Instagram and body image

How the social media platform is affecting self-esteem


Photo courtesy of Nuchylee via Shutterstock

Maeva Andriamanamihaja, Author

Instagram is growing rapidly in users as everyone is able to reach millions through picture and video posting. While scrolling on the app, it is common to see celebrities and models use their large platform to share seemingly flawless photos of themselves. These posts are filling up the Instagram feeds of people everywhere, often causing body dissatisfaction and a desire to have a certain aesthetic. Though much has been made of how the mainstream media displays unrealistic beauty standards, Instagram influencers add another dimension to this.

With increased accessibility to editing software and apps, influencers are touching up their photos and it is not always evident to their followers. Constant exposure to Instagram models and edited pictures can misrepresent the idea of an attainable body, often causing people to feel pressured to modify their own pictures to appear thinner or fix blemishes. Gabby Campos, a social media writer for the Amherst Wire, states that, “Scrolling through an app and seeing edited and airbrushed bodies can definitely lead to body dysmorphia and lower self-esteem.” Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental illness involving an obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance. Using Instagram can contribute to BDD as edited pictures make it seem as though certain imperfections are unacceptable and therefore, must be fixed or hidden. Instagram influencers upholding a specific aesthetic through picture editing has distorted the way users of the app view their own body.

Using Instagram can lead to appearance comparison, which is damaging to self-esteem. In a recent mass survey of Instagram users in Australia, researchers found that females habitually tend to compare their own appearance negatively with their peers and with celebrities. Photo sharing sites enable young women to consistently see new pictures of influencers and friends, making it easier to compare oneself to others and obsessively fixate on flaws. Jasmine Fardouly, a researcher at Macquarie University analyzing body image, states that, “People are comparing their appearance to others through Instagram images and they often judge themselves to be worse off.” As the most popular picture sharing platform, Instagram is the main facilitator of this unhealthy habit.

To tackle the problems that Instagram can cause, users can be more mindful of who they follow and how seeing certain people on the app affects them. Unfollowing or muting those who post pictures that damage self-esteem may help to curate a feed that is less harmful to body image. Instagram is commonly used by students at Battlefield, and freshman, Alena Ji, deleted the app, believing that it has a detrimental effect on her confidence. She states that, “Seeing models all over the app made me compare myself to them. Instagram is a great platform, but it causes insecurity.”

Social media has heavily influenced the lives of many for the better and for the worse. Apps like Instagram have made it significantly easier for everyone to connect with others and network. However, when using these platforms, there are also disadvantages that are not as apparent as the benefits. The effects of Instagram on body image indicates that there are problems that can be caused by frequently using social media.