Have you ever been laying in bed, scrolling through Instagram, and stopped to look at an influencer laying by the pool in her sponsored bikini? Most of us probably have… You pause your scrolling to momentarily examine the woman’s seemingly perfect body: her tiny waist, flat stomach, minuscule belly button, long glowing legs, thick hair, sparkling eyes, long eyelashes, and curvy hips leading to a perfectly sculpted hourglass figure. You continue to scroll through your feed, passing another post of a woman with almost the exact appearance of perfection. Then, you scroll past another, and another, and then another… Why do all of these women look the same? Are we supposed to want to look like this? What is this trying to tell us? Are these images even real?
These questions address an extremely prevalent issue regarding the current standard of beauty in our society, most commonly spread through social media platforms. To put it simply, almost every single Instagram model edits their body for their posts; they alter any aspect of themselves that doesn’t align with the current standards of beauty. Women scroll through social media every day and are exposed to countless beautiful women who portray a false image of themselves online. Young girls, teenagers, and women constantly compare themselves to these bodies they see online, causing them to question their appearance, which often results in them developing eating disorders, emotional issues, a lower sense of self esteem/confidence, habits of editing their own photos to mimic the bodies they see online, etc. The current climate of social media perpetuates harmful, unrealistic expectations regarding women’s bodies because brands encourage it, often approaching influencers who do edit their photos to promote their bathing suits, party dresses, clothing, jewelry, makeup, and skincare.
We are all aware that many of us put filters on photos or adjust the brightness, saturation levels, sharpness, and amount of contrast all the time. However, editing one’s body has an extremely different effect on one’s audience than editing the image as a whole. Editing the overall look of a photo is more related to photography and professional editing; body editing was created to make women look more appealing, desirable, and feminine. Adjusting the brightness of a photo is very different from enlarging a woman’s breasts or shrinking her waist… A young girl would not think poorly of herself and her own body after viewing a bright, colorful photo; she would think differently about herself after viewing a photo of a severely edited body. If an influencer doesn’t even think her natural body is beautiful enough to post, why would a young woman in high school feel confident enough to post her own authentic body? The reality of this answer lies with a certain expectation to completely eliminate any aspects of one’s body that our society has deemed as imperfect. These influencers have created a brand for themselves, and sharing their authentic body after months of editing could result in severe backlash from the public, damaging their image online.
Also, women often do not fully absorb the fact that these images and bodies are edited, Facetuned (a popular body editing app), or photoshopped. Unfortunately, this climate has trained the minds of women to simply absorb these unrealistic bodies online; we have all been trained to believe almost everything we see and read online.
Since I have been thrown into the sphere of social media as a young adult, I have experienced my fair share of body image, self esteem, and confidence issues due to this comparison between myself and these “perfect” women online.