The fashion bloggers and influencer scene in Ireland has grown rapidly in recent years. Popular influencers include Suzanne Jackson, Rosie Connolly, and Joanne Larby. These bloggers primarily use instagram and snapchat to communicate with their audience. The past month has seen the so-called ‘exposure’ of these bloggers in terms of Photoshop. A private instagram account known as ‘bullshitcallerouter’ popped up in the last month. The page aimed to highlight evidence of photoshopping on instagram photos posted by these popular influencers. They wanted to showcase how images can be manipulated, specifically targeting the body image of bloggers whether it be their skin or ‘size’, posting images taken by the bloggers themselves and those taken candidly at events or by fans. The page has since been deleted or removed, though a new one has taken its place. In the avatar section of the new instagram, the page announces ‘We’re Back’. The new page is private, and has over 2000 followers at present. Twitter users have compared the instagram page to the tv show Gossip Girl.
The entertainment website Shemazing interviewed the Irish woman, Aoibhinn, behind the instagram page exposing bloggers. She told the site, ‘’I wanted to highlight the fact that some people, young women mostly, are trying to emulate the image portrayed by certain ‘influencers…I wanted to bring awareness that the image portrayed by these ‘influencers” is a highly sanitised version of reality.’ The instagram page captivated followers of these bloggers, excitedly waiting to see who would be next on the chopping block. Many praised the page as, they want bloggers and influencers to be held accountable for their actions, with others quick to criticise the page, defending their favourite bloggers and influencers. On Twitter, some users have announced they have unfollowed all influencers since the revelations have been made.
Terrie McEvoy, a nurse and blogger that moved to Australia in recent years, was accused of rigging competitions for her friends to win. The competitions in question were held in collaboration with Tower Jewellers, who came forward with a statement saying that the winners were chosen by the blogger. McEvoy spoke out and publicly apologised for picking people she personally knew, arguing she was not a ‘real blogger’ as she works as a nurse.
The world of instagram tends to portray an idealised version of someone life, often posting photos with friends, selfies with a filter, holidays etc. It is easy to forget while browsing through endless amounts of ‘perfect’ pictures that it is not a true reflection of life. One of the jobs of an influencer is to maintain this portrayal of a perfect lifestyle, whether it is true or not. Influencers lead a life that is not achievable for many of their fans. We watch as they jet away on holidays a few times a month, showcasing expensive handbags and clothing we can only dream of, advertising makeup products that they claim to love that they may actually be being paid to promote. Problems arise when fans/viewers can be disenfranchised with their own lives, as their reality does not compare to the influencers. Many argue that this places pressure on viewers to look and act like their favourite influencers. Often certain makeup products sell out because a certain influencer has endorsed it.
Bloggers are also launching their own lines of makeup and beauty products. Suzanne Jackson has released contour kits, eyeshadow palettes and fake eyelashes, although she has been under the spotlight for ‘private labelling’, also known as ‘white labelling’; ‘white labelling’ is where a company, or in this case a blogger/influencer, chooses the generic product out of a catalogue and puts their name to the product. Hence, various companies can be selling the same products. It is not illegal, although there seems to be a stigma attached to doing so. Jackson initially claimed to have not done this in the creation of her makeup range, but was later ‘caught out’ and thus admitted to it.
Private labelling does not only occur in makeup, but also in jewelry. Blogger and Youtuber Ciara O’Doherty has been accused of doing so in her latest collection, ‘Taylor and Rose’. The collection includes hairpieces, and earrings. It is not private labelling that fans have a problem with, but the price. The same products can be bought on websites such as Ali Express for far less. Some items have a markup of 10 times the original price. Rosie Connolly’s sunglasses range ‘Aluxe’ has come under fire for the same reason.
Often influencers endorse and promote weight loss products, such as teas that claim to aid with that goal. They are often seen frequenting the gym daily, or sometimes multiple times in a day. Some bloggers, especially those in the ‘Irish Fit Fam’, document what they eat in a day, every day, following strict dietary regimes. The majority of influencers fans are young teenagers, that could be deemed impressionable. Viewers claim that those in the fitness blogging community are expressing compulsive eating habits and may be exhibiting signs of orthorexia (compulsion for eating only healthy food). According to Bodywhys.ie, in Ireland the Department of Health and Children state that up to 200,000 could be affected by eating disorders.
Influencers have also been accused of buying instagram followers and likes. A quick google search will show you how easy it is. Simply link your account, make the payment and the followers roll in. It is also quite cheap, advertisement suggest prices starting at $2.95 for 100 followers. The accounts that follow the person are often inactive or bot accounts. The pages do not interact with the account, hence the need to also buy likes for their pictures. For bloggers with a considerable amount of followers, it may not seem necessary. But according to the instagram page ‘bullshitcallerouter’ some bloggers are continuing to do so. For bloggers and influencers, brands want to work with individuals whose instagram accounts garner high engagement. The more engagement, followers and likes etc., the more likely fans will buy the products they are endorsing. Bloggers have to now explicitly say whether they are being sponsored to advertise a product. The Advertising Standards Association Ireland (ASAI) have ruled they must do so after a similar ruling in the UK. Bloggers usually post a hashtag accompanying a post if it is sponsored, including #ad or #sp. The ASAI found Faces By Grace to have promoted a weight loss product without clearing stating it was a paid advertisement. Bloggers do not have to state it is a sponsored post if they were gifted the item by a company. Since the ASAI ruling, fans and viewers have been quick to note how often content is sponsored, and that they may not have realised it before.
Further blogger controversy arose in the past month with regards to the UK blogger, Elle Darby. The youtuber and fitness blogger wrote to a Dublin hotel, the Charleville Lodge, requesting a free stay over Valentines weekend in return for online exposure. The White Moose Cafe (a part of the hotel) posted the email sent by the blogger on social media, publicly ‘shaming’ her. Although they attempted to cover the name, they did not completely do so. It is unclear whether this was on purpose or not. The post went viral. In response, Darby created a youtube video entitled ‘i was exposed (SO embarrassing)’ discussing the issue. Furthermore, the hotel have issued an invoice to the blogger, charging her €5,289,000 for the exposure and media attention she received. They also posted a picture of a jar labelled ‘Tears of bloggers’. The White Moose Cafe’s online shop is now selling t-shirts with the quote, ‘I demanded freebies at the White Moose Cafe and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’ and another stating, ‘I got exposed by the White Moose Cafe’.
Although we must remember that bloggers might feel under intense pressure to look perfect, facing scrutiny from the media and fans; using a filter on a selfie or photograph is also commonplace now. If we feel societal pressures to look and act a certain way, they too must feel them. Conversely, one could argue that these individuals have chosen to be in the spotlight, as many consider blogging their full time career.