“How many likes did you get?” They seemed to be the first words from any of my peers on a night out. Instagram started to gain traction while I was in high school, back when it was merely a platform to post a photo of whatever you thought was worthy of others seeing. I remember at 15, constantly unlocking my phone after I had posted a photo to see how many likes I was getting and how that compared to others I followed. Constant pressure to post something that was worthy of more than a few likes.
Instagram sprang to life while I was in college. What started as a place for seemingly random photos quickly became a competition for conventional attractiveness and creating jealousy for where you were and who you were with. Women felt pressure to shrink parts of their body to appear thinner and more likable, most of it due to the aggressive face tuning and body contouring many influencers do to their photos in order to keep up their insta-worthy personas. I was speaking to some friends recently and we realized that men create profiles but not for the purpose of posting. Men flock to the platform to “like and follow,” creating false standards for what they look for in a potential female partner.
Instagram has become a platform of such curated lifestyles, small snapshots of what you want others to see. How did something that started off as innocently as sharing whatever one felt like become something so obsessive and all-consuming? To create a story line through a photo dump or a “soft launch” of the new romantic partner in your life. When the sepia Instagram filter used to be the norm, now it’s Photoshop and tweaking body parts.
I ran a study on myself, testing my emotional response to days that I opened Instagram constantly versus those that I never opened it. The days that I did I would find myself in a deep spiral of comparison. Wondering “Should I be out at brunch right now?” “Should I have a larger friend group?” versus the days that I swore off Instagram and was incredibly content in my routine and the people that I surrounded myself with.
I decided to make Instagram my personal space for my own journey with my body, what some might call the “body positive movement.” Not living in a traditional “influencer” body, not posting for likes but to watch my own progression. Much of my adolescence was spent not appreciating my body, due to peers of mine facilitating commentary ranging from “whale” to “big and ugly.” Now in my 20s, I’ve finally had enough, posting selfies showing a little more skin, reminding friends to appreciate what their body does for them every day. I’m not here to tell you that was the magic fix, and that I am super confident. There are still hard days, but that just adds to the movement; expressing the good and bad days. Not falling into the trap of showing what is expected.
As cheesy as it is, you really only get one life, so what’s the use of letting an app hold you back?