I downloaded Instagram in fifth grade. My mom was wary when I begged her for it. I convinced her because I was into nail art at the time, and that was pretty big on the internet in 2012.
I think the first Instagram post I made was a picture of my purple Uggs on the floor of my parents’ bedroom. My most recent Instagram post is a picture taken on my DSLR camera which I edited on VSCO (a photo editing app) given a filter that matches “the aesthetic of my feed.”
Instagram and social media turned from a place where I posted a single photo of my favorite pair of boots in fifth grade to a place where I study the pictures I post for hours, scouring for imperfections. Staring at the pictures until I find a reason to hate them.
I sometimes wonder when I started to think about my body in such a critical lense. Now it seems like it’s been forever, but there was a time when I didn’t think about how thin I looked or if I fit the “standard.” I realized it was around fifth grade when I dove into social media and fell into a world where girls drank “slimming green juice” instead of three meals a day and edited their bodies into something that was unattainable without literal plastic surgery.
In today’s age it’s even become a first impression. This generation grew up in a world where a profile is enough to create an idea and a first impression of an individual in another’s head, full dating apps are created on the premise of pictures and deciding, “Yes” or “No” on an entire person based on a selfie they screenshotted from their Snapchat memories.
The stress held behind the pressure of a profile has become detrimental to our generation. The stress is sometimes overwhelming to me, so much so that I consider deleting all my pictures, all my accounts and literally throwing my phone into the Mississippi River. An internal study done by Instagram in March of 2020 found that “when 32% of teenage girls ‘felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse’.”
Is it that social media has made us critical of ourselves or vain? According to Time Magazine, “Psychologists found robust cross-cultural evidence linking social media use to body image concerns, dieting, body surveillance, a drive for thinness and self-objectification in adolescents.”
Getting likes and comments about how “hot” or “gorg!” you look in a picture or your friends telling you, “I want to be you!” becomes addicting. These are all comments I’ve gotten on pictures I’ve posted or commented on my friends’ posts. In a way, it is objectifying because we are so much more than a perfect moment captured in a picture.
There is endless content of these “perfect” pictures to consume. It can become an obsession, or it can provide a sense of control. You can’t control how skinny your arms look when you walk out of the house in the morning, but you can control it on an online profile. With the rise of apps like Facetune and influencers admitting their usage, it’s hard to not want to edit the imperfections that can’t be fixed with a swipe of concealer.
I don’t know the solution to the crippling body image issues produced in teens as a result of social media. I don’t think anyone does. The only way to help the issue is to start presenting your real self. We need to take the pressure off a post, the pressure off the “lifestyle” and just showing a real human and posting a picture of your purple Uggs again because they are your favorite shoes.
This will be Ava Musgraves’ first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.