HOW THE CULTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACTS THE FEMALE IDEAL
It is no secret that many of us would kill for the figure of Kendall Jenner or Emily Ratajkowski – myself included – but is what we see on Instagram really a true reflection of the female body? Or is it simply setting expectations for an unattainable female ideal?
Queen B, or Beyoncé as she’s more formally known, is pretty much flawless in almost every girl’s eyes, but the singer has insecurities just like the rest of us – she hates her ears. A young Beyoncé Knowles was bullied for her ‘big’ ears and this is consequently why she wears large, striking earrings to distract the eye away from them.
She is also seemingly self-conscious about her legs, with many a rumour of her Photoshop fails – namely surrounding her thigh gap or lack thereof. But, let’s be honest, she’s not the only celebrity who is prone to editing a selfie here and there.
One of the most prolific editors of them all has got to be Kylie Jenner, who has certainly had her fair share of curvy, warped walls and bendy pool sides. However, she is just one of many. The Kardashian’s are well known for their picture-perfect social media pages and there doesn’t seem to be a single Kardashian-Jenner sister who hasn’t been criticised for excessive editing, including Kendall Jenner.
Her supermodel physique caught the attention of social media users worldwide with many noting how she sets the modern beauty standard. And yet, the women who lead the way for how others ‘should aim to look’, feel it necessary to use ‘slimming filters’ and editing software.
ProblematicFame on Instagram said, ‘The difference that posing and/or photoshop can make is astounding, please don’t compare yourself to posed, photoshopped celebrities who have personal trainers, surgeons and personal chefs. No, Kendall is not responsible for anybody else’s self-esteem…however it is good to remind yourself every once in a while that nobody is perfect and that’s okay!’
Despite the detrimental body ideals within the culture of social media, this message is being promoted across several platforms– social media is not a true reflection of reality or of women and therefore is an impossible standard to aspire to.
On the other hand, some celebrities and influencers choose to steer away from this type of content in the hope that the message truly hits home for their followers.
A recent post from Strictly Come Dancing contestant and Eastenders star, Maisie Smith, was focused on self-love and acceptance, particularly in the digital age.
She said, ‘Here lies a collection of photos taken at the exact same time, however, from different angles, under different lighting. The past few years I’ve been VERY insecure about my legs. I covered them up as much as possible. No matter how many people told me “cellulite is natural…everyone has it…” I still hated them. It’s taken me a while but I’m starting to accept these aspects of myself that I’ve always seen as “flaws”. I wore gym shorts (out of the house) for the FIRST time a couple of months ago [and] I was so so proud of myself. I wish I could say that I LOVE my body but I’m still working on that. The reason I posted this was because I understand that it’s SO hard to love yourself and see your “flaws” as “qualities”. We ALL have things we want to change about ourselves. But I hope this can help other people feel more confident about their own insecurities. BECAUSE YOU ARE FRIGGING BEAUTIFUL. And because self-love is the best love.’
Former Love Island contestant and influencer, Molly-Mae Hague, has also expressed her disappointment in the way that she has been portrayed as a result of her not meeting the stereotypical beauty standards.
On a recent holiday vlog, she revealed that she chose to stop wearing bikinis on holiday following some unflattering paparazzi shots.
She said on her YouTube channel that she had been working so hard over the last two months to really get into shape and to lose the weight that she gained after leaving Love Island.
When Molly-Mae entered the villa, she was a size four and is now a size six, which makes her considerably thinner than the average UK woman, and so this ultimately sparked a huge debate on why the need for a new ‘normal’ beauty standard is now more vital than ever.
The butterfly effect of this can ultimately result in body dysmorphia for many girls who see such criticism online – the term relates to a mental health condition where an individual is constantly worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticed by others, but it is usually teenagers and young adults who struggle with this. The condition is also a known contributing factor to eating disorders such as anorexia, with an estimation of around 1.25 million people in the UK having some form of eating disorder.
With that in mind, the message needs to be passed on that Instagram creates a false sense of reality. The majority of the people that we see do not live the life portrayed online, and therefore we cannot aim for an ideal that is always going to be unattainable.
No, it is not anybody’s fault – most of us choose to conform to some type of beauty standard in some way – and so we should not bring anybody else down for doing so, if anything this is about lifting others up.
The female ideal and the expectations surrounding body image will continually change, as they have done from the days of Twiggy and Kate Moss to the days of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. Nobody will ever be able to match the beauty standards that have been created online, and in time these will not matter, however you can choose to create your own.
At the end of the day, perhaps we should choose to change what we see on social media and how much we consume, whether that be through unfollowing, allocating ourselves daily screen time, or trying to somewhat disengage with online culture.
This is much easier said than done, but there is (very literally) a whole world of positive, uplifting accounts on Instagram that may just give you that needed pick-me-up in the morning.
Just as you choose who to follow, choose what makes you happy, and choose to meet your own beauty needs- your opinion on yourself is the most invaluable of them all.