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Reel vs Real Influencers - What are The Struggles of Social Media Creators for Being Authentic

This research, led by Cornell University, delves into the challenges faced by content creators on social media platforms.

It highlights the paradoxical nature of platforms that reward authenticity and vulnerability while exposing creators to identity-based harassment.

The study explores the dynamics between influencers, social media platforms, and the politics of vulnerability in the digital space.

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  1. Value of Vulnerability for Content Creators:
    • Social media influencers heavily rely on authenticity to connect with audiences. The study underscores that revealing personal vulnerabilities, insecurities, and secrets is a key strategy for influencers to build intimacy and authenticity. However, this also makes them susceptible to identity-based harassment.
  2. Identity-Based Attacks and Vulnerabilities:
    • Authentic revelations by content creators, often tied to their personal identities, can lead to attacks based on gender, race, sexuality, and other perceived traits.
  3. Lack of Formal Support for Creators:
    • Content creators, categorized as independent contractors rather than employees of platforms like Meta, Twitch, and TikTok, lack formal sources of support and protection. This study highlights the absence of workplace protections typically afforded to employees, leaving creators exposed to the negative consequences of their online presence.
  4. Informal Strategies to Manage Vulnerabilities:
    • The research examines informal strategies employed by creators to manage vulnerabilities. These include anticipatory measures such as using platform filtering systems to screen out abusive language and reactive measures like avoiding comments or utilizing platform tools to minimize the impact of criticism.
  5. Challenges in Resolving Harassment Issues:
    • The study acknowledges the complex challenges of addressing internet hate and harassment. It emphasizes that for participants in the creator economy, "getting off the internet" is not a viable option. The research offers a cautionary note to those aspiring to enter the creator economy, highlighting the less egalitarian nature of the politics of visibility and vulnerability on platforms.

In essence, the study reveals the intricate interplay between vulnerability, authenticity, and identity-based harassment in the world of content creation on social media platforms.

This article originally appeared in the Psych email newsletter.