Shattering the Instagram Ideal

by Kaitlin Musante

Diet culture has swallowed my Instagram feed.

I don’t say this to be dramatic. It’s simply the truth; even as we as a society continue to progress, Instagram has stayed stuck in the world of unachievable ideals.

‘Thinspiration’ continues to fill up my feed, hidden in celebrity endorsements and on the pages of fitness and nutrition bloggers. Stick-thin models with arched backs and protruding ribs still pop up on my explore page, and despite controversy, advertisements for weight loss products and appetite suppressants from brands like Fit Tea and Flat Tummy Co have yet to disappear.

Despite my knowledge of the editing, false information and deception that lies behind many of these photographs, there is still an unexplainable draw I feel whenever one pops up on my feed. Even on a confidence high, one photograph- no matter how far removed it may be from my own reality- can quickly plummet my self-esteem.

These photos play off our own insecurities by presenting unreachable standards as the ideal, registered dietitian Nicole Al-Shafie said.

“We live in a very image focused world and a thin-obsessed society, so especially for women and young girls, a lot of our worth is projected onto what we look like,” Al-Shafie said. “Instagram plays off the fantasy that if someone can lose weight and can do it very quickly, a lot of positive attention will come their way. It promotes the attraction of the thin ideal, and this can quickly bring girls’ confidence levels down.”

This negativity can go both ways, however. While model’s comment sections are filled with plenty of positive comments praising them for their looks, there are just as many shaming them for their weight. Garnering criticisms like “You need a hamburger. You’re all bones” and “She needs to eat some food. She’s beautiful but honestly, she looks sickly,” the message is clear: the perfect body is practically unattainable.

Growing up with this ideal has been difficult. Instagram is the most detrimental social networking app for young people's mental health, according to a 2017 report by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. A study from the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University found that looking at the app for just 30 minutes a day can cause women to feel worse about their bodies.

The issue is the singularity- the promotion of the idea that only one body type, no matter what body type that may be, can be beautiful. We as a society are unique. The way our hips curve, our thighs touch, or our stomach rolls does not make us any less beautiful; instead, they demonstrate our individuality.

It’s time we as a society began accepting this. We must free ourselves from the Instagram ideal and break down the barriers that continue to keep us from achieving self-acceptance. Let us consciously remove ourselves from the boxes that Instagram tries to place us in. Only then can we finally encourage each other to celebrate our bodies, no matter what shape or size they may be.