AI-Generated Influencers: How Do They Affect Your Mental Health and What You Need to Be Aware Of
- Aug 11th 2023
- Est. 4 minutes read
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming commonplace in many areas of our lives. The recent introduction of AI-generated influencers means that we can now be friends with, and even have a relationship with, people we already admire on social media. However, these developments have potential risks to our mental well-being, and we need to be aware of the impact these "fake" encounters may have on our real lives.
Caryn Marjorie is a successful Snapchat influencer and the virtual girlfriend of thousands. After struggling to keep in touch with her 1.8 million subscribers, Caryn and the Forever Voices team created the first AI-generated influencer. The aim is for CarynAI to be an AI-generated girlfriend that helps lonely people.
The CarynAI website states that over 2000 hours have been spent capturing Caryn's unique voice, captivating persona, and distinctive behavior. Those engaging with the AI version feel like they are speaking with Caryn herself. In addition to Caryn, Forever Voices promotes the possibility of users speaking to many other AI-generated personas of public figures.
While this could be deemed light-hearted and fun, experts are concerned about the psychological risks of these advancements in AI technology. Dr. Jesse Hanson, MentalHealth.com's Medical Content Director and licensed Clinical Psychologist, is worried about the promotion of perfection and its impact on society. He explains, "not only does it give unrealistic expectations about love, relationship, materialism, and friendship; it is also harmful to the users' sense of self, self-esteem, and body image."
The impact of social media on the mental health of users has been well studied. A 2020 systematic review of 50 papers assessing the subject concluded that social media is responsible for aggravating mental health problems. Social media influencers play a particular role, often promoting unattainable lifestyles that leave users dissatisfied with their lives, which can lead to depression and anxiety.
AI-generated influencers could worsen the problem. As Hanson identifies, "a personal connection develops quickly as AI personas are designed to be specifically tailored to the user's unique interests and needs." Hanson is particularly concerned about their influence over certain social groups, explaining, "the brains of children, adolescents, and teens are still very malleable and absorptive, and this type of programming can shape their brain, nervous system, and psyche."
AI-generated personas can significantly influence a user's daily life through their ability to be constantly available. Users can choose to spend time online rather than in face-to-face interaction, a term known as social displacement. A 2022 study states that social displacement can reduce well-being. "The perfectionistic projections of AI-generated influencers create a great likelihood that the user will gather unrealistic comparisons between the AI influencer and actual real human relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners," Hanson warns.
Concerningly, users can turn to AI-generated personas for personalized information, advice, and guidance ahead of people in real life. As Hanson clarifies, "this can lead to irrational decision-making and set users up for a fake life that disconnects them from actual reality."
Hanson has advice for those looking to embark on a relationship with an AI-generated influencer. "If you know you are interacting with AI-generated influencers, it is of utmost importance to frequently remind yourself that this "person" is not real, and everything included in the communications has one simple goal: to claim your attention and ultimately sell you something, even if that something is a false sense of companionship," says Hanson. Users must frequently remind themselves of this to avoid becoming immersed in a fake life and friendship. Hanson stresses that "balancing any AI interactions with real human interactions is a helpful technique to help a person not lose grasp of actual reality."
AI is here to stay and has many benefits, but the technology is new, and its influence is still being determined. We must all learn how to use AI responsibly and heed the advice of those concerned with its impact on mental health. As Hanson concludes, "while interacting with AI may be fun in some ways, it must be balanced with real-life events and relationships that foster true feelings of connection.”
MentalHealth.com is a patient-first technology company driven by its mission to make optimal mental health attainable for everyone. With a focus on expanding care access, empowering choice, and enhancing care quality, the company delivers innovative solutions that support individuals throughout their mental health journey.