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The Toxic Reality Of Instagram

The unrealistic beauty standards portrayed across social media platforms and what we can do to create or more positive and inclusive space

CW: This article discusses topics of eating disorders and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.

Flawless skin, tiny waists, and not a stretch mark or ounce of cellulite in sight.... this is what many girls see each and every time they open Instagram. With the world of Instagram models and influencers booming, the use of photoshop and facetune is becoming far too familiar for comfort.

A generation obsessed with likes

I'm going to be honest, when I upload a new photo to Instagram I often find myself feeling disappointed or unloved when I don't get as many likes as other people. I decided to ask my peers and fellow classmates, and they all seemed to share the same feeling of not feeling liked or worthy if they didn't receive the recognition that they wanted. A common word of 'deserved' and a sense of entitlement seemed to be a common trend. But why should we care about a number on a screen and with Instagram now turning this feature off, has it really solved the problem?

Remembering people only show what they want you to see

Something so easy to forget is that people only show the side of themselves they want other people to see. Whether this is flaunting their expensive vacations or showing off their new gym progress, it's difficult to remember that everyone has flaws too. The first time I remember coming across this was when I was in my early teens scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture of one of my classmates sitting on a yacht in a bikini. I remember the exact thoughts going through my head of, firstly, how 'perfect' her body was and, secondly, that she was on an expensive yacht! I remember feeling really bad about myself and not appreciating what i had, but It wasn't till i was back at school after the summer and overheard her talking with her friends about how she edits all of her photos and that she was only on this boat momentarily to take the photo. I now always think back to this moment whenever i see these types of posts on Instagram.

Battling edited photos with more edited photos

A study conducted by City University London, showed that 90% of young women admit to using a filter or editing their instgram photos before uploading. But when does this become too much?

Many online forums, news sites, and youtube channels dedicate their time to 'exposing' influencers who heavily edit their photos creating a distorted view of reality. These warped ideals of what is real and what isn't then shapes how people see each other, resulting in a toxic space of young women competing with one another in fake personas. To learn to spot what is real and was isn't would take a mind reader, but what we can do is learn how to rewire our mindset when we do come across content that might not make us feel the best about ourselves.

Mental health becoming a casualty

The constant comparing and never being satisfied with what you have is when the real problem comes about. This can become an overwhelmingly toxic place especially for those with eating disorders or mental health struggles. Statistics have shown that suicide rates have skyrocketed over the recent years, with social media playing a large role in this, and the number of young people on antidepressants and receiving therapy has also increased. But the new age of apps such as TikTok has created a space where people feel safe to express themselves and connect with other going through similar struggles.

So what can you do to help?

Changing the reality of instagram can't be changed by just one person, but each and everyone's positive input put us one step in the right direction.

  • Showing yourself in your truest form; no edits, no filters, no nothing.

  • Not being afraid to show your weakness or flaws, and to celebrate these things that make you unique.

  • Not putting other people down with nasty comments, and instead spreading positivity and kindness.

  • And encouraging others to do the same.


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