Under the Influence: How Social Media Affects Our Style and How to Stay Yourself

By Emily Phillips

I often find myself staring at my closet; it looks as if a hurricane has hit. I’m standing half dressed, sweaters and inside out jeans concealing the floor by my feet, surrounded by a thick layer of absolutely nothing to wear.

So what do I do now? I’ve gone through everything I own and not even a single earring inspires me. This is where I turn around, and pick up my phone off the bed where it plays the most recent alternative tunes. I enter my passcode, and as soon as my screen opens, my finger is tapping on Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin’, or even Snapchat. On my social media accounts I look for something/someone to inspire my style; celebrities, bloggers, Youtubers, and other social influencers. I scroll through my feed catching glimpses of light wash, ripped denim and overpriced blouses. I imagine myself wearing those same outfits, and from this, I suddenly re-discover the pants to my left and the top I never even considered pairing together.

And as I scroll through my feed I see a recent photo of supermodel and ‘it’ girl, Gigi Hadid, wearing a casual red hoodie I would never wear, and will probably never be able to afford. But, what do I do next? I open my laptop and order something very similar and extremely unnecessary. I’ll probably never even wear it, but I mean, Gigi wore it so I have to too, right? It is Gigi after all.

I begin to build a wardrobe, inspired by all my favourite public figures. Outfits and clothing articles, all seen before, paired together just the way the members of the Kardashian family, the royals of the US, did before me. 

What my eyes have seen, on the tiny little screen called a smart phone, has somehow helped me to make a decision on what to wear. I’ve paired together something unoriginal – copied, and purchased some new additions to my wardrobe.  I seem to lose my sense of personal style, simply because of social media. But, maybe my personal style isn’t lost, maybe it’s just developing. And maybe social media will play a huge part in how I chose to dress.   

Social media affects us in ways we don’t even realize. Maybe we haven’t looked at our phones all day, but still, when we open up that closet looking for something to wear, we put together outfits that our brain has subconsciously stored as ‘in style’ or socially acceptable. Many of our decisions on where to go and what to eat are based off what we’ve seen before. Our brains take snapshots of the screens we observe nearly 24/7, and save the images for later, so we know what is ‘hot’ and what is ‘not’.

The people whose posts influence us, people generally of a huge following are referred to as influencers. According to Jill Buchner of the Canadian ‘FASHION’ magazine, “53 percent of readers define an influencer as someone who persuades people to buy or experience something because he/she is well-connected and considered an expert in a particular field, while 38 percent defined an influencer as someone who influences people to try, buy, or experience something whether or not he/she has a next-level online following.” Maybe it is the sponsored posts or the photos captured in their lives that tells us how to dress, but we don’t have to conform. We can still be original.

Most of us copy people for a sense of approval and to fit in. When someone of a great following deems an outfit or product as ‘great’, we believe them. We are under their influence. Following blindly like zombies or clones. To find your own, individual style, without unfollowing all public figures or deleting your social media, all you have to do is mix it up a little. Don’t allow yourself to copy outfits exactly. Add some of your own flare; jewelry, a fancy hairpiece, suede heels. Try bold colours, graphics or embroidery. You can still look to your phone for inspiration, but don’t let that be your sole source of inspiration. Be inspired by your friends and your family, photography or art. Let yourself find a personal style that suits you.  Maybe you like to wear suits, or dress in a sort of masculine-chic way. Go for it! Just remember to dress for yourself. That’s what I do. Even as the buzz of social media continues in the background, I find myself changing it up. Who wants to be an exact copy of someone else anyway? Only the people who have yet to find themselves, amongst the blog posts and Snapchats. So, dress for yourself, and stay sober of the media. You are beautiful, no matter what you wear.