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How Instagram Influencers Are Influencing a Decline in Mental Health

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CW: This article discusses topics surrounding mental health and body image which could be distressing to some readers.

Ever since Instagram came about in 2010, it initially had many benefits as it allowed us to build up relationships with new people who share similar interests, keep up with family and friends and share our lives with those around the world. However, over the years Instagram began to become overtaken by marketing companies who turned Instagram into a way to market products and encourage people to spend more money. This brought about a new career path of an Instagram Influencer.

This started on platforms like YouTube in 2009 with popular creators like Zoella and Alfie Deyes, but nowadays, anyone can be an influencer if they want to be. You may not realise it, but these people influence what you wear, places you go, what you eat and how you see yourself by showing you a perfect life that you should aspire to have, and this can really affect a person’s mental health if they don’t feel like they fit that mould.

A photoshopped world

We now live in a world where the line between Instagram and reality is blurred. It has become so normalised now for influencers to photoshop the images they are posting. It’s not exactly a secret as many influencers and celebrities have been caught out for doing this but that doesn’t stop negatively impacting those following them.

People are people who have imperfections and flaws and while editing those flaws and imperfections out isn’t necessarily a bad thing, when you have an influential audience, the outcomes can be detrimental.

For young people to see these images of these seemingly perfect people with the perfect body and life, it's easy to compare yourself and feel inadequate. This can begin a spiral of self-image issues, which can lead to harmful eating concerns.

A broken body image

On average, teenagers spend 7 hours and 22 minutes on their phones per day and tweens aged 8-12 are not far behind at 4 hours and 44 minutes daily. During this, most of that time spent is on social media where they are exposed to hundreds of images that influencers put out daily of their perfect lives. These are the images that can lead to feelings of inadequacy. This can affect young people’s body image.

Body image is the mental picture you have of your own body and how you see yourself when you look in the mirror. This is important as it can affect your self-esteem, self-acceptance and your own attitude towards food and exercise. Instagram influencers posting edited images can negatively affect this in young people and this has been studied and proven.

Kleemans et al found that Instagram images which were manipulated through editing had a negative effect on young female’s body image. They also found the number of followers, likes and comments on these photos provides quantitative and qualitative information about the appreciation from others and contributed to their evaluation of self.

Influencers to follow in 2023

So, which influencers can we trust? In 2023, there are so many influencers who are showing their followers their real selves and their real bodies to prove to others that they are normal. Here is a list of 3 amazing female influencers you should follow in 2023:

1. Spencer Barbosa

Spencer Barbosa is a 20-year-old Canadian influencer who has 1.3M followers on Instagram and 8.6M followers on TikTok. Even though she is an influencer what sets her apart is how vocal she is about body image and mental health, posting videos about how other influencers create the “ideal body” with lighting, angles and posing in their Instagram photos and shows the difference in what they can create for a photo. She also creates videos normalising having body hair, stretch marks and cellulite to show that everyone has these no matter what anyone says.

2. Iskra Lawrence

Iskra Lawrence is a British model who is leading the fight against photoshop. Throughout her career she has been featured in many modelling campaigns that celebrates the many forms of the female body. One of these were the new American jean by American Eagle who published completely unedited images. She campaigns for body image and rejects the term plus size as the female body is characterisable. She also is massively against photo editing and she encourages other woman to do the same.

3. Morgan Mikenas

Morgan Mikenas is a fitness blogger whose aim is to normalise natural beauty after being relentlessly bullied she turned it around to promote self-acceptance. She wants to prove to the world that body hair doesn’t equal unattractiveness and even though she knows that not all women will do the same, she wants people to have a kinder approach to body hair and get rid of the stigma that woman need to be clean shaven.


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