Content Warning: discusses themes of depression, anxiety and self image which may be triggering to readers.
For most of us, a quick and easy scroll through Instagram reveals a multitude of pictures of seemingly flawless and nearly perfect bodies. With the emergence of terms such as ‘body positive’ and ‘body neutral’, an increasing amount of research is being conducted around the impact of social media on concerns related to body image, ultimately confirming the correspondence between concerns such as self-objectification and the use of social media platforms such as Instagram.
The images of perfect beach bodies and perfectly arranged plates of food may be the first thing to come to mind when one thinks about Instagram, but is this changing? The increase in recognition and frustration over the unrealistic and potentially harmful portrayals on Instagram have led to movements such as the Instagram vs Reality trend. This form of social activism involves posting side by side images: one being an ideal ‘Instagram’ version, and the other being a realistic and natural version of the same picture. The goal behind such posts is to hopefully decrease the negative impacts of idealistic Instagram posts on both body image and general mental health by showing that social media does not always show reality. It is not new knowledge that social media platforms play a major role in the mental health of today’s youth. For instance, a study by Primak et al linked the use of social media platforms such as facebook, twitter and Instagram with increased symptoms of anxiety and depression in individuals aged 19 to 31.
Is it helping?
While there isn’t much research on the impact of this specific trend, researchers such as Fardouly and Rapee have looked at the effect of viewing Instagram pictures that are ‘ideal’ versus pictures that are natural. They found that the presence of non-makeup (natural) selfies on one’s feed helped decrease the negative effects on facial dissatisfaction caused by the exposure to makeup (ideal) selfies. Findings such as these encourage us to believe that these new trends are helping fight the negative impacts of Instagram. However, could these trends not simply become the new images that we will compare ourselves to?