You’re probably about to share that you are reading this very post. It has become a habit to document every move we make, every place we go, everyone we see, and everything we do and then post it online to be projected to our followers, friends and family.
As normal and routine as it may seem, the way we are so willing to hand over our information without a second thought, is actually kind of scary. You never know who is watching you, and it’s hard to show your true self, especially to an audience that sees ‘perfection’ as the norm.
That being said, it is impossible to ignore the advantages that living in a digital age has provided. We are able to connect with people across the world, maintain relationships a thousand miles apart, and we have the ability to be in more than one place at a time — talk about stretching yourself thin. However, living in a constant media bubble can have negative effects.
Through Instagram, we are constantly being surrounded by people with thousands of followers, ultra slim bodies, world travellers and bombshell girls who get paid for posting Instagram pictures on vacation. Even with the rise of the body positive movement, body love, positivity and self esteem has never been harder to achieve, especially with the constant obsession with how many likes and comments you get on your photo.
Megan Burry, a full time site manager, said that she thinks Instagram is a great outlet to express yourself and uplift others. But, she also feels that it can be extremely abused. “It’s used as a way to give your followers the illusion that ‘my life is better than yours’,” said the 18 year old. “After posting a photo on Instagram, if you don’t get as many likes as you expected, you question whether or not it’s ‘worthy’ of a post, maybe people don’t think I’m pretty enough or happy enough.”
Burry said she struggles with always looking for approval from people she doesn’t even know, no matter how many times she tells herself that she shouldn’t care about the likes and comments.
Diana Searles, 19, said that often she worries about her pictures on Instagram, and it affects her self esteem and makes her feel self conscious. “After looking at many pictures on social media, it displays what it means to look ‘beautiful’. We start overanalyzing ourselves and our body image and we will do whatever we can to make ourselves look like them, even if it costs us our health,” said Searles. “Each time I post a photo of myself on social media, I worry about how many people will think about how I look, and it makes me change how I live my life.”
The role of society on Instagram is not innocent, it is the basic foundation of why Instagram has these side effects. Burry said that it gives an unrealistic expectation that life is always perfect. “It personally puts me in a state of envy,” she said. While she is confident with her body, social media makes her second guess herself and become self conscious.
“The biggest negative effect about Instagram is how it makes us define our value as people based on likes, comments and shares. We’re so connected to the people that we follow, and their lives, but when you see them in person they can be completely different,” said Burry. “No one knows anyone, it is just what they choose to show you.”
“Although fitness and beauty accounts can teach you a lot, it makes me feel bad because I always think ‘I should be eating like that, but I don’t’,” said Searles. She added that Instagram is something that everyone is addicted to, so it’s hard to escape it.
While it’s still good to use Instagram, and it can be a positive thing, it’s important to be aware of what you are viewing and following before you let it affect your body image and well-being.
It’s important to remember that Instagram itself, is not a negative space. However, the people you follow can make it like that. A great way to beat the Instagram effect is to follow accounts that encourage you to be the best version of yourself, without a filter.
@aerie- even though it’s a clothing brand, they have been doing a great job to promote #nofilters, and encourage women to embrace their bodies. They have started campaigns that include non retouched photos to spread awareness to body love.
@Healthyisthenewskinny- Another brand, that encourages women to see that health is more important than body image. They post a lot of positive photos and quotes, and their bio says that they want to challenge media messages that tell us we are “unlovable”.
@bodyposipanda- Megan Jayne Crabbe, a claimed body positive feminist and eating disorder warrior. She posts such great body positive memes and photos, of herself as well, and tells women to embrace their bodies no matter what shape or size they may be.
@tessholliday- One of my personal favourites. Tess Holliday is a beautiful plus size model, and she was one of the first ones to kill the plus modelling industry. Her Instagram is filled with gorgeous photographs, and encourages women to love their bodies no matter what.
@swimsuitsforall- A great bikini account to follow, and a good break to take away from all the Victoria Secret swimsuit summer ads. It’s an account that shows you that any type of body is a “bikini body”.
Real life doesn’t have a filter, so you shouldn’t compare yourself to a photo that does .