Instagram is a place of inspiration, connection, and entertainment. The media platform allows us to see photos from all over the world just by searching a hashtag or location. However, Instagram is also a platform that unintentionally promotes the mindset that happiness can only be marked by a beautiful face or body. It is reported that 69% of girls between the ages of 10 and 18 use photographs of models and celebrities to set their own body goals. Oftentimes people become so consumed in surfing through the lives of these aesthetically pleasing figures, we fail to notice that there is more than what meets the eye.
The Audience Perspective
I stumbled across a community that didn’t hide behind the lipgloss or lingerie while surfing through Instagram because I was naturally, avoiding homework. The various accounts that were interconnected through hashtags dealt with issues of body image, eating disorders, and depression. The accounts were predominantly run by girls, mid 20’s or younger. Many of the photo’s had little to do with individuals actively taken a picture, but displaying images of body parts or quotes describing their feelings of sadness.
An eating disorder is an illness that is incredibly hard to treat. While many other forms of illnesses benefit from education, support groups, and therapy, eating disorders lie in their own separate category.
For instance, for a man that is battling a substance abuse problem, he can sit in a room listening to others’ stories to give him strength in overcoming his own struggles. For a person struggling to overcome an eating disorder, sometimes sitting in a room listening to others discuss their issues can spark thoughts of relapse.
“Trigger” is a word used to describe content or conversations that can cause a person retrogress into a previously unhealthy mindset. Replace the communal room in which people share stories, with an unsurmountable number of community Instagram accounts discussing negative body image, and you have a recipe for triggering disaster.
Some photo’s show before and after pictures of weight loss, other’s show bodies so skinny that the bones are visible through the thin layer of skin.
“Future goals,” the caption will read.
Other accounts even have pictures displaying the caption, “Every Like I get I wont eat for an hour.”
The comments range from sympathetic remarks, to worried friends. to people who encourage the behavior in order to find a sense of comradeship, as they are undergoing similar struggles.
In 2012, the creators of Instagram made efforts to stop young girls from diving into comparison and self hatred while using the app. Certain hashtags like “thinspiration” and “thigh gap” were banned. However, a recent article posted in Wired.Co.Uk reports that these efforts have not helped. Instead, people have created new diverging hashtags that consist of slightly different combination of letters.
We cannot completely shield the ones we love from the world, however we can be aware of what they could be searching while using technology and Instagram. Triggering content is not entirely avoidable, but it is important for the public to realize there is a bigger population than just models and celebrities on Instagram. If we dig deeper, we can find a lot of people asking for help, unsure how to receive any except in the form of anonymous pictures and blurred lenses.
The Model Perspective
So how do the models feel? The one’s whose photos keep girls up at night, wondering why they weren’t as lucky to have such aesthetically pleasing features.
The “Halo Effect” is a psychological misconception that anyone who is pretty is also guaranteed to be talented and happier than the average person. This however is not the case. Many models cave from the pressure of always having to appear “perfect.”
One such Instagram model was a woman by the name of Essena O’Neill. O’Neill quit her job of modeling at the age of 18, admitting to the public she was incredibly unhappy. She went back to recaption her Instagram photos, expressing how she actually felt at the time of the photo. O’Neill plans to continue raising awareness about the pressure’s young girls face regarding body image. Her story is another reminder that there is always more than what meets the eye.
To find out more about O’Neill’s story, click the link below.