A decade ago, the news that a celebrity’s photo “leaked” meant something very different than it does now. Said controversial photo probably wouldn’t be one of them at their home pool, candidly smiling. In this age of toxic body culture, when social media exerts a powerful influence, though, a similar photo of Khloe Kardashian in her bathing suit stirred up great internet turmoil.
As summarized by Insider, Kardashian instructed her team to remove the picture from the internet, where it had already spread across many social media platforms, including Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram. She received an onslaught of judgement about the photo, with many commenting that the natural–seeming body in this specific image seemed very different from her other social media posts, which are often photoshopped.
Kardashian’s driven effort to wipe the picture from the internet underscores a greater issue with social media. Many mental health professionals fear the proliferation of edited pictures is harmful to the body image and mental health of the youth. Normalizing posting edited pictures––and making all efforts to remove unedited pictures––promotes a false reality, triggering issues that many have with their body image.
The other side of this two–fold problem is that society has normalized associating embarrassment with natural, unedited photos. Kardashian herself spoke to this problem, recognizing that it’s part of a pattern that spoils the experience of using social media.
Kardashian, like many of us, claims to have struggled with her body image for years, especially after being constantly compared to her sisters. She shared, “This is me and my body unretouched and unfiltered. The photo that was posted this week is beautiful. But as someone who has struggled with body image her whole life, when someone takes a photo of you that isn't flattering in bad lighting or doesn't capture your body the way it is after working so hard to get to this point—and then shares it to the world—you should have every right to ask for it to not be shared—regardless of who you are”.
Kardashian’s words show that she feels herself to be a victim to the toxic culture of social media. The vicious cycle of this toxicity is highlighted in her situation: she’s entitled to her feeling of discomfort and desire to have a picture of herself removed from the internet, and even her need to prove the picture was a product of unflattering lighting and angles on Instagram live. However, as a famous influencer, she further propels the issue by making all efforts to remove the image from the public eye, as if there is something truly shameful about sharing her natural body.
It should go without saying that no womxn or person should feel the need to prove to anyone, let alone millions of strangers, how their body looks in order to justify a post. Kardashian is, like everyone else, allowed to delete pictures of herself from social media. However, this instance should also serve as a red flag and reminder that social media is a breeding ground for body image issues, especially for impressionable young womxn. Many who post on social media only see edited pictures, getting used to the idea that it’s unacceptable to post natural photos—and choose to continue the cycle, only for their followers to adopt the same view.
As we enter spring and summer and social media begins to repopulate with more beach pictures and less bundled–up wintry photos, this lesson becomes even more relevant—in the way we think about ourselves and others. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting the world to see your body, but that doesn’t justify playing a role in this dangerous cycle. Let’s make a change and enjoy the social media for the reasons it was created, which was certainly not in order to body shame or promote a dangerous expectation of what is “normal.”