We have all heard, seen or read about the effects of social media on our mental health. But as these studies continue to unveil, we continue to scroll. When scrolling through our feeds, we are exposed to a highly-curated selection of photos and images that are far from reality. According to a study, only 4 percent of women find themselves beautiful; far from the utopia we live in on Instagram. It can be difficult to imagine how our society has found itself at such a low, however, with a closer look at the digital age we live in, it is quite easy. Instagram is a platform built on photo sharing. This heavy focus on imagery has a particularly negative impact on one specific area: body image. Now it is important to keep in-mind, Instagram isn’t the instigator of body image issues, rather, it is a heavily-filtered reflection of a culture that objectifies, sexualizes and commodifies the human body, while promoting unattainable and unrealistic beauty standards.
We each have a cyber self, or a persona reflected on social media. We share images of good friends, captured experiences, and the ever popular selfie. It is speculated that Instagram gave birth to the selfie. At first glance, selfies are just a quick shot of your face. however, there lies a deeper meaning for the desire to share them. This is called the self-verification theory. The theory states that selfies on social media are used to receive verification from others, in the form of positive comments and likes. However, for women struggling with body image it leads to the constant seeking of this attention and an unhealthy comparison to others. The research also found that individuals with low self-esteem tend to be more involved with the trend of taking selfies, as well as the use of social media to fulfil their self-esteem needs. By posting, they attempt to boost their esteem and desire for approval on social network sites, but it inevitably leads to more insecurities and self-doubt. It is quite a vicious circle.
This cyber self is becoming increasingly distant from our real world selves, and is becoming more difficult to live up to. This pressure only increases when others are introduced. Instagram’s platform provides women with constant opportunities to make appearance comparisons with others. Because people tend to present an idealized version of the self on social media, insecurities when making these comparisons are heightened. Research has found a direct correlation between Instagram usage and body image concerns, which was mediated by appearance comparisons in general, frequency of comparisons to close friends and distant peers, and by judging one's own appearance to be worse to distant peers and celebrities. This is concerning as 71% of 18-24 year old girls are reported to use Instagram.