Mental health is something that is impacts us all, whether you experience an adversity that you have to overcome in the short term or a more long term situation that has more lasting effects. With the rise of social media we are all sucked into this virtual reality that we can often get lost in, immersed in a world that subconsciously influences us with the content we are exposed to. Social media has often been shown to distort reality, whether that be facts from the news or images of people that seem 'perfect'. Posting online allows you to use filters and edit your pictures to the extend where the line between reality and fantasy is blurred.
Since Instagram was launched in 2010 it has acquired millions of users, the success of the app directly shows the usage of social media within society. Instagram is a platform that facilitates and promotes many unrealistic beauty standards. Most of which are influenced by and caused by the fashion industry. The algorithms of social media mean that we are fed information relating to what we frequently search or look at. If we are looking at clothes on google we may then see pop up ads of social media from clothing brands. This loop of new content means we can find ourselves divulged in a world of expectations and scrutiny of ones self.
Beauty Standards in the Fashion World
Fashion is ever changing, it is always enticing you to buy into the latest trends and to look a certain way By being exposed to this we naturally compare ourselves, I for one know that I do. We look at the models wearing the clothes and buy them in hope that we can look like them. The disappointing reality that follows however is one which can negatively affect our body image. We look in the mirror and we feel worse than before when realising it may not look how it did online. We then criticise ourselves and pick at ourselves, thinking of how we can look better or be better. This is a vicious negative cycle that can often consume people.
Social media influences have increased with the rise of Instagram, and with this comes the increased self doubt and toxic comparison between ourselves and others. We will see people who appear to lead these amazing lives, going travelling and having all these experiences. People who dress amazing and always look good. However what we must remember is this is not reality. Links of anxiety and depression have been made to social media, as in particularly young people, put pressure on themselves to be a certain way. There are certain beauty standards that people try to achieve and by doing this we are changing what makes us, us, and in exchange we are letting ourselves be consumed by unhealthy obsessions that have impacts on our mental health.
Models seem to promote certain beauty standards, with the classic Victoria Secret models promoting a slim figure. Many have criticised this as, claiming these standards have led to eating disorders and other mental health problems. The models are plastered all over bill boards and social media, it is something that we can't escape, something that we repeatedly see.
The impact of Covid19 on Social Media Usage
When Covid-19 hit the world in 2019/20 we saw a drastic shift in people's everyday lives. It led to a more sedentary lifestyle, people stopped exercising as much and many were forced to stay indoors. This isolation from physical human contact drove many to the virtual world. People started using social media more and more to communicate. There are many factors because of this that can lead to a decline in mental health. As people use social media more, the adverts targeting people increased, much of which is fashion related.
Although fashion can be a form of expression and a positive movement, it also has a lot of negativity attached with it. From the makeup we consume to the clothes we wear, it is all focusing on body image. A report from Sky news stated that in the period of Covid, social media usage went up by 36%. People are consequently spending less time outdoors in the real world with friends and family, and more time online consumed by a never ending content feed. This lack of human contact and increased usage of social media has led to a rise in cases of depression and anxiety.
What can the Fashion industry do to help Peoples Mental Health
The fashion industry is responsible for influencing a large number of its consumers, and so the content it creates and promotes has effect on those who are surrounded by it. The fashion industry has started to take more of an active role in body positivity with campaigns that all bodies are perfect and increasing the ranges of clothing they sell. Plus size promotions have increased and ranges such as 'curve' are promoted more frequently. This is moving away from the homogenous view that we should all look a certain way. This is positive and creates feelings of inclusivity, making consumers who don't always look like the 'expected' beauty standards, feel included and accepted.
The 2019 Victoria Secret show was cancelled due to years of bad press, criticising the negative and unrealistic standards it sets. This was seen by many as a victory, in that society is shifting towards acceptance of all body types and self love. This has helped many people feel more confident in themselves. Alongside this, we see influencers posting pictures of themselves posed and un-posed, showing the reality of what human bodies look like. Actions like this create an atmosphere of unity and promote body positivity, reminding people that social media isn't always reality and everyone has insecurities .