A Fake Instagram Influencer Just Taught Me A Lesson

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Social media influencers, meaning people who are heavily followed on one or more social media accounts, often team up with brands to sell products. This marketing technique is achieved with varying levels of stealth and success. Someone as influential and well-known as Kim Kardashian can cause products to sell out of stock, simply by endorsing the product on Instagram or Twitter. While many campaigns have reached great success by paying influencers to interact with and endorse their products, social health campaigns and other issues of public welfare have worked with influencers far less often, especially if the influencer isn’t an extremely famous celebrity. So far, many brands have been able to successfully market products like clothing, food, or technology through the help of influencers who have 40,000 to 80,000 followers, but social issue campaigns, like voting registration, tend to use high profile celebrities to get their point across.

Addict Aide, a french organization that seeks to prevent substance abuse, decided it wouldn’t be shelling out that kind of money for a high profile campaign endorsement. The solution? They created their own influencer, built her social media presence from the ground up, and then used the fake profile to spread their message.

I don’t follow many influencers on social media. I love their aesthetic profiles, but I prefer for my content feed to be mainly composed of people I know in real life. Yet, when I read an article about Louise Delage, the fake persona created by Addict Aide and their ad agency BETC, I noticed two things: 1. She posted the exact type of content that many of my friends and peers like to follow and  2. Had she been a friend of mine, I would not have noticed anything abnormal about her pictures.

🍸 Cheerz 🍸

A post shared by Louise Delage (@louise.delage) on

But there is something abnormal.

Good Time

A post shared by Louise Delage (@louise.delage) on

She is drinking in every photo she posts.

👀 Look 👀

A post shared by Louise Delage (@louise.delage) on

When you look at all of the photos together, it seems so obvious that the fake character might have a drinking problem, but in real life, people rarely post several photos of themselves drinking, one after the other within a short period of time. You might see a photo from a friend or peer once per week, and it is mixed into your feed with tons of other images. You could be regularly looking at the evidence that someone you know has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and never realize it because you don’t put the pieces together.

Having just turned 21 a couple of weeks ago, I’m acutely aware of my new responsibilities. I can buy a drink or a bottle of wine any time I want, and because I’m a college student, I’m almost constantly surrounded by alcohol (or at the very least, conversation about alcohol, parties, tailgates, and more). At my university, many people are starting to talk more candidly about mental health, but alcoholism and substance abuse are often left out of the conversation. Instead, we treat alcohol abuse like a joke.

Images like these are extremely common on the social media feeds of my peers, and are occasionally given hashtags like #alcoholic for good measure:

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Social media content like this as well as popular TV characters who heavily rely on alcohol such as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development or the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, are supposed to be silly and humorous. Of course this humor trope and normalization of substance abuse also blurs lines when it comes to discerning when someone has an alcohol problem. Many millennials seem to believe that as long as you have a job/make it to class, avoid receiving a DUI, and keep up a healthy appearance, they do not have an alcohol problem and are not in danger of developing one. This is a myth, and it is becoming increasingly important for college students and all young people to be aware that just because you are functioning on a daily basis doesn’t mean you are in the clear. Further, young people need to be better educated on how to spot warning signs of substance abuse in their peers and ways to address them.

For students who experience mental illness, it is paramount that substance use is approached with care, as heavy use of some substances, like alcohol, can worsen depression or anxiety over time. If you notice that you or someone you know seems to be self-medicating a mental problem with alcohol, it is extremely important to find more effective therapies and medication, as the seemingly helpful properties of alcohol won’t last forever.

If you notice that it takes you significantly more alcohol than it used to in order for you to feel tipsy or drunk, that’s another sign you might need to cut back. It’s natural for your body to get continuously more acclimated to alcohol, but if you seem to be building up a tolerance that results in you needing more than a few drinks to feel the effects, you have likely been drinking too heavily. Alcohol limits vary from body to body, so use your discretion and take notes of how many drinks you order at the bar. If the number starts creeping up over the course of a year, its time to cut back.

Finally, know that alcoholism doesn’t happen all at once. You won’t wake up one day and suddenly be an alcoholic. Becoming an addict is a gradual process, which is precisely why many people don’t recognize when their joking love for whiskey and vodka has become a full out addiction. Being drunk on occasion is not a problem, but if you are specifically aiming to get drunk or wasted every time you drink, your relationship with alcohol isn’t healthy. You should be able to enjoy alcohol for its taste or its light effect (i.e. being tipsy at most) without wanting to get constantly drunk. You should also take note that you should avoid drinking alcohol to feel better about something. Sure, if you have a bad day at work, you might want to pour yourself a glass of wine, but if you drink every time you’re in a bad mood, you’ll naturally develop a habit.

If you notice that you have a friend, like Louise Delage, who always has a drink in her hand  and/or shows any of the above signs, be sure to have a discussion. If you haven’t recognized the warning signs, its possible that they haven’t recognized them either.

 

 

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What Socially Anxious People Do At Work

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In my millennial circles, social anxiety has been a hot topic for several years. In comparison to most mental afflictions, social anxiety has become far more widely discussed and a lot of people I know claim to have it. If you look at websites that are frequented by people in my age bracket (like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post) you’ll see a lot of content concerning social anxiety and anxiety in general.

While I wouldn’t normally doubt someone if they say they have a mental disorder, I have learned to take the claim “I have social anxiety” with a grain of salt. For a lot of people, that statement is true, but for many others, they might just be shy or they occasionally experience awkward social situations.

People who truly experience social anxiety can have many different symptoms, but the overarching theme is deep emotional discomfort associated with regular daily social interactions. You may yearn to be part of a group or have a lot of friends, but the idea of walking up and saying hello to someone seems out of the question. Being introduced to someone might feel like a highly stressful audition and receiving criticism can confirm fears of worthlessness and inadequacy.

Social anxiety is particularly frustrating because the sufferer most likely knows their fears are irrational, but they have extreme difficulty controlling them, so they operate in a constant state of nervousness.

This type of situation can create a lot of problems if you have an office job or any other position that involves a lot of daily social interaction. Being a socially anxious person myself, I have to constantly push myself in new ways every day because I work in a huge office where I see new faces literally every day. As an intern, I was given 9 short weeks to make an impression and that task is made a lot harder if you aren’t a naturally sociable person. Forcing myself to speak up in meetings (even when I feel certain in my mind that everyone will be annoyed that an intern tried to voice an unwanted opinion), asking for help, and introducing myself to strangers around the office is something that is extremely unnatural to me. To make matters more challenging, the team I was placed on was made up of people who didn’t really like each other, didn’t communicate well, and wasn’t all that excited to be receiving a new intern. The members of my team would talk badly about each other and wanted me to take sides and agree with them. People threw each other under the bus when given the opportunity. All in all, the social environment was pretty uninviting, even for someone without social anxiety.

About halfway into my internship I realized that the problem wasn’t getting any better with time, and I was going to have to find a way to be social and make my mark among a very disjointed group of people.

So what do successful people with social anxiety do at work to get around their daily internal obstacles?

First of all, they take advantage of what their job has to offer. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere that comes with perks like access to a gym or a skill building course, take a class! You may find that it’s easier to meet people and socialize in the less formal setting, especially if you can infer that you have a common interest with someone like coding or crossfit.

Second, people with social anxiety learn to appreciate their successful moments. As previously mentioned, you may take criticism extremely hard, so it’s important to savor your successes when they come along. If you only focus on the bad moments, you’ll want to hide yourself more and more.

Third, they make concrete goals. Sure, it’s easy to walk into a meeting thinking, I really need to speak up today, but then the entire meeting may pass without you saying a word. Instead, you might want to tell yourself, I’m going to say 3 things in this meeting today. Sure, you might not come up with 3 amazing, knock-em-dead insights every meeting, but giving yourself a number can make the goal seem more real and attainable. One of those comments might just be vocally agreeing with someone, but even those little comments can be important when you’re trying to make sure you’re heard.

Lastly, successful people with social anxiety recognize when they need help. If you start to think that your mind is interfering with your performance and you feel lost in how to fix it, you have to realize you might need to talk to a counselor or therapist to come up with a gameplan. It may sound extreme, but what’s more extreme is losing out on career opportunities because you aren’t leaning in.

Even if you don’t suffer from full blown social anxiety, I still think these tips can be useful if you need a little nudge every now and then. Especially if you’re new to the workforce and don’t exactly know what your place is.

 

It’s Time To Say Goodbye To Your Impostor Syndrome. Here’s Why.

 

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Every day I find myself saying things like:

“I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

“I’m faking my way through life.”

“I don’t deserve any of this.”

Why do I repeat these self-deprecating phrases on the regular? Because I have impostor syndrome. And if you catch yourself saying similar things or feeling like a fraud, you probably do too.

Impostor syndrome is something that can affect literally anyone, but studies have shown that it is particularly prevalent in women and young people who aren’t sure if they are really equipped to do their job. Obviously, I fit both of the aforementioned demographics and on top of that, I’m a woman of color. I’ve grown up in a world where people still debate whether affirmative action laws should exist and people have actually gone to court claiming that they didn’t get into college because black kids stole their spots.

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As a result of these factors I feel constantly paranoid and I’m always wondering if I’m a fraud. Late at night, when my day’s work is done I wonder: Did I really deserve that A+ on my exam or was the professor just being nice? Do I really deserve to have this many followers on LinkedIn? Did I work hard enough to get into Chapel Hill? Did I deserve the internship I just got?

Then, last week, I got a whole perspective change and I realized that my impostor syndrome wasn’t just affecting the way I viewed myself. It was changing the way other people viewed me too.

I was talking to a friend of mine who was having trouble writing a paper. To me, the paper seemed like an easy assignment, but to her, it was impossibly difficult. I tried my best to reassure her and be supportive, but she got angry with me. After I promised her she could get the paper done on time, she replied by saying:

“Not everyone can do an annotated bibliography in 6 hours and not everyone has a 3.7 GPA and not everyone gets fabulous internships, Charise. So don’t tell me what I can do.”

Honestly, this pissed me off. This person was, is, a very close friend of mine (We’ve known each other for half of our lives), but here she was, acting like all my accomplishments were just built into me. Like I was born with a decent GPA and all my papers were written for me.

I knew she meant that I seem to have an easier time with certain things than she did, but I also knew that this friend of mine tended to go to bed early, skip class, and expect life to be easier than it really is. Even though she doesn’t put in as much effort as I do, she still expects to get the same results as me. She too believed that I was successful without needing to try. And chances are, it wasn’t helping that I was constantly implying to her that my success was fraudulent, due to my impostor syndrome.

I realize now that when we share our fears and self-deprecating jokes with people, even the ones we love, it shapes their cognition of you. If you constantly imply to people that your life is a lie or that your success is an accident, eventually they’re going to believe you. And all those nights you stayed up working, and all those parties you skipped, and all those projects you worked on will be forgotten. You’ll be the girl (or guy) who’s just lucky.

So now, I’m kicking all those self-deprecating statements to the curb. It might take me a while to stop feeling like an impostor, but I’m not going to go around shouting my insecurities from the rooftops anymore. I work too hard to erase my own success. And you probably do too.