How much influence do “influencers” have?

By Lauren Rex

The University of Findlay has a number of student content creators on campus, from equestrians to photographers to podcasters. They are all working in the realm of what we now know as “influencers.” But not all influencers and content creators have a positive impact on society.

The newest generations are being raised all around screens, influencers, and social media platforms. The two most recent generations are Generation Z, born from 1996 to 2010, and Generation Alpha, born between 2011 and 2025. Most children in these generations have had lives that revolve around electronics, and the platforms that come with them.

A PEW Research Center study states the top three social media platforms are YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. Use of YouTube among teens is near 95%, TikTok is at 67%, and Instagram is north of 60%.

Social media has a wide range of content that ranges from topics such as beauty, food, comedy, video game play, to photography. Anything can be posted on social media – which can be seen as good, or bad according to University of Findlay Director of Marketing and Communications Amy DePuy.

“They can do a lot of good,” DePuy said. “But there are also some bad apples out there in the social media world.”

The National Library of Medicine states that a child’s greatest age of developmental impact is at the median age of 12. In a recent article by Common Sense Media, more than 60% of children around the age of 12 watch online videos, and more than 35% of this age group has some type of social media.

DePuy has two children herself and deals with the effects of social media on young children firsthand. She thinks social media portrays a fantasy but when social media is used for good, it can do a lot of good.

However, children are more impressionable and what they see on social media can cause problems. DePuy believes the best way to prevent trouble is for parents to properly watch what their child does online.

Dr. Megan Adams, Associate Professor of Communications at UF, teaches a number of digital media courses in both the undergraduate and graduate communication majors.

“Within the different industries, there can be pockets of positive and negative,” Adams said.

Adams owns her own company, Homeplace Creative, which focuses on video production, as well as social media account management for clients. She thinks that social media is a great place to meet people, as she has expanded her business this way. But also, she thinks it’s a weird and warped sense of reality.

Adams also thinks it’s interesting how quickly misinformation and conspiracies can spread online, which can be harmful to young children.

“The underbelly of it all is all of the negative,” Adams said. “It can get very dangerous because it can limit critical thinking and expanded perspective.”

Influencers can be both positive and negative DePuy states. An influencer can be a positive influence when they carry themselves well and promote brands in a positive way. However, when influencers become inappropriate, partake in dangerous challenges, and produce negative content, impressionable children see it as normal.

DePuy offers the example of a specific niche influencer who focuses on makeup.

“The ones that make themselves up to look completely unreal, can be pretty harmful,” DePuy said about the influence makeup influencers have on young children. But she thinks the flipside is the creativity it can promote.

“It’s fun to see, but we’ve seen the studies with body image,” Adams said about makeup and beauty influencers. “It’s so detrimental and has such negative effects on mental health.”

Another side is the food, cooking, and baking influencers.

“Food is an area where the most part is safe,” DePuy said. “Most people try to do good.”

However, DePuy states that the negatives of the industry start to arise when influencers say to viewers that they should diet, only eat this, don’t eat that, and limit foods.

A big influencer niche is video games and online gameplay and streaming.

“You have Minecraft, which can promote coding and building, and is a not as violent,” DePuy states. “(But other video games) where people are blowing stuff up and shooting each other; this can be very aggressive and can influence kids the wrong way.”

Claudia Surrena, a college sophomore, believes that social media influencers negatively affected her younger brother.

“So many influencers promote bad things and as a kid he wanted to be like them, he wanted to be ‘cool’,” Surrena said. “It affected his mental health, as well as the image of himself and the way he was trying to act was completely off.”

Adams says that the internet is still growing, and there is no way to truly tell if influencers and social media are harming the youngest generations. Adams says if she had to pick, the negatives of influencers outweigh the positives.