#iamwriting · Lifestyle

Instagram culture is creating unrealistic lifestyle expectations for young people 


Another weekday morning, and my alarm goes off at 7:00am. I don’t snooze it, because unfortunately I’m not amongst the select few 20-somethings making money as a fashion/lifestyle blogger. Instead, I sit up in bed and religiously scroll through my various social feeds to get the headlines of friends, celebrities and influencers whose lives I keep tabs on several times a day. Disgruntled that I’m not yet a self-employed ‘it’ girl with a future as bright as my teeth (achieved through an organic tooth-whitening product they were paid to advertise – obvs), off I trudge to my 9-5 office job feeling inadequate, only able to dream of one day making money from sponsored product pictures and guest starring on River Island’s Insta stories.

Instead, I sit up in bed and religiously scroll through my various social feeds to get the headlines of friends, celebrities and influencers whose lives I keep tabs on several times a day. Disgruntled that I’m not yet a self-employed ‘it’ girl with a future as bright as my teeth (achieved through an organic tooth-whitening product they were paid to advertise – obvs), off I trudge to my 9-5 office job feeling inadequate, only able to dream of one day making money from sponsored product pictures and guest starring on River Island’s Insta stories.

It shouldn’t feel like the road less travelled to be working a full-time job in your twenties, and yet as more and more young people pursue freelance careers as bloggers, models, reviewers and marketplace shop owners, it seems increasingly likely that the way millennials and Gen Z define a career will be completely different to how our parents did. Gone are the 9-5 hours working for somebody else… this is the digital age, and dream jobs are ours to take and create for ourselves, rather than be given to somebody more qualified.

This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with self-employment. If you are lucky enough to be scouted in Oxford Street Topshop as a model aged 19, or if an industry person spots your high-performing post on their homepage and offers you a £1500 sponsorship deal in exchange for a few pictures and hashtags, then obviously you would accept that opportunity. You’d be stupid not to, especially as qualifications and degrees no longer secure a well-paid job that covers the bills, and generation rent continue to pine after their first home or even just to move out of the box room at mum and dad’s.

We’re led to believe that starting our own successful business is near impossible, so how is it that self-employed people in their twenties and thirties constantly dominate my social media, and how are successful enough to work completely for themselves? The girl I sat next to throughout my creative writing degree is now a successful photographer, with over 23,000 followers on Instagram and working with brands such as John Lewis and Sainsbury’s. A boy from school is working as a successful illustrator, selling his cards and tote bags via Etsy and Not On The High Street, and seemingly making thousands as he takes his second holiday in as many months. And naturally, I have several friends of friends who proudly introduce themselves as bloggers, earning their living advertising brands and products on their social media platforms, and ‘working’ from coffee shops at 2pm on a Tuesday.

While I’m sure these seemingly thriving freelancers are just as successful as their Instagram accounts would suggest, I’m certain that luck, nepotism and circumstance plays a strong part in these so-called dream careers, and behind the perfectlycomposed squares of insight into their lives, there will be struggle (and either well-off parents, or an unsexy part-time job that never appears on The Gram). I don’t say this out of jealousy (much), or while looking down on these Instagram front-runners as I sit smugly at my desk with job security and a pension plan… I say this out of genuine curiosity. School children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, and it’s no longer spacemen and musicians, but rather bloggers and Youtube stars. So whilethe next generation have plans to follow in the footsteps of this latest trendy career, I can’t help but wonder how long the #ad fad can last?

In ten years time, will the likes of Zoella still be a household name amongst young people? Are brands still interested in working with bloggers as they get older, and arguably less topical? What happens when the paid sponsorship dries out, and the only experience on your CV for the last 2 years is mastering the self-timer on your state of the art camera, and knowing which filter will get you the most engagement? I’m not so sure.

My concern is that impressionable young people, myself included, are scrolling through their phones and being shown constant images of people their age living a non-existent life with no schedule or responsibilities. We believe these influencers are constantly on holiday, always in the gym, or permanently receiving new clothes and cosmetics to try, and we feel we are missing out, to the extent that we max out credit cards and take out bank loans to ‘keep up’ with the lifestyles we have imposed on us from Instagram. We travel to places for the sake of a backdrop in our picture, in which we wear new clothes that we saw through a targeted ad or on a blogger, and convince ourselves this is living.

But truthfully, blogging is just another industry creating a warped sense of living, and just like aspiring DJ’s and actors/actresses before it, blogging will soon being replaced by the latest career trend, and Instagraming a picture of your outfit will be the latest internet faux par.
We believe these influencers are constantly on holiday, always in the gym, or permanently receiving new clothes and cosmetics to try, and we feel we are missing out, to the extent that we max out credit cards and take out bank loans to ‘keep up’ with the lifestyles we have imposed on us from Instagram. We travel to places for the sake of a backdrop in our picture, in which we wear new clothes that we saw through a targeted ad or on a blogger, and convince ourselves this is living.

But truthfully, blogging is just another industry creating a warped sense of living, and just like aspiring DJ’s and actors/actresses before it, blogging will soon being replaced by the latest career trend, and Instagraming a picture of your outfit will be the latest internet faux par.

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