Is Instagram destroying girls’ self-esteem? Instagram, the newest social media to take the world by storm, is nothing but photos, with over 60 million new images uploaded everyday. Its popularity has ushered the era of the “selfie” into a whole new level of perfectionism. Before taking a selfie many girls spend a long time perfecting their hair, makeup and outfit. Then, they take dozens of photos of their own face, experimenting with different angles and lighting until they find an image to their liking. Then, they browse Instagram filters until deciding on the one that best flatters their features.
And those are just the regular girls. The Instagram “pros” as some call them take this art to a whole new level. Many are professional makeup artists who often utilize filters and airbrushing effects from apps outside of Instagram that will perfect skin and features even more. In fact, there are even apps out there that can change anything: eye color, size of eyes or nose, shape of cheekbones. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner are widely suspected of using such techniques to radically change their physical appearance in photos.
The “pros” that aren’t makeup artists are often professional fitness trainers, and they specialize in showing off their bodies. They too use body makeup and filters and the poses and lighting that most flatter their figure. Outside of Instagram most spend hours every day in the gym, and much of the rest of their time planning meals and eating accordingly.
Between the makeup artists and the professional gym rats it’s virtually impossible for a regular girl to emerge from the depths of Instagram feeling secure about her own appearance. After speaking to teenage girls about how Instagram affects their own self-esteem, the negative results are obvious. Most girls log off Instagram feeling discouraged about their own bodies, agonizing over perceived flaws and wondering how to ‘fix’ themselves, so that they can feel as beautiful as the Instagram “pros” with their hoards of fawning fans.
In fact, a study from University of Michigan that collected data about social media users found that those who spent more time browsing the virtual world were less happy than those who limited their exposure to social media. A similar study published in the research journal Cyberpsychology found that women who regularly post photos of themselves online feel the urge to compete for attention based on physical appearance. As a result, lack of ‘likes’ or comments on a photo causes self-esteem to plummet instantly.
“Instagram causes me a lot of anxiety sometimes,” Viridiana, age 15, says. “I’m always comparing myself to other girls wondering why they look so much better than me. Wishing I were more in shape. Or sad that I don’t have enough money to dress cooler.”
Laura, 17, echoes a similar sentiment. “Mostly I just wonder: why can’t I look like her?!”
Clearly unhappiness caused by social media is a common occurrence. So what’s a girl to do in a world dominated by social networks?
Follow people that you admire for their character.
There are three ways to keep self-esteem intact in an online world where people are presenting ‘perfected’ versions of themselves. One way is to limit time on social media and unfollow accounts that cause you to feel depressed or insecure. Instead of following accounts that make you doubt your self-worth look for those that inspire you to become the best version of yourself. Follow people that you admire for their character instead of their pretty face or fashionable clothes.
Remember no one looks as good in real life as they do online.
The second way to ward off self-esteem attacks is to keep in mind that no one looks as good in real life as they do online. At the end of the day no matter how much money we have or are how good we are with a makeup brush, we are all imperfect humans with skin problems and bad-hair days. The images on social media and in magazines are art, not reality.
Don’t just focus on outer beauty and focus on the importance of inner beauty.
Lastly, remember that appearance is but one aspect of who we are as humans. There are many ways to be beautiful. A toned stomach is attractive, but intelligence and kindness and passion are more so. The most beautiful people are able to endure and overcome hardship, and are compassionate towards others. While looks fade with age, those qualities will never lose their beauty. Laura says that when she starts to feel discouraged by images online or in a magazine, “I count my blessings and remember that I am surrounded by loving family and friends. I try hard every day to be a good person and work towards my dreams.” Now that’s beautiful!