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01st Mar 2024

The rise of AI influencers: Beauty standards go from unrealistic to impossible

Jody Coffey

Beauty standards AI influencers

AI influencers amplify the unachievable beauty standards seen online to a worrying degree

Social media is rife with virtual beauty standards that are, for the most part, unattainable and unaffordable.

Just as we settle in and sadly learn to accept this fact, a worrying trend has been emerging. It is one that looks so real, many of us may not have even copped it: influencers and models made by Artificial Intelligence.

As we navigate a world where technology is rapidly evolving, AI influencers have infiltrated social media, garnering millions of followers across the globe.

What do AI influencers and models look like?

Many accounts on social media that are powered by AI won’t look out of the ordinary from our every day scrolling habits.

This makes them difficult to identify because they look and act like regular run-of-the-mill influencers.

Their uncanny resemblance to real-life people online is so hard to decipher that you’d be forgiven for believing these AI creations are living, breathing humans.

From their detailed features to their unique poses and personalities, these virtual creators are gaining influential followers eager to know their fashion, fitness, beauty, and lifestyle secrets.

These AI-powered accounts come up with their own captions and post stories of their ‘movements’ throughout the day at events, restaurants, and at home, despite the fact they are not real people.

AI Influencers that are growing in followers

A number of accounts have soared in popularity among social media users, even when stated that they are technology-born.

‘Singer’ Lil Miquela, for one, has garnered upwards of 2.6 million Instagram fans who are locked in to the robot’s content.

At first glance, Miquela appears like any other influencer; she has great fashion sense, she travels, attends concerts, and hangs out with friends.

Except, she doesn’t…

On a deeper dive, Miquela writes lengthy captions about things that never happened in very real locations, but to the naive user, it very much appears real.

One caption on a post where the AI influencer alledgedly spent her day exploring Barcelona and it’s food scene, she wrote of a very specific incident:

“Low key I cried while waiting in line today (Scene of the crime in slide 2). Today I was recognized..for the first time in a LONG time. Someone came up to me and said they had been a fan since the beginning, but haven’t seen much of me in the past couple of years.

“They’ve followed me since the beginning of high school…and now they’re 22, in college, studying to be a doctor. I’m so flattered that someone like that has been following me and so excited for their future. But I couldn’t help but think…should I be doing more??

“I wanna be 22!! I wanna help and heal people!!! I’ve been coasting for the past couple of years, not sure what I want to do, where I want to go and just feeling stuck. I need…to grow. Does anyone else out there feel stuck? Like the world is growing and you’re not keeping up??”

Miquela, in my opinion, seems a little animated, sim-like even, compared to fellow AI influencer Aitana Lopez, who has 294,000 followers on Instagram.

Aitana, while poreless and perfect, could easily pass as a beautiful influencer who lives her life in the real world.

She trains in the gym, plays video games, owns a cat, and goes to work, and updates her followers as she goes.

Aitana and Miquela are two of an estimated 150 virtual influencers on Instagram, according to High Level.

When does it go from an advance in technology to dangerous?

Unrealistic beauty standards are already a social media-related issue, especially when it comes to younger users.

A report by the Dove Self-Esteem Project surveying more than 1,000 girls aged 10-17 revealed that 1 in 2 girls said toxic beauty advice on social media causes low self-esteem.

Meanwhile, 90% of girls said they follow at least one social media account that makes them feel less beautiful.

Add in beautiful AI-generated influencers adds another layer of pressure and confusion, particularly for younger people and children.

These accounts, with their illusion of perfection, run the risk of increasing mental health problems and body image issues, according to Medium.

These influencers have more downfalls than they do positives; they never age and they are often sexualised.

What’s more concerning than the AI models is the people behind them, according to the Director of Creative and Innovation of The Social Element, Shahnaz Ahmed.

“We get into dangerous territory when characters are made through the lens of people who don’t live the experience of the character they’ve made,” Shahnaz explained to the Telegraph.

“White people creating black people. Men making women through the male gaze. These are murky and dangerous waters, especially as we’re already grappling with the challenges around bias we face with wider spread uses of AI.”