It’s no secret that Instagram is a showcase of brag culture. These days, it seems there is more value in posting an attractive picture of oneself, garnering dozens or hundreds of likes for it, and then basking in the high of having looked good and received affirmation for it, than there is for real self-love and authentic social experiences. We fish for connection through our posts, and fulfilling ourselves with the feeling of being liked, vis-à-vis a selfie or a photo of ourselves doing something fun, witty, or fabulous. We live in the era of “Look at me! Me! ME!” But have Instagrammers not only made us more superficial and vain but also way more body image and lifestyle obsessed?
Instagrammers' Perfection Projection
A subsection of this look-at-me spectacle is “Look at what I’m eating!” and “Look how perfect my healthy lifestyle is!” Photographs capturing green juices, artistic fruit bowls, smoothies, and matcha lattes being campaigned by beach-trotting, jet-setting, constant-fun-having people happily (always so darn happily) posing in slimming, perfectly stylized outfits that reveal their perfectly proportioned bodies that so conveniently happen to be a product of an aggressively self-preached average, completely mentally-healthy approach to diet and fitness...are starting to itch me the wrong way. It’s never that effortless to be that perfect. That lifestyle can’t exist, and even if it does, it shouldn’t be the meter of body image and lifestyle for the rest of us.
These IG accounts run by seemingly flawless women (most of the time young girls who are being paid for their social media charades) are unattainable, even for them. They show snippets – often sponsored ones, at that – of their lives, but instead of taking it as a brief moment in an otherwise long day, we use it to set the bar for a life we will one day (never) have.
Then there are the health and fitness-enthusiast IG accounts that are a more played-down version of aforementioned “perfection projection.” They are women who document their diet and fitness adventures, but almost too meticulously. Through Instastories or regular posts, we live vicariously through their gluten-free, vegan/paleo, high-raw diets and intense workouts, littered with humble-brags, “Just ran 10 miles and now enjoying my $35 smoothie – OMG, I am sweaty and gross, but this is the real me.” Right.
Young and Vulnerable Instagrammers
In writing this, I cringe by my own hypocrisy. I love the ladies I follow on Instagram, especially when I learn of new smoothie add-ins, healthy snack products, fashion brands, or workout routines. But there are times when I am scrolling through my feed or Instastories and imagine how I would perceive these ladies if I were ten or even five years younger. Would my younger self take their lifestyle and dietary routines as passive suggestions or the ultimate solution and goal for myself? There’s no denying I would develop a perturbed sense of what healthy means. I’d focus more on being perfect and fit, from morning to night, than on being myself, adapting to the nuances of my life, not theirs.
Orthorexia nervosa is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers are obsessed and fixated on healthy eating. Instagrammers can and are absolutely feeding into the anxiety to be perfect, including having the ideal healthy diet. And even when it's not about being healthy, it's certainly about being thin. Just look up #thinspo for a reminder.
Even at nearly 30 years of age, I see myself comparing myself to the ladies I follow on Instagram. How do I eat and exercise like her without going crazy?! How do I care that much?But wait, should Icare that much?!
So for me, this is where social media hurts. Not only does it make us less meaningful – physical – in our social interactions but also can create an environment of body image and lifestyle shaming. Even when an account’s sentiment is pure, uplifting, and empowering, it is by nature a digital vacuum of voyeurism.
I’ve got an idea: why not disconnect to reconnect? That is, with ourselves.