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Original photo by Abigail Geiser
Mental Health

Why I Love the “Posing vs. Reality” Trend on Instagram

If you’ve kept up with any fitness influencers that promote body positivity, or looked at any body positivity Instagram posts in the last few months, you may have seen the trend going around about “posing vs. reality.” These side-by-side pictures have taken social media by storm, with many users posting posed, flexed pictures with flattering lighting right next to pictures of their bodies in the same outfit, seconds apart - except they’re relaxed in their natural state.

In the cover photo of this article, I have two photos I took of myself seconds apart. In the “posed” one, I’m sucking in my abs, arching my back, and crossing my arm over my body with the band of my yoga pants pulled up. In the “relaxed” photo, the band of my yoga pants is folded over, and I’m just standing without flexing anything. The problem with Instagram is that we only see the “posed” pictures. We don’t get to see what’s going on behind the finished product.

The first time I saw this trend was on Danae Mercer’s Instagram page. I started following Danae a little over a year ago, and I can honestly say that her posts about body positivity and self-love have completely changed how I think about my body. A lot of times when we’re all scrolling and double-tapping away, it’s easy to compare ourselves to what we see online. However, it’s important to remember that they’re pictures. Pictures that are posted as a highlight reel, taken with flattering lighting, and posed to enhance and cover certain things about our bodies. 

Now, I’m not hating on anyone who uses these techniques - I love posing for pictures too. But I do think it’s important to recognize that we don’t look like this all the time, and neither does anyone else. Posing should never be something you think you need to do, and you shouldn’t love yourself any less when you’re relaxed. Both versions are worthy and beautiful! One message I’ve taken away from all of these trends is that we are worthy in all the lights and all of the angles, every single day.

As much as I love social media (I’m Gen Z - I get it), it does create a culture that can be toxic for our mental health. Constantly seeing people’s perfect pictures, especially from influencers and celebrities, implants idealized images of how we think we’re “supposed” to look inside our heads. Then when we realize we don’t look like this image, it can cause some serious problems like disordered eating and negative body image. 

I think this trend could help break part of this vicious cycle of negativity and low self-esteem. When people post these side-by-side images and explain how they’re posing, it breaks the fourth wall between us and whatever we’re seeing online. We finally get to see what goes on behind the pictures, and we also find out that those people we based the idealized version of ourselves off of, well they don’t look like that ideal image in real life either. By explaining the steps behind the posed pictures, it exposes the secrets we didn’t even know were hidden from us, which feels empowering. Once we’re armed with some of this knowledge, it’s so much easier to spot the posing tricks used online and in magazines.

I guess I love this trend so much because it truly exposes the differences between social media and real life, reminding us that they are two different things. Even vloggers, when they’re filming their “daily life” are still just normal people. There’s many things that aren’t included in those videos and posts - why do you think they have outtakes and behind-the-scenes? Online content is so frequently edited that it’s sometimes hard to see where the editing stops and reality begins. 

In the future, I hope to see more content like this that shows normal parts of ourselves that we don’t typically see on social media. I’m not saying that people who use filters or pose are wrong - that is totally your decision. I just think that kind of content should be balanced out with content showing us in our most natural, and equally beautiful, states.

Abigail is a junior at the University of Akron and is majoring in English with a minor in Creative Writing. Outside of class, she enjoys obsessing over YA books, baking with her twin sister, and, of course, watching out for the latest Tik Tok trend.
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