It’s just a casual Sunday afternoon and I’m scrolling through Instagram. What does my explore feed look like?
Well, there’s a flat lay with a Daniel Wellington watch, some coffee at some new independent coffee store in East London, a gazillion street style photographs, some semi-naked men with beards and tattoos, Dermot O’Leary, and about 27 pictures of cats. Oh, and did I forget to mention that almost every other photo is of a bikini-clad babe snapped on a Thai/Australian/Californian (delete as appropriate) beach? Complete with serious abs, thigh gap, and the kind of hair that looks like it got photoshopped out of a L’Oreal advert. Sometimes it’s even captioned with an inspirational quote that basically translates into “you too could have a perfect life if only you looked just like this”
And if you don’t look that good? Then your life is just crap, obvs.
Cheers for shitting on my Sunday afternoon, Instagram. I’ll just go back to my cold desk and eat another bagel and watch as my tan fades into the same shade of magnolia as my bedroom walls.
It’s already established that social media can be detrimental to our wellbeing, but there’s a good chance that Instagram is killing your self-confidence more than Twitter and Facebook. It whittles down the elements of social media that are most likely to cultivate feelings of self-loathing: photos, likes, and followers. It’s like being at secondary school all over again, looking at the popular girls with their great bodies, gang of clone-like friends, and hot boyfriends (although they are all now fat anyway).
When you’re constantly bombarded with pictures of women that are this idealised image of perfection with 50k plus followers and 3000 likes per picture, it doesn’t take that long for thoughts to seep into your mind that to have perfectly toned abs, arms, a Kim Kardashian style arse and a thigh gap is actually way more common, and more ‘normal’ than you may have thought. You then begin to compare yourself, identify your flaws, and slowly this sense of dissatisfaction crawls in and begins to eat away at your self esteem.
Our self-image can be warped under the pressure of social media. It turns into a vicious cycle of liking photographs of things we like, desire, and want that have appeared in the infinitely scrollable explore feed. And of course the Instagram algorithm creates this explore feed “based on people you follow”, which for me just so happen to be ridiculously pretty women with seemingly perfect lives, wardrobes and bodies. So next thing you know, you’ve been sucked into the black hole of insta-babes and being force-fed more and more of it.
One of the biggest issues around Instagram is that it by being a mobile app, the images are perceived to be more ‘real’ in comparison those seen in magazines and billboards. We all know how much photoshopping goes into advertisements and editorials, but we often take what we see on Instagram for truth because it’s supposed to be behind the scenes, real life snapshots. Even if we know that these people we follow may have edited the pictures using other apps, we generally trust the fact that what we are seeing is reality, taken candidly on someone’s iPhone.
Putting yourself online creates a lot of transparency: anyone with an internet connection can see you and judge you. So of course you’re going to want to appear your best to this infinite number of people that might virtually stroll past your profile. Who doesn’t want to feel liked, appreciated, and attractive? Our Instagram profiles become a carefully curated version of ourselves that hides the flaws and pushes our most positive physical attributes. Curating reality warps our self-perception. We are pulled into a cycle of constructing our perfect virtual self, but when we see others profiles we take that as pure reality.
So what do you do when you feel a bit self-loathing after an Instagram explore sesh?
Is it really real? I may have just posted a selfie or outfit post, but chances are I might not have taken it at that very moment. People are never going to post an image where they look like a vile spotty teenager (unless feeling adventurous for a #tbt ) they are going to post something that looks fun and attractive. Right now I’m writing this wearing my mum’s pyjamas, greasy hair scraped into a bun, and no makeup apart from what little remains of last night… (forgive me beauty bloggers, for I have sinned.) Would I put a picture of that on my Instagram? Hell no. I’m more likely to take one of the BLT sandwich that I’ll probably have for lunch, next to a copy of The Sunday Times because I want my profile to look pretty and consistent. So when you see something, look at it through the eyes of curated reality.
We’re all different. We are all individuals. You will never be that person in the photo, so what’s the point in comparing yourself? It is only ever going to maximise the things about yourself that make you unhappy.
So you’re sitting there scrolling through your feed and thinking “Jesus her nose is so perfect and better than mine dear god why don’t I look like her why??” Stop with the negativity. Think of something that you like about yourself instead. Say your eyes, or your lips, or eyebrows. See somebody having an amazing time on their holiday? Whatever. Sure, you might just be sitting on your bed shivering because your housemates switched off the heating, but you don’t need to worry about getting sand in your pants and having super dry sea-washed hair. Winner.
It may be taking up 95% of your news feed, but only a small percentage of the human population look like this. Just remember that.