Credibility and the Social Media Influencer

In May 2018, influencer and reality TV show star Kim Kardashian posted an ad on Instagram for “appetite suppressant lollipops”  by Flat Tummy Co, despite not being FDA approved. This is not the first of the Kardashians’ promotion of pseudo-science “health” products – the reality TV stars have been ambassadors for other body-slimming quick-fix products ranging from Fat burning Tea to Waist Trainers to Hair growth gummies. This essay will use the case study of Kim Kardashian’s promotion of the Flat Tummy Co. lollipops to explore the ways in which digital spaces uniquely enable influencer marketing.

The prevalence of digital spaces has dramatically changed the methods which lend celebrities credibility. Before the era of Instagram, celebrities who were labelled as “famous for being famous” were often openly mocked by the press for being frivolous and shallow. Today, it is often seen as a credible milestone for a celebrity to have even attained fame in the first place — Kim Kardashian has publicly defended herself as “self-made”, and magazines such as Forbes magazines describe Kim Kardashian as a “social media queen” who has “parlayed reality TV into an actual fortune, selling a mobile game, cosmetics and, now, shapewear.” Kim Kardashian’s credibility is justified, rather than dismissed, because of her large social media following. Social media has allowed her trustworthiness to be empirically measured and justified.

For a company that exists nearly exclusively within Instagram, Flat Tummy Co’s partnership with Kim Kardashian was as lucrative as it was harmful. The massive movement generated was thanks to the retailer’s target demographic being nearly perfectly aligned with Kim Kardashian’s average fan. Kim Kardashian has an Instagram following of 212 million people. To put this number into perspective, each one of her tweets could reach an audience two-thirds the size of the United States of America. Nearly 80% of Kim Kardashian’s online audience is female and is predominantly aged between 18-34. Nearly 63% of her audience earns under 50k annually, a percentage that is 1.36 times greater than the baseline. Since the appetite-suppressing lollipop sold by Flat Tummy Co. is a product that could potentially enable unhealthy eating patterns, it is especially dangerous that Kardashian was used as an influencer to target young women, who are particularly susceptible to body image issues. By exploiting these factors, Flat Tummy Co. is able to convince consumers to buy this product, even if it is unsafe and expensive.

Flat Tummy Co., the company that produces the appetite suppressant lollipops promoted by Kim Kardashian, also produces detox teas, detox shakes and vitamins. In addition to this, they have amassed a loyal following of “babes” who can purchase water bottles, yoga mats, tea infusers, leggings and more. Their Instagram has 1.6 million followers but does not allow comments on their posts, presumably due to backlash and hate. By censoring the comments on their posts, the brands prevent threats to their credibility by removing the power of the consumer to contradict the brand’s claims and hurt their brand image. 

Without scientific proof of their product’s effectiveness, Flat Tummy Co resorts to social media advertising and influencers to gain credibility. With the sheer number of impressionable consumers on social media – nearly 3.6 billion users – they have become one of the primary tools for advertising and online shopping. In this digital space, influencers have an “intimate” relationship with their following while consumers gain a sense of familiarity and trustworthiness with a random celebrity. These platforms create the perfect space for advertisers to promote their products, adopting the guise of being a part of the user’s social circle and manipulating their purchasing decisions. Its seamless accessibility, addictive reward to users, embedded e-commerce stores, and data-collecting algorithm all contribute to gaining and maintaining a brand’s target audience. According to ex-Instagram employees, the platform is purposely trying “to maximize the time you spend on an app to maximize their profit, regardless of its impact on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of its users.” Similar to companies that use social media, the platform is also aiming to maximize their user profits. The structure and purpose of social media is purposely additive for users allowing companies to be seen as friends rather than as a profit-driven entity. 

Altogether, credibility is easily unjustly gained on social media – and digital spaces in general. Influencers are deemed credible because of the confidence their large following has in their opinion. The influencers benefit from having a status of a producer of content while masking as everyday consumers that make their fans believe them because they’re just like us, while also providing unattainable standards for their consumers to aspire to. Brands selling questionable products are undeserving of credibility, yet manage to gain it on social media nonetheless by censoring their audience. Brands can use consumer testimonials as proof of their product’s effectiveness by paying for advertising that has the feeling of an unsponsored post.  Through social media, companies can befriend, like any other person in your social network. The platform facilitates relationships between brands and people, making consumers more susceptible to trusting in these brands’ claims. Social media advertising is a machine that is pushing out unmerited credibility at an unprecedented rate – platforms like Instagram create personalities that become trustworthy solely for being famous and allow brands to exploit trust in these influencers for financial gain. With increasing rates of digital literacy, hopefully, more consumers will start to understand why they have trust in a brand or an influencer and question whether or not they should. This is one way that we can slow down the social-media-driven consumerism and spending on quick-fix, harmful non-solutions to insecurities driven by the toxic body image culture on social media.

Works Cited

“36 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics to Know for 2021.” Chen, Jenn. SproutSocial. Sprout Social, Inc., April 2, 2021.

“Flat Tummy Lollipops.” Flat Tummy Co. Accessed April 12, 2021. 

“Kim Kardashian West Shocks Fans with Ad for Appetite-Suppressing Lollipops.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, May 16, 2018. 

“Instagram and Facebook Are Intentionally Conditioning You to Treat Your Phone like a Drug.” Schwär, Hannah.  Business Insider. Business Insider, April 5, 2020.

“Kim Kardashian West.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine. Accessed April 12, 2021. 

“How Are Appetite Suppressing Lollipops Still a Thing?” Marie Claire. Marie Claire, October 5, 2018. 

“SAFFRON: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews.” WebMD. WebMD. Accessed April 12, 2021.,can%20occur%20in%20some%20people. 

“This Is How The Instagram Algorithm Works in 2021.” Warren, Jillian.  Later Blog. Later,

March 26, 2021. 

Survival of the Technodexterous: How COVID-19 Enabled Job Markets to Favor the Most Tech Savvy Employees

photo of woman wearing turtleneck top

As a Gen-Zer, I’ve grown up knowing digital technology as a commodity and a lifestyle. With time I also see the progression and the impact of this technology more clearly. Today, I can’t picture life without the internet; I can’t even imagine a day without utilizing some software system. The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated society into a world where the internet and application software are the bare necessity. The international stay-at-home order has pushed companies over the technological tipping point – transforming any business industry forever. Understanding software is the not only key to gaining income but is the new survival tactic for success.

Technodexterous is an unofficial word referring to the ability to know the software well enough to be able to use it on any type of computer. In other words, a technodexterous person knows a software program like the back of their hand; how it functions, how it’s installed and how it operates. With technology on the rise, there is a clear distinction between the people who are technodexterous and the people who are behind in technology.

If you are slacking in the ever-growing trends of software, I’m sorry to tell you, that you are now at a disadvantage. Offices and schools that we once knew have now moved into basements and living rooms. Employers require a ready understanding of technology for employees to ensure remote workers are always on the same page. Remote workers need to have the right technology and collaboration tools for reliable, scalable, and flexible work.  Statistics found in a New York Times article “The Virus Changed the Way We Internet” illustrates the dramatic jump in communication software use – including Zoom, Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams.

App popularity according to iOS App Store rankings on March 16-18. · Source: The New York Times “The Virus Changed The Way We Internet”

This demand for tech-savvy employees became clear in my life. For me, the pandemic meant more time to focus on learning, especially about graphic design. I would pour a cup of coffee every morning, sit down, and make my way through learning different Adobe programs. After 3 months, I finally met the qualifications for many LinkedIn applications and landed a job as a Digital Media Designer. The point is that knowing some software put me ahead of the competition and got me a job during an employment crisis.

The crazy thing is that this technological advantage is favoured in every career or field of study. It’s not just online retail/service businesses, but software platforms are critical for healthcare systems, education, sports industries etc. The importance of application software in society is explained eloquently in Software Takes Command, by Lev Manovich. Even though this book was published before the turn of the 2020 pandemic, Manovich notes how application software are the basis of the contemporary world; they “are in the center of the global economy, culture, social life, and increasingly, politics.” (7)

As more software and new program updates are created, systems are determined to deliver a user-friendly experience. Services like CodePen and GitHub allow users to write code, deploy it, test it out, and share their work in forums. Likewise, programs like Canva and Figma ease users into the world of graphic design, providing pre-made elements in which users adjust the style of the graphic. Manovich notes “While a user is not always given the ability to add to or modify content, s/he always navigates and interacts with the existing content using interactive interface” (27) To be clear everyone is not expected to be geniuses in every technological corner, that would be insane. Knowing the rundown of several software, however, is helpful for unexpected times when it’s so very important. People “need to account for the role of software and its effects in whatever subjects they investigate.”(15)

Understanding software is seen as the new advantage in life. Being technodextous means you’ll have an easier time getting a job in any industry. The increase of technology is impacting all corners of our society and we need to stay up to date or we will fall behind the pack. It is becoming easier each day to be technodextous, but we need to be willing to expand outside the borders of user-friend software.


Koeze, Ella, and Nathaniel Popper. “The Virus Changed the Way We Internet.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Apr. 2020,

Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. Bloomsbury, 2013. 

Conspiracy Theories: A Leading Cause of Why the World is Still in a Pandemic

woman in brown dress holding white plastic bottle painting

April 13, 2021

Alongside physical distancing, Zoom meetings, and toilet paper rampages, the pandemic has brought on one inescapable symptom; conspiracy theories. In a time of uncertainty with constant troubling and disturbing news, conspiracy theories provide people with control over the unknown.  It is this very reason, however, why countries like Canada and the US are struggling to better the health of their citizens and why the world feels like a constant state of emergency.

People are left with time to kill and lives glued to social media. This mass consumption of information and the infinite depth of the internet activates a psychological tendency to make connections and generate our own presumptions. Psychiatric Doctor, Richard A. Friedman, however, notes “Our tendency to discern patterns and make sense of the world also makes us prone to cognitive errors, such as seeing connections between events when none exist.” 3

Demonstrators hold a Rolling Car Rally in front of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s residence while protesting Connecticut’s stay-at-home order to combat the coronavirus in Hartford on Monday, May 4, 2020. John Moore / Getty Images

It’s not only the sudden reliance on social media for information, but conspiracy theories become more prevalent during cataclysmic events and social upheaval. The 9/11 crisis sparked both a media-rich environment and accelerated a “new age of paranoia”2. Even before the popularity of mass media, conspiracy theories were prominent during previous pandemics, such as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. At these times of crisis, the voices of government and media are amplified to solve nationwide problems, but this results in a “we suffer because of the system” mentality among citizens. As author James Bridal best puts it, “Conspiracies literalize the horror we feel lurking unspoken in the world.”2 When I first saw my dad falling down the rabbit hole of FOX News or the multiple anti-mask protests taking place in London’s own Victoria park, I knew that this conspiratorial thinking was contagious.

While conspiracy theories can be harmless, such as the belief that the Earth is flat, they are also very dangerous. There is a clear indication that conspiracy theories today create violence and increase the spread of COVID-19. Many people even before the pandemic have denied the success of vaccines, but conspiracy theories today have excelled in the belief that vaccines are a governmental scheme to cause mass harm- that the whole pandemic is a hoax, a “plandemic”. The increase of mask-free protests and rallies activated by social media is allowing the virus to transmit and death numbers to accelerate. Conspiratorial thinking can also affect a person’s general health. According to Friedman, the “belief in conspiracies and mistrust, in general, can discourage our patients from seeking medical treatment and adhering to it.” 3

Could it all be true? Could the decrease in conspiracy theories get us out of this pandemic already? Look at Australia for example. Aussies have been partying on the beach with zero deaths since October 2020 and a daily average of 10 cases (Figure 1). While Australia has the advantage of being an isolated island with a lower population density, there are still lot we can learn from their response.

Figure 1: Covid-19 deaths in Australia throughout the pandemic, John Hopkins University via Google News

The term ‘conspiracy theory, according to Bridal, “has more to do with the relation of people to power, than that of people to the truth.” 2 Australia’s Bipartisan unity was essential to their emergency response. In March 2020 Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison advocated for a unified nation, stating “There are no blue or red teams. There are no unions or bosses. There are just Australians now.” 4 The social and political capital tried it’s very best to become neutral and supportive. These actions overall built trust amongst the public who in turn followed COVID-19 protocols.

Australia has had few protests and rallies compared to the US and Canada, and with those that have occurred, the government took immediate action. The anti-vaccine protest in February 2021, after Australia’s rollout of the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, the government concluded that vaccines will not be mandatory for Australians 1. With Australia’s Indigenous population having “a life expectancy of 8 years fewer than non-Indigenous Australians”, the pandemic became an opportunity for the government to listen and provide resources.4  Aussies overall don’t feel threatened by the government as much as Americans or Canadians do.

There is a clear indication that “having a strong bias to find structure and purpose in the world makes us susceptible to conspiracies because they give us a clear, if erroneous, explanation of how events fit together.”3 On the other hand, there are ways of avoiding the violence that conspiratorial thinking creates. While our governments need to be more supportive and punctual, everyone needs to adopt a “I suffer because we all do” mentality. We need to reject the belief “that occurrences (e.g., the pandemic) happen to us for a reason” and adopt “a strong aversion to seeing events as random and coincidental.”3


1.”Anti-Vaccination Protesters Rally In Australia”. BBC News, 2021, Accessed 13 Apr 2021.

2. Bridle, James. New Dark Age: Technology And The End Of The Future. Verso, 2019, p. Chapter 8: Conspiracy.

3. Friedman, Richard A. “Why Humans Are Vulnerable To Conspiracy Theories”. Psychiatric Services, vol 72, no. 1, 2021, pp. 3-4. American Psychiatric Association Publishing, doi:10.1176/ Accessed 13 Apr 2021.

4. Haseltine, William. “What Can We Learn From Australia’S Covid-19 Response?”. Forbes, 2021, Accessed 13 Apr 2021.

5. Honigsbaum, Mark. “Spanish Influenza Redux: Revisiting The Mother Of All Pandemics”. Perspectives: The Art Of Medicine, vol 391, no. 10139, 2018, pp. 2492-2495. The Lancet Journal, doi: Accessed 13 Apr 2021.

6. John Hopkins University. “Covid-19 Cases In Australia”. News.Google.Com, 2021, Accessed 13 Apr 2021.

7. John Hopkins University. “Covid-19 Cases In Canada”. News.Google.Com, 2021, Accessed 13 Apr 2021.

Unessay: Creativity as a Superpower

Creativity has always been my superpower, as a child and into adulthood. Throughout my experience in education, I’ve struggled to learn through the traditional reading and writing format. Discovering the arts (visual art, music, dance, and drama, etc.) gave me a voice, healed my anxiety-driven mentality, provided me with the knowledge needed to succeed in life, and has become my way of making long-lasting friendships. Growing up, however, art education was denied as a beneficial use of time and was generalized as a hobby, by teachers, constituents, and family members. Even worst, my experience today in academia doesn’t fully accommodate my visual learning mechanisms. Through my research, I strive to prove these generalizations false. Creatives spaces can empower children and it should be encouraged at the utmost in childhood development even if a child isn’t inspiring to be an artist. While there is a privilege behind affording a creative space and being recognized as creative, there is also flexibility to change our perceptions of creative practices and inspire children and adults to create freely.

Children’s literature has evidently supported the need for creativity and artistic spaces. Unlike a normal research essay, I took a backward approach, creating the art before researching and deciding my thesis. Inspired by characters of 4 children and adolescent novels who engage in creativity, I challenged myself to recreate creative spaces in my own life. I noted how the characters use their artistic moments as a space to communicate, a space to explore, a space to meditate, and a space to build relationships. Representing each novel, I used 4 different mediums that were in my visual art capacity: canvas painting, sculpture, collaging, and rock painting. From this practice, I concluded that novels promote diverse creative spaces which empower children with a voice, brilliance, well-being, and friendships. With my secondary research, I discovered the importance of these 4 types of spaces, concluding the benefits that art practices have on children and adolescences.

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Seeking Creative Spaces

As part of my creative research methodology, I went on a photo scavenger hunt to collect images in my London community. Each of the photographs represents either 1) space where I feel or felt empowered, 2) a space that drew connections to one of the 4 novels I analyzed and 3) a current or past creative space of either communication, meditation, brilliance, or friendship. This was a brief meditative experience that aided in collecting my thoughts and organized the areas of my thesis that I wanted to focus on.

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Results: Home Gallery

Lastly, with all my artwork, photos, and my Wasaga House map painting from a previous assignment, I curated a home art gallery to display my Unessay. Inspired by the many museums that had to shift their in-person experience to an online platform I designed this webpage to act as a virtual gallery to share my story and research.

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Want to learn more about my research? Check out my full annotated bibliography:

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Everyday Life Project: The Pottery Practice

This semester, we were tasked with a deliberately open-ended “Everyday Life Project.” Our assignment: to commit to a weekly practice with the goal of shifting our habits of attention. Beyond this minimal directive, the only guideline was to try to forge new connections between our daily lives and lives beyond our own.

The Pottery Practice is a collection of hand made pot planters using clay from the eroded wetlands of the “Coves”. This piece examines sustainability with the art practice as well as relationships with nature as a circular ritual of leaning, practicing and teaching. 

Despite its visual aesthetics, this project is more about the practice and the process. In the Everyday Life Project course led by Professor Kate Stanley, I was asked to take on a project bigger than myself in midst of a pandemic, and for me, that meant exploring a type of art that I was not yet acquainted with. Fortunately, Michelle Wilson, a visual arts graduate student at Western, who had been previously exploring the clay from the Coves was willing to help. Wilson showed me how to filter, mold, and form the clay into pottery. When practicing what Wilson taught, I began to feel overwhelmed with stress, taking on yet another independent art project. This inspired me to branch out to the people that surround me ―sharing with my family and friends the same practices I had learned. By transferring the clay-making workshop to a Zoom setting allowed me to create with other people while in the contemporary pandemic.

Soon enough the premise of The Pottery Practice became more about implementing the sustainability practice in other people’s lives. As the fall semester reached its ending, I had the opportunity to display my work in the Satellite Project Space along with other SASAH students. Combined the short videos I took throughout the course of this project and combined them in a documentation. This video played in the bottom blank corner of my display to guide the audience through the process of the composition. In the processes of setting up the gallery my project crossed paths with Sophie Wu, a fellow SASAH peer, as she placed a plastic leaf, she found on the street on top of her pot. This statement helped emphasize the need for sustainability and connected Sophie’s artwork to mine. While I hoping to fire and glaze the ceramics, I realized this downside was also making a point of sustainability.  Fired, glazed ceramics will take 1,000,000 years to decompose, but by retaining in the planters in clay form they can be recycled for any other opportunities to share my pottery-making practice.

This project is a work in progress, as the final installation will be expanded further for a display in the Western Visual Arts building. Working with Michelle, we have found more ways to push this project towards sustainability including recycled wood hanging shelves, held together by macramé cord made from old cotton t-shirts, cut into narrow strips, twisted and tied together. Michelle has also suggested painting the pots with berry harvested dyes and glazing with a beeswax finishing. Additionally, the pottery will give a place to host cattail seedlings indoors over the winter season. Cattails are native to the Coves, and support water filtration for many wetlands.  In the spring, when the seedlings start to sprout, they will be transferred back to the Coves in order to fully restore my thanks to nature as my artistry muse.

Through experimental and empirical research, I have created a circular ritual of learning, practicing, and teaching. In turn, I hope that this project evokes audiences to reflect on their own relationship to nature and look for ways to share their gifts with the community.

My Final Video Project

Interested in learning more?

Check out my class website to see the success stories of the everyday life projects with students and within the community.

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