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  • T. Degiovanni

The Insta-Epidemic

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

To anyone who may know me personally, the title of this article, and the content which ensues, may seem peculiar. Once media rep of the cheerleading team - running all pictures through vsco cam and fighting frustration at aesthetic inconsistencies - and a girl who bought the iPhone 7 for Christmas because of its enhanced retina HD display and upgraded camera settings. On the surface it may seem like I do nothing BUT fuel the ‘Insta-Epidemic’, as I’ve self-proclaimed it.

This epidemic, to be more specific, is both:

A) the need to prove oneself and one’s life through a series of well-posed, well-edited pictures - deemed successful through the numeric quantity of likes

B) The consequent feeling one gets when scrolling through said pictures, all displaying everyone’s ‘perfect’, ‘exciting’ lives and ‘perfect’, ‘pristine’ bodies, and thus feeling like complete dogshit about their own.

Now, as afore mentioned, I’ve been known to love a good selfie, good lighting and a seemingly perfect picture. I do love running a snap through multiple editing software, changing exposure, hues, brilliance and temperature to create the best version of itself. However…

It seems as though on Instagram, a love of pictures and a platform to share those gorgeous pictures of people, places and activities is quickly and unpleasantly turning into a platform of self-promotion. A place to prove that “yes, I do have a great body”, or “look, my life is super exciting” and “yes, I am so SO happy”. Don’t get me wrong, I am ALL about sharing love and happiness on all social media platforms. I am happy the people I follow are happy, in themselves, their lives and their bodies. However more and more poignantly, it seems that this happiness has to be proved through half-naked pictures, pursued lips (which is very three-years ago, might I add) and more time spent posing for a picture than enjoying a moment.

This wouldn’t be such an issue (each to their own), if it didn’t cause so much insecurity. The human aspect of life is taken out of a platform like Instagram. No one can see the personal struggles, the illness (both mental and physical), the stresses and the day-to-day. Life is literally filtered out so we only see what we let each other see - with a lot of things also being filtered in. It sounds extreme, but we are hugely de-humanising ourselves.

Girls scroll through and see pictures of other girl’s bums, abs, boobs and tans. They don’t see the picture when the camera is closed and the tensing, stretching and posing stops. They don’t see the girl just three months before looking pale and sickly, because you know, she wasn’t on holiday in Mallorca and she actually was a bit poorly. Or the fake tan stains she got on the carpet. Not everyone is as perfect as they make out in a picture, but this fact is seemingly very quickly forgotten. It’s not nice or natural to criticise or question every picture, and it shouldn’t be the norm to assume that someone has photo shopped their bodies, even though upon further inspection and to a lot of disappointment, a lot of people do.

The pressure and the pretence is real, and this leads to a huge feeling of dissatisfaction… “Why am I not that tanned?”, “I wish I had those curves”, “I wish I was that skinny”, “why haven’t I gone to three festivals this summer?”. From personal experience, as well as through experience of those around me, you end up getting so caught up in everyone else’s self-promotion, be it real or fake, that you forget about self-love. You become your own worst critic, even if there is nothing to be critical of. In return, you end up feeling the need to prove that you are also amazing, good-looking and that you are also having a bloody wonderful time. But the gratification from those likes is instant and transient, disappearing just as quickly as it came. And the vicious cycle continues.

After taking a step back from it all, I must say that I have fallen slightly out of love with Instagram (Or with society, I’m not quite sure yet). Because it is only once you take a step back do you realise that you don’t have to take a picture and put it on Instagram to prove that you have abs. Or to prove that you’re having a fantastic holiday. Or that you’re happy without someone. Or that you’re happy with someone. Or that you’ve got a great bum or a great rack or a great life. Only once you focus on really loving yourself, despite and in-spite of everyone else’s pictures and lives, will the cycle end. For yourself, at least. And only then will you be able to let go of the pressures it creates.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn't post or take pictures - There’s no harm in sharing memories or the things that make us happy, we should absolutely do more of it. Platforms like Instagram have the power to be very positive and celebratory. However the harm comes from falling into the Insta-Epidemic that fuels self-promotion and self-criticism, a very damaging combination of things that as a generation we need to resist. It is literally making us sick, with more and more teenagers and adults, obvious in statistics but less so in those around us, struggling with cripplingly low self-esteem and extremely poor mental health, because NO ONE FEELS GOOD ENOUGH anymore. But once the phone is left face- down for a while, or negative energies from our social media platforms are recognised and removed, so does the massive weight on our shoulders. And we won’t have to prove anything to anyone but ourselves. Because being inwardly, outwardly and consistently happy will last far longer than your latest boomerang.

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