What the Hell Are: Fake Online Influencers

11 November 2019

By Jack McArdle

Online influencers are a great way for advertisers to reach a young audience. Through a quick Instagram story, or a five minute YouTube video, a product can get more attention than a New York City billboard. However, a recent phenomenon in this influencer ordeal is that some don’t actually exist.

Fake online influencers are a fresh idea that involves a simulated model essentially living a real life. By way of clever and concise editing, these ‘people’ can travel across the world – all from one computer screen.


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The most popular example of what I’m talking about is ‘Lil Miquela’, a virtual model and singer created by the company Brud Inc., in the United States. Miquela is portrayed as a music artist from California, as well as an Instagram model. With over 1.7 million followers, Miquela’s posts can reach an audience which many real people cannot.

She is regularly used to advertise make-up, clothes and events. This is all included on her page amongst many promiscuous bikini photographs, for all to double-tap.

This could truly be the future of advertising, with the actual quality of the model being so realistic that many will believe that Miquela does actually walk around the streets of California, meeting real people like Lauv and Maisa Silva on a daily basis. But just how worrying is this?

In one mind, this is a genius idea, but in another, it’s completely tarnishing the privilege of social media that we never used to have. Lil Miquela’s creators have complete control over what she does, so advertisers love the fact that ‘no’ is never an answer. It’s a moneymaking machine, growing faster than you could imagine.

On the other hand, these influencers can be seen as an online threat to young children who are just getting into social media. These influencers can easily manipulate a young audience and damage their mental health.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist for Internet Matters, says: “The virtual influencer gives brands and corporations the ability to create posts that feature perfect boys and girls who can speak to a large young audience at the click of a button. This potentially allows companies to easily manipulate young people by using live data to create the most influential series of images.”

Children will always have role models to look up to. However, if these role models are created solely for advertising and have the perfect-this and perfect-that, what thoughts will this place in the minds of young people?

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