The ‘Reel’ Delusion: Youth Obsession with Reels and Influencers

Prof. (Dr) Shalini Yadav

A surge in the popularity of short videos known as reels has been witnessed through social media platforms in recent years, captivating the attention of the youth, like never before. The trend of creating digital content, particularly through platforms like reels, YouTube videos, and shorts, is followed by people of all age groups, including youth, teenagers, adults, and even older individuals. It is seen as an easy way to make money and gain fame by becoming influencers and posting engaging content.

While these reels serve as a source of entertainment and inspiration for some, concerns have been raised regarding the potential drawbacks associated with excessive consumption. It was there in the back of my mind from a long time to rummage the implications of youth being engrossed in reels, the negative effects it can impose on their physical and mental health, and the influence of influencers in shaping their behavior and lifestyle choices.

If we think of the dark side of Reel Addiction, excessive engagement with reels can lead to a myriad of negative consequences. One of the primary concerns is the impact on mental health. Psychiatrists and psychologists have observed an increase in stress, depression, and anxiety among the youth due to unrealistic comparison, feelings of inadequacy, feeling of FOMO and constant exposure to curated and edited content that often fails to reflect reality and is illusive creating a dopamine effect.

Moreover, the sedentary nature of scrolling through reels for hours on end takes a toll on physical health. It contributes to a more sedentary lifestyle, leading to a higher risk of obesity, eye problems, and musculoskeletal disorders. Additionally, the addiction to reels can adversely affect sleep patterns, concentration levels, and overall productivity, hindering personal growth and development.

Many health coaches and experts have shown their concern in this context. Dr. Jane Allen, a renowned clinical psychologist from Saint Louis states, “Constant exposure to reels can distort the perception of reality and self-image. It creates an unreal standard of beauty, success, and happiness, which can trigger feelings of dissatisfaction and anxiety among the youth.”

There are so many Influencers nowadays which have mushroomed hither thither and overpowering minds and hearts of youth. Youth and teens idealize these and daydream doing nothing to be successful overnights as they are in hold of these influencers’ influence who project a deceptive picture of life romanticizing everything. Many are concerned about where this trend is leading the current generation. Some argue that the emphasis on quick and easy money-making goes against the values of hard work and the long path to success, which is typically achieved through perseverance and persistent efforts.

The concern also extends to the impact on education. There is a worry that individuals, even children, and their parents are diverting their attention away from academics towards the pursuit of social media success and monetization through video content. Everyone wants easy money through YouTube Channels and Reels. When discussed about it with one escalating influencer, she gave a message for teens that it is not easy to be a successful influencer and teenagers should finish their education simultaneously or beforehand. Whatever you do, it needs hard work, perseverance, and patience. Short cuts are not meant for all and sundry.

Everyone old or young is nowadays indulged either in making reels or watching reels. However, it shows that not everybody disapproves of this fashion. The admiration of such content among the general public suggests that there is a significant demand for it. Many people enjoy watching and engaging with this type of content, that’s why it has gained so much attention and followers.

However, while there are critics of this trend, the significant demand for this type of content among the general public suggests that not everyone disapproves. Homemakers, like Rohini Bansal and Shruti Tiwari from Jaipur, have embraced this digital era and changed their perspective towards life and enjoyment. They prioritize spending time indulging in web series and Instagram reels over household chores, shifting their focus from responsibilities to pleasure and leisure activities.

The pandemic has also played a role in changing mindsets. The fear of death has made individuals reevaluate their priorities and desire to live in the present, making the most out of every moment. Humorous skits, engaging videos, and relatable reels provide moments of joy and relief, allowing people to temporarily forget about daily struggles and anxieties.

In a rapidly moving world, these lighthearted forms of entertainment act as a means of escaping reality and providing individuals with moments of joy and relief. The word ‘entertainment’ reminds me lines spoken by veteran actress Vidya Balan in the movie ‘The Dirty Picture’..entertainment..entertainment…entertainment..yhi chalta hai.. yhi bikta hai.

In the digital age, influencers hold great sway over the youth, shaping their lifestyle choices, consumption patterns, and even career decisions. Responsible influencers can inspire positive behavior change, while others mislead impressionable minds with sponsored content promoting unattainable ideals. Katie Thompson, an influencer advocating mental health awareness, emphasizes the importance of showcasing reality and presenting authentic experiences to create a safe space for followers.

Even many believers of old school dislike the representation of women and girls in these videos with vulgar dance moves and all ‘latka-jhatka’ and ‘thumkas’. Some argue that the portrayal of women flaunting “sexy” attributes and engaging in provocative dance moves may be concerning, as it can potentially stimulus folks in wrong directions and shape their ideals of femininity and role models leading them towards more crime in the society.

I recently witnessed an enchanting matrimonial ceremony that left me utterly fascinated, for amidst the revelry and merriment, my eyes chanced upon a wondrous sight: a mere babe, barely beginning to explore the world, delicately feasting on victuals while engrossed in the captivating reels of Instagram. Earlier nursery rhymes used to be shown while feeding bairns that was still somehow had some educational and moral values.

It is still unclear how this craze is impacting Indian society and its future. It is still to be fully understood and quite questionable whether it is degrading our culture or uplifting it; spoiling the future of the country or building it.

The balance between creativity, self-expression, quality education, and traditional values is crucial for the well-rounded development of the youth and the nation. It is important to find a balance rather than completely disregarding the benefits of reels. Setting limits on screen time, curating social media feeds with diverse content, and encouraging responsible use can help mitigate the risks associated with excessive reel consumption. By promoting the authenticity of influencers and creating a positive online environment, society can support the personal growth and well-being of the youth.

(Dr Shalini Yadav is a Professor, Writer and columnist.)

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