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Body image and self-esteem go hand in hand when it comes to young women and a digitally orientated westernised society. The power of the internet, specifically social media, can change the way young women value their self-worth, impacting the way we take care of ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually. 1
Body image and Instagram
It can be suggested that there is a close relationship between body dissatisfaction and social media, especially within a contemporary world, where our lives are heavily influenced by social media sites. Researchers have looked at the role of Instagram on body image with adolescent girls and young women, who are the most frequent users of the social media platform. 2
It can be suggested that Instagram is no longer perceived as a social media app, but instead a lifestyle that many cannot go a day without browsing through their feeds. With this, ideologies and expectations of women’s bodies are displayed throughout the site with the constant photos uploaded of bikini models, gym advocates and celebrities. This having a negative effect on the way consumers, specifically women, view their own bodies, along with the pressure they feel for their own bodies to replicate those we see plastered all over Instagram.
Instagram and self obsession
We live in a society where people are becoming obsessed with Instagram and the power it gives their self-esteem, however, the effect the power of Instagram has amongst its consumers travels much deeper. Scrolling through our feeds, we are constantly bombarded with images of Instagram influencers, who have perfect, cellulite free bodies, with big busts and a tiny waist. This leads consumers to look at their own bodies and question their own body attributes and whether they replicate those of the women we always come across on Instagram. We are often manipulated into thinking that we need to look like the influencers we see on Instagram, due to the constant reminder of their photos plastered across the social media site. Just because someone receives 500,000 likes and thousands of positive comments on a photo exposing their body, we’re manipulated into believing they possess a ‘perfect body’, due to the extensive amount of positive responses from other users.
Instagram vs reality
What many users are still often oblivious to is that in an ideal world, our bodies evidently don’t look like that naturally and in most cases these body ‘ideals’ are achieved entirely through cosmetic procedures or even editing apps, which isn’t discussed by the user. This leading to a form of false consciousness, where consumers are brainwashed into believing that what we see online is completely natural and unedited. The way these Instagram influencers construct their social media profile can be highly deceiving, especially to adolescent teen users, who are manipulated into believing that the posts we see is someone’s completely natural body. This leading consumers to assess their own bodies and disapprove themselves because their waist and bust size doesn’t replicate theirs. In reality for many Instagram influencers, they have a personal photographer who understands what angles looks best for the photo they are trying to achieve, and with this certain body parts look thinner, bigger and more emphasised. This again leading to the concept of false consciousness, and in reality ‘perfect’ selfies are achieved through editing apps, camera angles, and even through the help of cosmetic surgery.
Selfie’s and self worth
Teens today are often referred to as the “selfie generation.”4 It can be suggested that female users, specifically adolescent teens, rely very much on the amount of likes they receive on a picture in order to determine their self-worth and position within society. Many feel that if they don’t receive a certain number of likes on a ‘selfie’ then they will delete the picture immediately.3
In conclusion to this, they may declare themselves as unattractive and unworthy if they don’t receive the reaction they hoped for from their followers. Visual platforms deliver the tools that allow teens to earn approval for their appearance and compare themselves to others. For some, especially girls, what starts as a fun way to document and share experiences can turn into an obsession.4 This can become quite severe especially amongst teens with mental health issues, where they become quite literally obsessed with taking selfies and portraying a particular perception about their image, which they then want to be celebrated by others for them to perceive themselves as attractive and worthy in society.
The internet and mental health
The connection between mental health and social media has become quite an outrage throughout recent years. One report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK surveyed 1500 young people, ages 14 to 24, to determine the effects of social media use on issues such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and body image. Their findings show that YouTube had the most positive impact, while Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat all had negative effects on mental health.5 Body image and social comparison is without a doubt one of the biggest causes of depression amongst teens, due to the extensive amount of user activity every day and the ideologies implemented about body ideals, what it means to be happy and how to be perceived as attractive by the opposite sex. These all adding huge amounts of pressure on young teens in constructing their identity to be perceived as worthy in society.
In conclusion, there are many negative outcomes on the digital impact of Instagram and body image ideologies, especially amongst adolescent teens who will constantly compare themselves to other users on the social media site. This then having serious effects on their mental health, and own happiness, which is a serious problematic structure of contemporary society.