Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece. All recommendations and opinions posted are my own and are not associated with any institutions I am affiliated with.
Instagram and the rise of the internet celebrity has made way for a whole new form of advertising. This is where companies send complimentary items to people -with a certain amount of followers- to review. This could be on Instagram, YouTube or another blogging medium. It is mainly cosmetic companies, but definitely branches out to food (especially sweets and fitness-based items such as protein powder), and other controversial products associated with the health industry, such as the current popularity of the so-called ‘waist trainer’ (essentially a corset).
This brings us to the TeaTox. Ah the TeaTox, miracle worker, fat burner, general health giver and other non-scientific assertions that popular Instagrammers have been paid to promote. Trusting this kind of recommendation is dangerous, not only to our health, but also to the risk of vulnerability to other bogus claims. These promotions feed off our own individual self-esteem problems, and even actively encourage them. The lower confidence we have, the more products we think we need. This is unconscionable work, as these products are encouraging young girls and boys to eating disorder territory such as anorexia, bulimia and EDNOS.
The health claims of these teas are connected to the ‘healthy’ image that tea already has. So adding ‘extra benefits’ that people may not have heard of before is simple. People already believe tea is healthy, so they are more likely to believe these extra benefits than if somebody tried to make, for example, cheeseburgers seem healthy. In my own experience I have found that tea pre-workout bloats and makes the body feel terrible and dehydrated during exercise, but you won’t hear this opinion from mega-sponsored online celebrities. How many times have you seen someone holding a product and ranting about it for a paragraph or two on an Instagram post? Unless the source is unthinkably reliable, this is almost certainly sponsored by the company itself (and the words used may even be recommended directly from their own people). Businesses use online celebrities as a mouthpiece for their products. A voice to the consumers. We are more likely to listen to a person we follow on social media, than the company themselves telling us their own product is good.
Advertising one specific product, in this case a cup of tea, as a cure-all miracle worker is snake oil. It is yet another weight-loss scam. No ‘one thing’ will make you entirely healthy or happy, it is a combination of things like consistently eating fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly (not to mention social and emotional happiness as well, a big factor). People’s worth is not measured in kilograms. Someone who is thin is not better than someone who is fat. They are just descriptive words for a person’s outside. They do not describe the actual person as a whole at all. However putting the entirety of worth on weight, and seeing it across multiple media platforms over and over can make someone feel completely worthless, and thus they become a prime consumer of unnecessary products.
Young girls and boys are especially vulnerable to this kind of marketing as they have grown up with the internet. This advertising has always existed to them. Navigating the gauntlet of stupid claims on the internet is something they must become good at very quickly, or they would be very confused indeed. This almost needs to become the new ‘sex talk’ from parents, warning their kids not to believe what the overly fake-tanned lady said on Instagram.
Ignorance is not an excuse. These people cannot say they ‘didn’t know’ that these products had harmful ingredients, or that the 12-year old girl in a different country got bulimia indirectly from people like her promoting weight-loss products. There is research and reports as the result of a quick google search, and if she had recommended the product honestly, rather than being paid by ‘Bondi Beach TeaTox’ or ‘Skinny Mini FitTea’, she would realise herself that it does not offer the over the top health benefits that it initially claimed.
However, being paid by the company initially before the product has even arrived on the reviewer’s doorstep is rampantly common in the industry. Many ‘beauty gurus’ on YouTube have been paid (the higher the follower count, the higher they get paid is usually the rule) in advance to give the product a good review, and they do not have to tell you when they have been paid prior to recommendation.
This is lying. This is dishonest and it confuses people. Anyone with a good conscience and a knowledge of their influence would refuse to be paid, and rather, review the product honestly after rigorous testing. It also displays tremendous arrogance to think that these people have an authority to recommend a product, when they are usually not dietitians, nutritionists, doctors or of any other medical qualification. They are directly influencing people’s health. Do not underestimate this influence. Recommending certain products above others is considered advice, and before anyone gives it out over a major platform, they should think about if they are truly qualified to do this.
Saying ‘I didn’t even have to change my diet!’ what if her diet was already healthy? This isn’t mentioned, along with other critical information such as how the tea made her go to the bathroom sixteen times this morning. This is not healthy. This is not the pursuit of health. It’s only mentioned that all you have to do to lose weight and be ‘skinny’ (a toxic word in the media) is drink what is essentially a tea with added laxatives – along with the natural diuretic affect tea already has.
The assumption of stupidity in internet advertising is high. The obsession with body image and aesthetics is a driver for the overwhelming amount of products available to satisfy our constant craving for the ‘next new thing’. The Western World is a slave to consumerism and big businesses know it. The only way to change is with collective and continuing people power, and empowering other women and men to feel good about themselves.