Social Media: An Attack on Self Esteem

We’ve all been there. Innocently, or even absentmindedly, scrolling through social media when the feeling of inadequacy begins to build up in our hearts. We begin to examine photo after photo, noting how someone’s skin is clearer than ours, their waist is smaller than ours, their facial features more symmetrical than ours. It is an everlasting game of comparison.

We thought it was bad enough that we had to look at perfectly tailored bodies on magazine covers and in the movies, but now millions of what we presume as prettier faces and bodies are just a few clicks away. We’re well aware that almost everyone is editing their photos, but that doesn’t prevent the jealousy from seeping in. It doesn’t matter that they don’t really look like that; it is what we want to look like and what the world is seeing them as.

With this social media comparison craze, we’ve become numb to the absurdity of photo editing. We add a filter to almost everything. We adjust lighting and cover up imperfections. It is like second nature; we barely even think about the process anymore.

A photographer named Rankin decided to make a project out of this photo editing craze called “Selfie Harm.” He photographed fifteen girls and had them edit their own photos until they were social media ready. The results show the dramatic changes the girls make, some even altering the shapes of their ears.

This comparison is dangerous. With it comes an increased amount of self-doubt. We make the conscious decision that the way we look normally isn’t good enough and needs to be edited, whether that is just with a simple filter or a total digital makeover. It is time to begin embracing ourselves the way we are because everyone is uniquely beautiful.

Some companies are starting to pick up on these dangerous standards and habits that girls and women (and guys!) face, and they are launching campaigns to combat it. One of them is Aerie Real. Their photos are unedited, real photos of women of all shapes and sizes, freckles and stretch marks in all. Campaigns like Aerie Real are so important in today’s social media atmosphere of faked perfection. We should be embracing and loving ourselves, not changing and editing the perfectly good face we’ve been given.

In addition to companies catching on to the issue, you can log onto social media and see photos of “posed” and “relaxed” bodies. These images show how a simple pose can change people’s perception of you; it’s not all editing apps that are making us feel like we need to look different than we actually are. It is refreshing to know that people are aware of the problem and are taking steps to fix it, like posting unedited photos, revealing the unnatural poses, and launching campaigns for body positivity.

Social media is a public platform that is pretty much controlled by the public. We decide what we like and don’t like, what we comment on and don’t comment on. Supporting accounts that are sending body-positive messages may make that the forefronting message. Don’t fall into the social media perfection craze. Post your unedited photos and relaxed selfies. You may be surprised at the amount of positive feedback you get.

Rankin summed it all up with his project: “It’s time to acknowledge the damaging effects that social media has on people’s self-image.”