Social Media and the Pressure to be Perfect

Australian model Essena O’Neill’s Instagram feed was full of the typical posts that you would expect from an Instagram star: pictures displaying her fit body, posts endorsing products and envy-inducing vacation images. Most recently, O’Neill made headlines not for her pictures but for the captions beneath them. She became fed up with the hypocrisy of social media and decided to rewrite the captions on many of the images to reveal the truth. One picture was captioned “Stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs, I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. Its contrived perfection made to get attention.”

She explained to more than 500,000 followers how she was being paid to promote clothes and products and even admitted to taking 100 selfies until she got the “skinny shot.” She went as far as saying that social media “served no real purpose other than self promotion” and she then changed the name of her account to “Social Media Isn’t Real” (the account no longer exists).

Almost immediately, others spoke up. Many praised O’Neill for bringing the situation to light and called her brave. However, others like CEO for Rise9, Zack James, went as far as to slam the model and said that social media wasn’t the lie — she was.

Whether you agree with O’Neill or not, she did bring up a very interesting topic that is rarely discussed. We decided to take this issue to light and see how University of Florida women feel about social media.

Social media has become a huge part of our daily lives. Many of us feel comfortable to post our triumphs, failures and feelings. While it’s definitely part of pop culture and our daily routine, is social media a positive or negative part of our lives?

When asked, many women responded that it’s circumstantial. Many agreed that social media is what you make of it. Many women admitted to knowing a friend or follower who has portrayed their life on social media falsely.

I've been in several situations where my friends will go out of their way to post a picture on Instagram. They will get dressed and pick a location only to be able to post about it. And even if they were at that place for five minutes, they will still post about it as if they were there for an entire night,” said Katherine Dagand, a 21-year-old public relations major at UF.

Anyone who has Instagram can attest to the immense amount of followers who are models, fitness gurus and travelers. Many girls look up to these Instagram celebrities and dream about living such a life and can in turn cause them to look down upon their own lifestyles.

Dani Prica, a 20-year-old journalism major, said, “There have been numerous times where friends of mine will comment and compare themselves to people who are fake for a lack of a better word, and it upsets me that they do so. It's easier to pretend to be something you're not in hopes of impressing people because you want to look a certain way and leave a certain impression on others.”

On average, the girls interviewed said they take anywhere between 15 and 25 selfies before deciding whether to post it on sites like Facebook or Instagram.

It's only natural that sometimes I want to always post the best pictures of myself and look good to the outside world because I feel it's so competitive. For Vine you want to be funny. For Instagram you want to look good. For Twitter you want to sound interesting,” said Ayla Morales, a 21-year-old public relations major. 

As for changes to be made on social media platforms, some girls felt like there’s not much to be done besides being true to you. O’Neill disagrees, as she has since deleted her social media accounts and started her own website “Let’s Be Game Changers” where she advocates for teens to do a one-week social media cleanse. O’Neill said she’s just glad to finally be living life to the fullest of her capabilities without the pressures of social media.

“I can't tell you how free I feel without social media. Never again will I let a number define me. IT SUFFOCATED ME. Not because I had 500,000 followers, I felt the same as a young girl, I would just spend hours looking at everyone else's perfect lives and I strived to make mine look just as good... Guess I succeeded,” she posted.

While it’s all fun and games, it’s important to not let social media inundate your life. It’s totally acceptable to post Instagram photos of a fun night out on the town, vacations with your family and your selfies when your brows look especially flawless, but everyone needs to remember that there is so much more to life. It seems that social media doesn’t only affect your social life; in fact a study done by a British Psychological Society conference in September concluded that the need to be constantly available on social media accounts could cause depression, anxiety and reduce sleep quality among teens. So, here’s a reminder: Sometimes the best memories are the ones you don’t post about.

Photo credit: www.forbes.com