By Shazad Hussain
Life as an Instagram influencer isn’t always as glamorous as it appears, according to Birmingham fashionista Jestina Davies.
The 22-year-old blogger, whose JustJestina account has more than 2,000 followers, admits the intense pressure of constantly having to look good – and uploading daily pictures of herself wearing the latest fashion is a huge part of online brand promotion.
But the need to keep followers happy while keeping up with rival influencers can easily lead to unwanted habits like spending too much money on too many clothes.
“The pressure comes from within because it’s to look good for the public, look good for yourself and you want to reach a certain standard in terms of how you present yourself.
“Back in 2017 when I was trying to get a platform, I was shopping all the time to get to where I am now.
“All the people you’re following are buying expensive stuff and you want to keep up with them and buy the same things.”
Davies, who is studying Public Affairs in her final year at Birmingham City University, says humans are reactive and we don’t realise that our interests have enough power to dictate how we respond to such emotions.
“When I’m upset, I’ll load up my computer, go on a clothing website and shop. When I’m happy I’ll shop, when I’m sad I’ll shop, when I’m angry I’ll shop, and it’s a continuous cycle of spending money.
“You want to constantly feel good; when you look good, you feel good.
“When you get the package that you ordered, it feels nice and you’re taking pictures of your package. But after you take that first picture of you wearing it, you can’t wear it anymore because people have already seen the outfit and the novelty wears off.
“It’s like a drug; it begins when you first buy something. When you buy your first eyeliner and you really love it, naturally you buy it again, buy it again, buy it again, buy it again.
“But also, there’s the addiction of trying out a product or a dress that you’ve seen and then you just want to try, try, try, do, do, do. It’s something within you as an individual.”
One of the biggest challenges for social media influencers, says Jestina, is how easy bank cards have made it for people to spend based off what they see rather than what they need.
“A bank card is one of the reasons why it’s so easy to spend, and the way society works nowadays everything is at our fingertips.
“It’s contactless and everything’s on our phone. It’s there in your hand and the money is readily available. For instance, you can easily order an Uber to get home and that’s money gone.”
“Another thing that ropes you in to spending is seeing other social media influencers doing so successful.
“That makes it more tempting to go on a shopping spree to impress your followers, to update your social media feeds, to attract businesses and promotions and get these big businesses to collaborate with you.
“When I was building my following, I had to look at myself as a brand so it was about using my money from my income to fund my online life.
“There was no income from my online life but I was still just focusing on looking really good.
“You start to pay more attention to finances when you’re a bit older and established, whereas for a young upcomer you just think about the opportunity.”
The viewpoint that social media influencers live luxuriously, Jestina believes, makes it even more difficult to not have a shopping addiction.
“People might think influencers are automatically rich but that perception also means they can’t live by normal means like everyone else.
“As a regular person, you can just use the excuse that you don’t have enough money or that you’re saving up to avoid getting in that situation of going out and spending.
“But as an influencer, I feel that option doesn’t exist to an extent because everyone thinks you’re rich and making money off of social media or YouTube or promotions.
“You’re constantly judged.
“But then on the other hand, I get why they’d feel that way. They see your page, your posts, your travels, your adventures as an escape to get away from their lifestyle. So, in a sense, as a social media influencer, while you’re living for yourself, you’re also living for them and making them happy.”
Public pressure isn’t the only thing that affects social media influencers. Friends and peer pressure can also affect the way you see yourself in comparison to how you want to be seen.
“On platforms like Snapchat and Insta, you’re always posting where you are with your friends, what you’re doing and what shops you’re in. You’ll see your friends posting how they just bought a new bag or new shoes or new clothes and it almost becomes a lifestyle.
“Something I’ve seen a lot of are posts where a group of friends huddle around in a circle at the airport and take a picture of them holding their passports because they’ve just booked a flight together. And that pushes you to do something like that with your mates. Then all of a sudden, you’re losing money on flights, accommodation and new outfits.”
Now that Jestina’s an established name with multiple television appearances under her belt, including on Your Face or Mine, her message for aspiring social media influencers is to put their mental health before the idea of fame and success.
“I think what I’ve learnt from doing this is how social media and looking at what others are doing and then looking at yourself, how much of an impact it can have on your mental health.
“I think it’s more important to do it because you enjoy it and it makes you happy. Whether it’s creating short makeup videos for Instagram or you enjoy bridal modelling or taking pictures of your new outfits.
“But when it gets a bit too much, don’t be afraid to take a break from social media and have a detox from that.”