Influencers Are Sharing Bad "Tips" And "Information" About COVID-19 On Instagram

In this week's newsletter: Battling the spread of irresponsible and opportunistic messaging, and testing those trendy and expensive preset bundles.

Posted on March 13, 2020, at 8:01 a.m. ET

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If you have a huge following on social media and want to share unverified medical "advice": perhaps don't!

One of the first posts on my Explore tab last night was this Instagram from ex-Bachelor contestant Krystal Nielson suggesting a detox can protect you from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Krystal is a self-described health and fitness coach who has over 607,000 followers. She claims that a 10-day detox of smoking, alcohol, and sugars can help your body fight the coronavirus, hashtagging #stayinformed and #coronavirus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no vaccines or specific treatments for the virus, which is understandably the source of most anxieties. There are everyday precautions you can take, like cleaning your surfaces and washing your hands, but a 10-day detox is not one of them. Sure, a reduction of nicotine, alcohol, and bad sugars is good for your body, and can lead you to living a healthier life overall. But to make an unverified, direct connection to COVID-19 is irresponsible at best.

I reached out to Krystal about her post. But she is not the only person with a big following making questionable and bold claims during the pandemic. Stephanie has been documenting all kinds of efforts by influencers to use the opportunity to push their own agendas and medical “advice.”

I can’t say I’m surprised. Every large-scale event will inevitably be used and sometimes exploited on social media. Influencers also must feel pressured to post about coronavirus “awareness” based on their reach and, well, influence. I’d like to believe most of it is well-intentioned and trying to be helpful. (Earlier this week, I came across an IG story from an Italian influencer who shared statistics about the number of cases and deaths there are in her country. The data points weren’t exactly accurate to World Health Organization standards, so it’s unclear where she sourced them.)

But anyone who has a huge platform but shouldn’t be offering any medical advice can do real damage. While there are some users trying to push back against Krystal’s assertions, many more comments show people seemingly internalizing every word of what she said.

Instagram

My only advice to influencers: Please exercise your discretion. And if there’s any question about it, perhaps just...don’t. Not saying something can do a lot more good.

Live, laugh, and for the love of god, please keep washing your hands,

Tanya

I bought and tried the preset bundle influencers claimed was worth $3,000, and it was a lot more than I bargained for.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this photo from influencer Aspyn Ovard.

She wrote: “So excited about the new PRESET BUNDLE pack I am a part of this week!!! Myself and almost 30 other creators combined our presets to sell for a discounted price of $70!!! 😋 The value of all the packs individually is almost $3000 and this is only being sold for a week…”

If you weren’t aware, presets are custom filters created in Adobe Lightroom (a photo-editing app) that influencers make for their photos. Some, like Aspyn, have started selling their filters to their fans, who are yearning to have their pictures look like what they see online.

TBH, I was kind of dumbfounded when I read Aspyn’s post. It seemed like a LOT of money for pretty pictures, and I was shocked they could retail for almost 3 grand. That seemed so expensive, even though presets from top influencers are never cheap. Aspyn, for example, sells packs of presets where just five of her custom filters cost $75. I don’t like or agree with people knocking influencers for putting a high price on something they made (If people want to pay it, who cares?). I was just kind of shocked people do pay that much for them.

Since I’m a ~journalist~, I decided to purchase the preset bundle for myself to see what all the hype was about. I spent $70 to buy the bundle, which included 56 “packs” (32 for desktop and 24 for mobile) with varying amounts of presets in each pack. At first glance on the website, it is easy to see why people got involved in the bundle. While Aspyn and some of the other creators, like Lauren Bullen, aka @gypsea_lust, have more than 2 million followers, many of them have much smaller audiences. Pairing with the big stars is a pretty savvy business move for the ones with fewer followers.

Now that I had the bundle, I was ready to make MY photos look Instaworthy. However, accessing the presets took way, WAY, way more effort than I expected.

The first step was to download Adobe Lightroom and then upload the preset bundle zip file into the app. After looking back and forth at the instructions a few times, I realized what I had actually uploaded: a bunch of photos from the various influencers involved in the bundle. In order to access the presets I bought, I had to open each photo individually in the app, copy the preset used on the photo, save it to Lightroom, and then create a preset in my own Lightroom app.

Basically, if I wanted to use these presets I had paid for, I now had to spend my time uploading each photo and creating a preset based on their example image. So sure, I did get the preset in the end, but it was gonna take a while.

Adobe

Now, if this were me in the real world, I sincerely doubt I would have the patience to do this all for a good Instagram filter. But I soldiered on in the name of journalism. After about 30 minutes, I had “downloaded” about 70 presets, roughly half of the ones in the bundle. I figured this was good enough and I was bored and losing count of which presets I had downloaded.

NOW, I could actually use them. I uploaded a photo that I usually would filter and post to my normal feed (me and my husband from Christmas) and tried it out with a bunch of different presets. Here are some of them. If you’re curious to see more, I posted 10 (plus the original photo) on my Instagram.

Instagram / @stephemcneal

My verdict? The presets do look nice, although a little too filtered for my tastes. However, I can see why people like them. If you are into photography, or your grid looking a certain way, I can understand why $70 would be a good investment. But for me, I’m gonna stick to the filters in the Instagram app. I will say that the hassle of actually getting to the point of using the presets would make it not worth the $70 for many people.

All that said, PLEASE don’t spend $3,000 on this. Once you have seen 100 filters, they all start to look the same. And if you have the Lightroom app, you can make your own for free!

OK, off to take 100 photos of my cat and try out the presets on her,

Stephanie