You’ve waited all holiday for that perfect summer gram; Finally, you’ve got a picturesque location, you’ve done 2 coats of Bondi extra dark the night before and you’re wearing that new bikini mum and dad got you for Christmas. Just before the RnV day drinking can catch up on you, you get the perfect snap.
The dappled lighting silhouettes along your seemingly palatable thighs and the normal pudge that hangs around your mid-region looks almost cute. Yowza!! At 6 pm that night you drop the pic- the likes start rolling in. That girl you had a class with in high school comments “OMG your bod makes me want to die” your best friend gives the obligatory “Dayum girl” and even that creepy guy who you met at that party that one time slides into your DMs. 300 likes yeah boy. Life is good. The dopamine pumps through your veins with each new notification, titillated, you begin to browse past your killer selfie and wind up scrolling down the Instagram discover feed. Within seconds your mood (and self-confidence) takes a hit. What gazes back at you isn’t some model who works out for a living, no, worse. The tiny image glaring back at you is a neck to thigh shot of a girl from your hometown- not much younger than you. Her head is cut off but you know it’s her. The way the light gets caught on the creases between her abs, the prominent “thigh gap” and her impossibly large bust. All of a sudden the immense sense of confidence you felt is crushed- how can she look like that? Or more importantly, why don’t I look like that?
With the increasing prevalence of social media and its integration into our psyche, more and more often we align our self-worth with our online performance. Adolescent females, in particular, are being moulded to seek approval by posting content on social media. The more likes their body produces- the more we feel accepted by our peers…. Right. The instant gratification fraudulently masks the insecurities we are taught to feel. By posting provocative or revealing photographs we are admired yet at the same time we are scrutinised. The argument that sexualized photographs are empowering women is often conveyed by celebrities on their profiles, but in reality those who are confident enough to share photographs like this are branded as promiscuous and deemed as attention seeking. Correalation between social media, body dissatisfaction and increased body surveillence among teenage girls have been steadily on the rise1 . Notwithstanding- if you wish to compete in the social media market you have got to play the game. Sexualised imagery provokes a response. Good or bad it generates greater amounts of likes and comments than your stock standard sunset. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in sexual liberation and the FTN (Free the Nipple) movement, but it’s the motivation behind the photo that is the problem. Are we posting to share the epic day at the beach with our friends? Or are we merely seeking reassurance that, yes, I’m bangable.
Our culture is consumed with the idea of being desired, what social media enables is the constant threat of comparison. The “Yeah she’s hot but Brittney’s hotter” or “I wish I was as skinny/ curvy/ tall (whichever is in style) as her”. When we share a picture on social media we are only measuring the ability of another to tap the screen of their device. Your value should not be derived from the comments on your gram, rather it is made up of your hobbies, dreams, friendships, religion, accomplishments or wherever you chose to invest your mental energy. Your body is not a collection of desirable body parts purely for the pleasure of the male gaze. Social media creates a platform to easily compare and contrast our lives to those around us. In truth, however, we are comparing the ‘highlights’ of someone else’s life to the reality of our own. Almost every image that slides across our screen has been filtered and edited to aesthetic perfection. Despite the thrill of instant gratification, the brewing visceral dissatisfaction prevalent in the selfie generation makes evident the lack of contentment in the social media world. Seeking validation via social media is counterproductive and in the long run is completely irrelevant to your life and happiness. But why do we compete in a game we can’t win? No amount of likes will ever be enough. No amount of followers will ever come close to true companionship and no number of “connections” will fill the void of self-loathing if you place your value on a numerical depiction of what true life is.
Social media was created for connection. However, this purport is grossly defeated with the influx of data collating about the detrimental effects of social media particularly on young women’s minds. The maladaptive usage of sites such as Instagram to bolster confidence is associated with lower levels of body satisfaction, body dysmorphia and higher rates of eating disorders. The rise of the unnaturally ripped yet tiny Insta-model who elicits envy with each passing gram- who ‘Swears by’ skinny tea, waist trainers or whatever the highest bidder is offering her. All promising to get the figure of your dreams within days of dolling out your hard earned cash. The resultant feelings of self-doubt incited by the aggregation of these images is conducive to the climate of online inadequacy.
So dear reader you ask, how can I actively engage in life online without joining the lecherous never ending cycle??
Compliment your friends on things other than their body. Purely commending the physical characteristics of a person- we are reinforcing the idea that our intrinsic worth is based on the how we measure up against our culture’s current standard of beauty. I get it, it’s nice to hear you look good. It’s human, it’s natural. Nonetheless, we are more than just the vapid vessel that incubates our mind. Don’t reduce your authentic self to a half-baked shell in order to appeal to wider audience, let your social media be a pure representation of you. You can refract from the norm, you can post content to provoke, no two people are ever the same so why mimic another’s online profile?
They say that comparison is the thief of joy and I concur. You can’t gain self-confidence and success by fuelling your mind with the idea that social media is a playing field in which everyone is your competition.
1 Fardouly, J., & Vartanian, L. R. (2015). Negative comparisons about one’s appearance mediate the relationship between Facebook usage and body image concerns. Body Image, 12, 82–88. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2014.10.004