New influencer trend could prompt mental health crises, suicide as users tune into 'fake life': Tech Founder

Artificial intelligence-powered social media influencers are created to look like perfect people living the perfect life, which could damage younger users' mental health, a technology strategist told Fox News. 

Just like their human counterparts, AI influencers are online personalities that use their platforms to endorse brands and sell products. The catch is they're completely computer-generated. 

"A young boy who's seeing perfection like a blond, beautiful, artificial influencer is not going to be able to function properly in the world meeting real people," said Alexa Eden, who founded EDEN, a consulting firm that specializes in artificial intelligence (AI) training. "They're going to think that life is supposed to look that way and if it doesn't look that way, if a woman doesn't look that way, they're not beautiful."

"With millions of data points, they know exactly what we're looking at, what we want to click on," she added. "We already know that it's going to disturb many mental and emotional health crises."

In recent weeks, Milla Sofia, an AI-generated influencer who portrays a 24-year-old woman from Finland, has attracted significant attention, gaining over 100,000 followers on TikTok and nearly 60,000 on Instagram. 

The AI influencer's posts rack up comments from users swooning over the bot.

"Can we meet sometime for lunch?" an Instagram user commented on one post. "You are a natural beauty," another user, this one on TikTok, wrote.

"If I'm a young girl and I'm growing up and I'm seeing specific influencers, AI influencers, look a certain way, that may have longer-term effects on how I perceive myself," Eden told Fox News. "We spent billions of dollars trying to reverse the detrimental impacts of airbrushing and photoshopping and plastic surgery, and now we're going to introduce something like this into the world?"

"When we see an AI influencer, it's taking everything that it knows about human psychology and projecting perfection from a marketing standpoint, from a psychological standpoint, from an emotional standpoint," Eden continued. "It makes sense that there is an entire trend of people tuning in to a fake life."

Spending time on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other social media has been linked to mental health issues in kids such as depression, suicide and anxiety, according to a March report from the U.S. Surgeon General.

In 2021, Instagram's parent company, now named Meta, acknowledged its photo-sharing app can be harmful to teen girls' self-esteem, according to company documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal. Researchers the tech giant tapped to examine its impact on young users' mental health over a three-year period found that 32% of teen girls who "felt bad about their bodies" said Instagram made the issue worse, WSJ reported. 

That same year, a bipartisan group of senators investigated Facebook over its products provoking mental health problems.

"Facebook knew" it was causing children mental health problems in kids, Sen. Marsha Blackburn told Fox News at the time. "But in search of that dollar and another dollar of profit, they did it anyway."

Eden was unsure whether AI influencers could have any long-term benefits.

"When we're not careful, we start to fall into a trap that has us believing that what's being presented to us is real," the humane technologist told Fox News. 

"It's definitely going to develop business, it's definitely going to have more viewer attention, it's definitely going to develop ad space," she continued. "But is it helping us in the long term?"

To watch the full interview with Eden, click here

Ramiro Vargas contributed to the accompanying video. Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.