Influencers have become a strange phenomenon in the past decade. Initially, people who made gaming videos, showed us their clothing hauls, or their family life on sites like YouTube, were seen as normal people – friends who we could understand and empathise with. But, as ever, the monetisation of these platforms led to paid advertisements, brand deals, and content produced and posted to perfection. Even so, they had managed to maintain their not-quite-celebrity status until this year.
During each lockdown, most of us said goodbye to our holiday plans and chose to stay at home for the greater good. However, anyone who’s caught a whiff of an influencer on their social media will have noticed the suspicious number of trips to Dubai they’ve been taking. Their flaunting of lockdown rules has already been criticised, but it also illustrates the continually widening gulf between influencers and
their followers. However, the influencer who stood out from the rest during the pandemic is, of course, Dr Alex George.
The former Love Island star has been working on the front lines fighting coronavirus since the beginning, and the news of his new role as Youth Mental Health Ambassador is certainly one worth celebrating. Some may say that anyone affiliated with Love Island would be unfit for this role, considering that the show has come under fire for promoting unrealistic body and beauty standards.
In 2019, research by the Mental Health Foundation found that 24% of people aged 18 to 24 had worries about their body image, in part caused by reality TV shows like Love Island. However, these recent months have shown Dr Alex’s commitment to mental health. The show had previously allowed him to amass over two million followers across all of his social media platforms, which he has used as a real force for good, even before his new government role.
Speaking of government mental health campaigns, does anyone remember the ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign from October 2019? Or even when it was re-released in summer last year? I certainly don’t, for reasons which I can only assume include a tight advertising budget, and a lack of media coverage. If we
compare this to how frequently we’re seeing the shocking ‘look them in the eyes’ campaign, it seems the Government haven’t prioritised mental health on the same scale. It’s likely that these adverts are doing more harm to people’s mental health than good.
No doubt ‘Every Mind Matters’ could make a tangible difference, but only with the right amount of government backing. Having Dr Alex in charge of promoting positive mental health campaigns might actually get them the mileage and viewership they need to make a difference. By appointing an influencer who is proficient in the social media industry, they ensure that any information and help pages are shared in the correct way to maximise their audience. This is a far more sensible decision, rather
than appointing an out-of-touch boomer to speak to such a young audience.
Perhaps most importantly though, young people today have grown up in a digital age. While social media detoxes have previously been an option for escaping the toxicities of the online world, it is now a necessary evil. The pandemic has forced us all to rely on social media more heavily for social interaction (and for students, even education) and it’s taking a toll on everyone’s mental health.
Dr Alex, who has survived the hellscape that is social media after leaving Love Island, is familiar with the trials and tribulations of the online world. This experience, along with his expertise as a medical professional, will allow him to give accurate and personal advice to our generation, in a way that is accessible and non-judgemental.
While I am hesitant to say that this move isn’t politically motivated at all, I do believe it is a wise choice. Although this is a necessary and important role to establish, it is undoubtedly going to be a tough job. However, Dr Alex has the right skillset and platform to make a difference.