Media effects on self-image

Laura Lothrop

Instagram warps how we think of ourselves


There’s a transition occurring on Instagram.

Once a social media platform dedicated to the creative documentation of one’s experiences, it now seems to be a gigantic half-naked photoshoot tournament.

Many accounts on Instagram are run by beautiful women and men who have created new forms of legitimate entrepreneurship as “Instagram models” first discovered on social media.

The culture on Instagram today has turned into a competition to see who can post the most erotic, sensual, eye-catching pictures of themselves.

What does this fight for attention and likes online do to all generations, especially middle-school-aged kids, that have smart phones and access to social media?

Surely the focus on capturing the best picture of ones rear-end is not a healthy, normal thing to be constantly seeing and holding in high regard.

How can over-sexualizing ourselves create a healthy sense of self-worth,and what we must do to feel validated?

Look up Alexis Ren on Instagram. Every picture features the 21 year-old posed in a sexual, flirtatious way. Without her 12.9 million followers, no one would know who she is.

Is it a good thing that we only know Ren because of her body?

Kylie Jenner, also 21, has also used her sexualized online profile to become famous.

Today, Jenner is a major fashion icon and has a wildly successful makeup brand, Kylie Cosmetics, worth nearly $800 million, according to Forbes.

I can remember when Jenner’s Instagram feed first received attention online. I was in high school, the same age as her. She was the hot Kardashian sister with gorgeous selfies and bikini shots.

Slowly, I began to realize how negative I felt about my own body when I constantly saw pictures of Jenner posed in impeccable outfits that featured her looking flawless, right down to facial structure, skin, hair, a small waist and perfect curves; it seemed effortless, the epitome of sex-appeal.

I continuously compared my body to hers, feeling discouraged and unsatisfied with who I was and how I looked. Eventually, I unfollowed her.

Me viewing my own body negatively is nobody’s fault, especially not Jenner’s. She can look and dress however she wants.

It is our world’s limited praise, directed specifically at a certain body type, that made me feel less-than.

Scrolling through photos of Jenner and Ren in string bikinis begs the question: “How was that life attained?” and “How can I be that beautiful?”

That’s how consumerism operates behind the sexy body shots online, reaching forward, enthralling the public, selling a product that will supposedly make us all more attractive.

As a society, we have stopped asking why we glorify people who use their sex-appeal for mere profit. Jenner didn’t invent anything other than a personal makeup brand, nor does she have outstanding academic, athletic or musical accomplishments.

That’s certainly not to say she would only have value if she did one of those things. But the point remains that Jenner was unnoticed before she became hot and famous on Instagram.

I think that people today are more aware of what profound damage slut-shaming does to men and women. But society seems to have shifted so far in the opposite direction that there no longer exists boundaries and standards of what authentic beauty and worth truly is.

Women and men today have stopped assessing how the things they expose themselves to affect their mental well-being.

If the only time we can feel attractive and valuable is when we get 200 likes on a picture, that’s a problem. If we cannot take off the filters to truly cherish the entirety of our being, then we will inevitably crave validation from social media to fill that void.

Being confident is a wondrous thing, but exploiting who you are for a world of strangers doesn’t increase your value, it only makes you look like an object people can judge.

In the end, who really benefits from the half-naked pictures?

The human experience of beauty and life is about more than our glowing youth and temporarily wrinkleless skin.

No one should have to use their body as an advertisement online to get what they want, but each individual is in charge of the price tag they trade for their sanity.