhone 11, checking to see which filter makes her diamonds sparkle the most, her PR team work incredibly hard in making the Royal family more likeable and more ‘commoner friendly’. Their PR strategy from the outside seems to be quite simple – be transparent. There is little we don’t know about what is going on in the lives of the Senior Royals, these are the ones which we know as full time royals who don’t have other jobs. Daily we see posts and stories about engagements they have taken part in, simple measures like this ensure that we, as normal people, see the royals out and making an effort to highlight causes and to use their status to make a difference. 

Gone are the days where an engagement was only in the media if the newspapers covered it in their pages. Now lesser known organisation is getting exposure to a following in excess of 8.2 million people. Philanthropist projects are often intertwined with personal announcement with births, marriages and condolence remarks made on Instagram meaning instant and widespread acknowledgement of personal changes in their lives. 

While the posts they make are not generally remarkable, they aren’t full of fancy graphics, or their stories aren’t heavily edited but extremely candid and make use of the fact that Instagram is instead a tool for the public to look in to the lives of the higher class and to feel a part of that in ways in which they haven’t done before. 

Given the recent scandals facing members of the royal family having a strong following amassed across social media and being able to be honest and frank with them is going to be especially important for the new era of the monarchy and how they are perceived in future generations.  It is not enough for the members of the royal family to be respected by the public purely because they were born royal, or that they married royal anymore. The image which the public has of them makes a huge difference as to how they are perceived. The perfect example of this is Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Up until 18 months ago she was in many ways a minor cog in the huge machine that is royalty and has won the hearts of the public and has been seen to be upping her workload with ‘The Firm’ and being down to earth with the causes and the people she meets.

They have mastered Instagram, writing their own book on what the world sees rather than what the mass media chooses to print. Will we see the Royal Coat of Arms on a TikTok profile next?

Niamh Magee is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter and Linkedin

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social Media Marketing And The Instagram Algorithm

Social media can be an excellent tool for outlining what your business stands for, what your over arching values are. It helps identify quickly the ideal client base to start building relationships with. Social media for business is a sustainable way to reach the right demographics, audience and keep in touch with them while increasing brand visibility.

Social Media Marketing is multi-faceted and encompasses many different forms across the relevant platforms, there is something to suit any kind of business. Whether that is Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook – all can be essential, when utilised correctly, in building long term brand relationships and reaching key clients. Having someone within your company’s marketing team that understands these platforms is crucial in ensuring that this is well executed.

There is a lot of talk on social media about algorithms and how they affect reach on social media platforms. Most notably Instagram, the platform that changed its chronological algorithm back in 2016 to a more calculated and engagement driven algorithmic feed – like Facebook’s. This was met with an uproar from those who businesses relied on their Instagram posts being received by their followers. The new algorithm meant a serious drop in engagement and at times less than 7% of followers seeing posts from Instagram accounts. For e-commerce businesses and influencers alike, whose income and business model depended heavily in engagement and reach this was a very negative change on the part of Instagram. Ever since this the topic of the algorithm has been one of serious contention.

The rise of social media for business and many people running successful businesses as a result of a well engaged audience and large following has meant the subject of the algorithm is always relevant. Even the biggest of influencers and e-commerce accounts can be found mentioning the algorithm and how it has effected their specific reason for using Instagram. The contention comes with the argument that users are complaining about the technical side of the app and not looking upon what they could be doing wrong.

A quick google search will bring up a plethora of articles that discuss what the current algorithm means and how to utilise it for best engagement. Top tips on why it is perhaps the user’s fault that their engagement is lower and how they can improve their content to tackle this decline. Tip such as, increase photo quality, consistency in posting, engaging with every comment on your posts and making use of al the functions that the app offers. The theory is that Instagram favours those that use the app as a community style hub. Those that go live, use the direct messaging service and engage with relevant content within their niche.

Finding your Instagram niche seems to be a key way of conquering issues with the algorithm, there are excellent examples of account users going ‘viral’ as such due to those in their niche. A recent example here in Northern Ireland is an Instagram account Smyth Sisters, run by local influencer Marianne Smyth. In an attempt to get the much coveted 10K followers, that offers the swipe up link to accounts, she had her account shared by some larger accounts within her niche. Her niche being minimalist fashion and styling high-street clothes. Due to her account connecting with the algorithm at the right time and style her account was reached by many large accounts that then went on to share her also. Within 6 weeks her account reached 150K an increase of over 144K followers, subsequently jumping further to 282K in under 10 months. 

This is a very specific and rare example but nonetheless a true showcase of how the new algorithm when championed can be exceptionally effective. So maybe the answer on how to champion the issue of algorithm is simply be your best digital self?

Maria Macfarlane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter.

How many times can we reinvent the wheel?

How many times can we reinvent the wheel?

When apps first came on the scenes all those years ago it seemed like each app had its own niche. These new apps wiped out the old social media sites like Bebo (who remembers that one) and brought with it the new social media age when we didn’t have to sit at a computer screen to connect, we could do it wherever and whenever we liked.  

But now it seems like all of these apps are morphing into different versions of each other. Instagram has recently announced “Instagram Guides” which is, in a nutshell, blogging on Instagram. While this feature has been about for a while but has only been released to all accounts from November 2020 it’s hard to understand how this will be a part of the platform which will really take off. To begin with the appeal of Instagram was its quick and easy nature – snap a picture and post it, caption optional. Now with the introduction of longer posts with more information to take in will this turn out to be a curse on Instagram’s behalf. 

In a new venture for Twitter, they have now introduced stories. So, moving on from their USP of 140-character posts you can now post stories. Stories are now featuring on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Linked In. So, the question would be how many stories can one person tell? Surely, it’s obvious that some features are better suited to some apps and not so well suited to others. 

With the difference between apps becoming less distinguishable, from a PR perspective, does this make all of these apps equally as viable for pushing content out on? Will business start to push content out on Linked In stories, even though stories have been closely associated with Snapchat and Instagram and are usually used for short, snappy not necessarily very important content. 

Will we now start to see a linear approach to digital communication where business won’t need to change their posting tactics to suit the general approach to each app. It could be a possibility in years to come that instead of seeing business change things up between different social media apps that it will be one generic post posted across 4 or 5 platforms, solely for the fact that these apps have become so similar in the last 12 months. 

Niamh Magee is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Twitter and LinkedIn

MOLLY-MAE LEADS THE WAY

MOLLY-MAE LEADS THE WAY

Who runs the world? Influencers.

It is undeniable that social media has become an obligatory part of our everyday lives. According to wearesocial.com, more than 3.8 billion people use social media in 2020. *MIND-BLOWN*

A major element of modern social media is influencers. Influencers are individuals who build a following on social media, based on their opinions and expertise on a specific topic, most commonly fashion, fitness or beauty related. Influencers post regularly, generating huge exposure from their loyal followers.

Molly-Mae Hague, you either know everything about her, or nothing at all. That is the beauty of influencers; megastars to their interested audience but not quite A-Lister household names. Molly-Mae is a 21-year-old, Social Media Influencer from Hertfordshire, who rose to fame in 2019 as a contestant on the UK hit series, Love Island.

Love Island has been known as a ‘gateway’ for Social Media Influencers to gain a higher following, overpowering the shows initial goal of finding ‘love’. Molly-Mae did not shy away from this and has since openly admitted that initially Love Island was simply a “business venture” to further her career in Influencer Marketing.

Molly-Mae’s career has gone from strength to strength, making her the most successful contestant to leave the show. This however is no accident, it is a result of meticulous planning, content creating and professional endeavours.

Upon leaving the villa, Molly-Mae’s business venture had already proven extremely successful, with all of the UK top clothing brands aiming to secure a deal with her. After considering her options, Molly-Mae signed an incredible £500,000 deal with Manchester based fashion company, Pretty Little Thing. This was the highest brand deal a 2019 Love Island contestant generated.

As Molly-Mae’s Pretty Little Thing collaboration rolled out, the brand found their sales increase dramatically, with the range selling out immediately. This therefore resulted in Molly Mae receiving another six-figure deal to extend the collaboration for an extra six months.

Molly-Mae donated all profits from one of her Pretty Little Thing collections to the mental health charity MIND following the death of friend and Love Island host, Caroline Flack. MIND provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing mental health problems. The charity campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding surrounding mental health.

The decision to donate all profits to MIND was a personal decision for Molly-Mae, due to the death her close friend. Doing this allowed Molly-Mae to use her huge platform to promote the importance of mental health awareness and understanding. Molly-Mae engages with a lot of young people through her social media following, maintaining a positive reputation and a high level of influence. It is important to target her following with important issues, encouraging them to speak out about their mental health.

On the back of her partnership with Pretty Little Thing, it was clear that Molly-Mae was a big hit. To ensure she captured her success at a high point, Molly-Mae decided to embark on her very own business venture. With a target audience in mind, through commitment and dedication, she successfully launched her very own tanning brand, Filter by Molly-Mae.

Filter is a collection of tanning products. However, some eager eyed fans have noticed the brand is listed on Endole as a ‘wholesale of perfume and cosmetics’, which gives them the rights to expand the range into a cosmetic and beauty brand. This expansion has been successfully carried out by many brands. Local brand bPerfect Cosmetics did exactly this, expanding their tanning brand into a makeup cosmetics line and most recently, opening a Mega Store in Belfast City Centre. *No pressure Molly-Mae*

In September 2020, Molly-Mae hit the significant milestone of one million subscribers on her ever-growing Youtube channel, where she documents her life through daily vlogs, behind the scenes on business ventures as well as hair, makeup and fashion tutorials.

It could be argued that Youtube is an extremely vital part in Molly-Mae’s success. Her loyal followers were introduced to her through Love Island, a TV show that followed her daily life, every day, for over two months. Therefore, people may feel that they know Molly-Mae on a more personal level and her Youtube ensures this relationship is continued.

To celebrate this milestone, Molly-Mae launched a huge giveaway on her Instagram account. This giveaway boasted £8,000 worth of prizes, with Louis Vuitton bags, Apple gadgets, as well as her tanning products from Filter by Molly-Mae.

Giveaways are an immediate way to create engagement on social media, with many influencers participating in brand collaboration giveaways. Collaborations benefit both the brand and the influencer, with brand specific prizes and entry requirements that increase following and engagement for both.

Molly-Mae decided to cut out the ‘middle-man’ and set up the giveaway on her own. This allowed her to include authentic prizes that were directly related to her personality, her brand and her followers’ interests. Doing this also allowed Molly-Mae to stay clear of the typical, robotic perception that comes with giveaways. She ensured her caption was sincere, including a message of gratitude to existing followers.

Molly-Mae posing with her £8,000 giveaway prize on Instagram.

The entry requirements on the giveaway were as follows:

  • Like this post & tag a friend
  • Subscribe to my Youtube channel
  • Make sure you’re following @mollymaehague and @filterbymollymae
  • Share this post to your story for a bonus entry

These entry requirements ensured multi-networking which generated a high level of engagement, increasing social media following, as well as building brand awareness for Filter by Molly-Mae.

The giveaway also created headlines for the tabloids, keeping Molly-Mae in the public eye. It is very important that influencers show commitment and dedication to content creation in order to maintain their public image. This is especially important in 2020, with events, launches and media appearances being minimal due to COVID-19.

Molly-Mae’s vision for the future was impeccable and the aim of this giveaway was certainty achieved, with the total entry level reaching almost THREE MILLION, her personal Instagram gaining over 200,000 new followers and 300,000 new Youtube subscribers.

Both her personal Instagram and Youtube account will benefit greatly from this surge in followers through an increase of sponsored posts as well as an increase in earnings through social media insights and engagements.

The biggest success to come out of the giveaway has been the increase in Instagram followers for her tanning brand. Filter by Molly-Mae gained a mind-blowing 500,000 followers and counting. Yes, that is correct – 500,000!

Social media giveaways are an effective way to generate engagement with a loyal, existing audience, as well as a way to reach out to new people. Molly-Mae utilised people’s desire to participate in competitions to increase engagement for her new brand, Filter by Molly-Mae. She done this at a time where her fame and engagement were high, gaining public exposure at a time where this is limited.

To be sure she obtains the benefits of her giveaway and retains the increase in engagement, it is essential that Molly-Mae develops strategic communication tactics to build a relationship with new followers, as they are not required to continue following her once the competition has ended. It is important that she remains consistent, sharing user generated content, as well as asking for feedback and recommendations.

As soon as the winner of the giveaway was announced, Molly-Mae was already forward-planning, building excitement for the next one on social media. This is the perfect way to keep followers, old and new interested. However, if the next prize is anything like the first… who wouldn’t be interested?

I have a good feeling about the next one… if you see me out and about in the near future with a 4-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set or Apple gadget bundle… thanks Molly-Mae!

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Social Media – Is it the real Pandemic?

Social media is arguably one of the most powerful tools in our society today and I can’t deny throughout the pandemic it has done a lot of good as we all tried to make the best of a horrible year. It has given us a platform to voice our opinions and concerns and connect with loved ones from all over the world in the form of weekly zoom quizzes. Even just sending each other adorable puppy videos has brightened some of our darker days as we muddle through these unprecedented times. However, it is important to address how Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and the pressures that are associated with the overuse of these platforms can be all-consuming, draining, and impact our mental health negatively, particularly during lockdown when we are alone and forced to deal with our thoughts.

Endless, mind-numbing scrolling and switching from app to app on our smartphones has become an addiction for our generation and as we find ourselves planted in the middle of another lockdown, ask yourself this; could you spend a whole day without visiting either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter? Your answer is probably very much like mine; a no, but we aren’t alone. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2018, 63% of the 743 young adults interviewed said they use social media every day, while 45% say they are on the internet “almost constantly”. Scary. Our smartphones have become an extension of our arms and at the touch of a button we have access to millions of tiny squares filled with pictures and videos of beautiful people in beautiful places, doing beautiful things, looking beautifully happy. Sometimes these tiny squares can make us compare our lives to others, belittle ourselves and even feel like less of a person but it is important to remember that we don’t see these people when they are sick or having a bad day. It is great to see people thriving and living their best lives but it is ok if you aren’t thriving and living YOUR best life right now.

Thanks to social media and in particular Instagram, we have this warped unrealistic image engraved in our brain of what our lives should look like. Through the introduction of influencers and large social media personalities promoting all the latest garments and gadgets, it can be easy to inhabit an unhealthy ‘I want to be like them’ attitude. We think if we have a life like theirs then we’ll be happy – if we buy that overpriced designer item, we’ll be happy, if we go on that holiday, we’ll be happy, if we have a relationship like theirs, we’ll be happy, if we look like that influencer or work ourselves silly in the gym to have a body like theirs, we’ll be happy. There is SO much to think about today and trends are constantly changing so unfortunately there will always be another we may feel pressured to follow. However, it can be helpful to take a step back, put things into perspective and realise that the celebrities who appear to have the ‘perfect life’ are human too and the impact social media has on their mental health can be just as detrimental.

In 2017, Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner opened up to Dr. Phil McGraw about how her long-term depression worsened during her fourth year on the show just as the use of social media was on the rise. Describing social media as a ‘catalyst’, she stated that trolls would take to Instagram to make comments about her skin, weight and acting abilities which “impacted how she did her job and how she interacted with the world”. I know right? You may be scratching your head thinking ‘Why is this Queen feeling like this?’ Once again though, Sophie Turner isn’t alone. According to a survey carried out in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health, a lot of young adults who fall within the 14–24-year-old age bracket agree that their wellbeing is being damaged by social media, and platforms including Twitter and Instagram invoke anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation. This may be because the days when we could live and let live are gone. When we post something on social media we almost invite opinions into our lives – everyone has an opinion on everything so it isn’t hard to see how social media has created this culture of anxiety which can often stop us from doing the things we want to do. (Side note: try not to let this be the case. You do you. We have a limited time on this earth so there is literally ZERO point wasting it worrying about the opinions of others – make that instagram page, write that blog post, share your talents with the world! Could you imagine if Sophie Turner had listened to all of those trolls who told her to stop acting? Game of Thrones simply just wouldn’t be the same!)

On the other hand, throughout the years I’ve seen celebrities use social media as a platform to address mental health issues. Little Mix band member Perrie Edwards took to Instagram to share her personal experience with anxiety and debilitating panic attacks and how restricting the time she spent on social media helped combat her mental health issues. For me, Perrie’s brave post only highlights further how from the outside looking in, someone can appear to ‘have it all’ and still struggle behind closed doors. Instagram is a highlight reel and the happiness we see is only a tiny glimpse into these peoples’ lives.

The reality is that life is not how it is portrayed on social media and as most of us have come to realise in 2020, it is not all highs, sunshine and rainbows and we don’t know what lies behind a screen. As my granny always says, “everyone has their own cross to bear” but now more than ever, it is so important to not only be kind to others, but also ourselves.

I could write a lot more on this topic, but for now I want to finish with one piece of advice for lockdown number two; if you begin to feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic by social media, seeing everyone using this time to better themselves and you feel you don’t have that same motivation or if you’re just sick of hearing about COVID-19 – turn it off, go for a walk, talk to someone you trust or do something that will make you feel relaxed.

I have listed a number of resources below if you or someone you know has been struggling recently. We are living through scary times and our thoughts can make them seem even scarier. Be kind to your mind and stay safe during this lockdown.

Anxiety UK
Mind
Rethink Mental Illness
Samaritans

YoungMinds
www.anxietyuk.org.uk
www.mind.org.uk
www.rethink.org
www.samaritans.org.uk
https://youngminds.org.uk

Katie McKeown is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ktmckeown_/ and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-mc-keown-89bb72189/

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

Celebrities, social opinion, and the political sphere.

For added support, just chuck a ‘Rock’ at it.

Years ago, before the introduction of social media, we all relied on the information provided to us by media outlets like television, tabloid, newspapers, radio and the like to help us understand the world and form our opinions. In the present day, the reliance on these regulated forms of media may still be important in the formation of public opinion, particularly with the older generations, however it appears that social media has introduced an immediate two-way conversation between celebrities and their fans that never existed until recently; a type of democratisation of a fan club in real-time.

Celebrities crossing over from their usual world of popularity into the political sphere to use their huge fan-base to help influence the outcome of an upcoming election or even to simply make a political statement, is not uncommon.

Marlon Brando in 1973, was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather. In his stead, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather. In protest against the long-standing failure for the USA to honour the treaties it had made with Native American nations and as a proclamation against the stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans in TV and film, she refused the award on Marlon’s behalf. Before this, politics had been pretty much left out of the Oscars, and worryingly for The Academy, on the night, Sacheen’s words were met with a mixture of booing and applause.

This show of ‘political shenanigans’ prompted the Academy, who were fearing a PR disaster, to ban any future award recipients from sending proxies on their behalf. There have been many other occasions where outside politics have taken centre stage at the Oscars. Who can forget Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in 1993, and the fine performance of Michael Moore in 2003. Yes, not exactly politics as such, but certainly showing how one human can have a strong influence on matters.

Meanwhile in politics

In 1966, an actor who starred in such films as ‘The Bad Man’ called Ronald Regan was elected Governor of California and later became the President of the United States. Moving through the years, in 2008, Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney openly and loudly endorsed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; as of yet, neither of them have opted run for President, but who knows? During the same campaign, American musician Hank Williams Jr chose to write a song, endorsing Senator John McCain’s campaign.

Chucking A ‘Rock’ At The Election

Recently, on Sunday, Sept. 27 2020, The Rock, a man who certainly knows how to spin his own PR, decided to post a video on Instagram that was far different from anything he had posted before. In his own words, “it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”. He wanted his followers “to vote blue in the 2020 election”. So with an audience of 190 million, he officially endorsed former VP Joe Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.  

His caption read “As a political independent and centrist for many years, I’ve voted for Democrats in the past and as well as Republican. In this critical election, I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the best to lead our country, and as my first ever (public) Presidential endorsement, I proudly endorse them for the presidential office of our United States.” At the time of the post, The Rock had 198 million followers on Instagram, and with him rumoured to earn up to $1 million per sponsored Instagram post, he has a lot sway in the world of social media.

“it expressed a message near and dear to my heart”

Prior to this post, when The Rock posted content, his millions of adoring fans would applaud him with nothing but kind words and platitudes, however this post changed everything.

A Rolling Rock Obviously Gathers No Moss

Many Trump fans took to his account to leave their comments of dislike, and to praise their man-child of a President. Did it harm his account?

Actually no. It has grown even more, to well over 200 million. So exactly how can we define that success? In votes? In followers? Just how influential was his message in shaping the political landscape? It is near impossible to measure. It’s not like there are statisticians standing outside each polling station waiting to ask every voter questions like “which celebrity influenced your vote”?

Public attitudes.

A recent study by the YouGov-Cambridge Centre concluded that only 14% of British voters think social media is good for society.

In the same study it shows clearly that many voters actually doubt the internet has been positive for political campaigning.

According to another recent study, the USA public attitudes toward political engagement on social media are equally as eye-opening. 42% get involved online with social or political issues that are important to them, while 37% feel that social media offers a place to express their political opinions.

I am not writing this with the suggestion that celebrities should be left out of all political discourse, however I do feel that in a world where celebrities with huge social media reach are role models and supposed policy experts, there is no limit to just much they can influence the shaping of public opinion; particularly with Generation Z.

What about the older citizens? Could older generations start using social media as an online activism tool?  Professor Jen Shradie suggests “Online activism was supposed to be a utopian dream. Rather than rely on big institutions, everyone’s voices were supposed to be heard,” she says. She goes on to suggest that online activism tends to attract the younger generations to engage, not to mention the better educated; and those with the technology and communication skills do tend to get their point across to win online arguments. After all, older generations obviously hold opinions, but many of these may not be getting captured online.

It’s voting time

So, could politically uneducated, yet powerfully influential PR astute celebrities like The Rock be seen as being a potentially dangerous combination in the overall process of forming social opinion within the political sphere? Perhaps, this is a conversation we should be engaging in more often.

Gary Gates is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: LinkedIn – Gary Gates

How David Attenborough is changing the world using modern media, one millennial at a time

How David Attenborough is changing the world using modern media, one millennial at a time
Sir David Attenborough becomes fastest person to reach one million  followers on Instagram

There is likely no one on this earth who has had a life similar to David Attenborough’s. He lived through a world war, was in the navy, has a knighthood and has won countless television awards. From whales to polar bears he has seen it all. Attenborough is now 94, and still wants to help us protect our planet. Even though most people would start slowing down at his age, he feels it is his duty to give us the information we need to save our planet, even if it involves new methods of communication he has never used before.

I first remember seeing Attenborough every Sunday night after my roast dinner on Planet Earth. I always was amazed by his voice and his complete love for the animals but above all his knowledge. He talks about how he has known there was a problem for years but wanted to have researched it to the absolute max before he got his message out and to know the best forms of communication to get it out. I think this is the most impressive thing about him. Given the current state of the environment, it is imperative that something is done to stop the continual destruction of the planet. David Attenborough knows this, but more importantly, knows that the people who could actually make the difference are not the older generations, but the millennials. He has realised it is something that we need to be brought up with and that the solutions must be given before people have a chance to make the mistakes. From his advertising and marketing for his new Netflix film, this is abundantly clear.

Sir David Attenborough breaks Instagram record for fastest time to reach  one million followers | Guinness World Records

On the 24th September 2020, Attenborough started his first Instagram account breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest user to Reach one million followers in just four hours and forty-four minutes. Breaching from the normal forms of communication he has used over the last sixty years, this highlights how he and his marketing team are taking advantage of modern media. This was definitely not a whim from Attenborough so that he can finally post pictures of himself and his friends on holiday, but a stroke of marketing genius. This was exactly the media attention he needed before the release of his Netflix film. It had everyone talking about it, and everyone going to look at his account. When you arrive at his account it is simply flooded with poignant videos highlighting environmental issues. These have all racked up millions of views, which completely proves that social media is now the most effective form of communication there is. This account has enabled him to reach a plethora of people that would not normally be interested in him or the environment.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020) - IMDb

Another very interesting use of modern media is the fact he chose Netflix to stream his new film ‘A Life On Our Planet’ on the 28th September. This is another first for Attenborough, as all his previous shows like Our Planet, were aired on BBC. This again shows that he and his marketing team know television doesn’t have the same traction it used to, especially with younger generations like millennials. I know if I had to chose between Sky and Netflix, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose Netflix. It is also known that families nowadays are scrapping their Sky subscriptions altogether due to its very expensive monthly fees and opting for the much cheaper and more accessible Netflix. I definitely feel like it is difficult today in modern society to find a millennial who doesn’t have access to a Netflix account, whether they have their own or whether they know their friend’s password. This is key in Attenborough’s attempt to make the younger generation aware of the problems in the environment. I found the movie extremely eye opening because I definitely wasn’t aware of the extent of the problem. If we want our kids to live in a better world we need to make changes now.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet | Official Trailer | Netflix -  YouTube

I find this new presentation of Attenborough fascinating as it is easy just to see him as a very old man that my parents talk about sometimes. However after using these new forms of communication, it almost seems like he is more relatable and more in tune with the world as it is now. It seems to add validity to his message as this is how young people get information nowadays. It is also astonishing to see how wide an audience he can really reach, and how quickly he can do so, just by branching out of his comfort zone and away from his usual platforms of advertising. I think he is a great man and has done so much for our planet, I just hope it isn’t too late!

A young Sir David Attenborough | David attenborough young, David  attenborough, Famous faces

Charlotte Cockcroft is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: LinkedIn – Charlotte Cockcroft, Twitter – @Charlottecockcr and Instagram – @charlottecockcroft .