My roommate, who is an adult male, subscribes to Teen Vogue.
Okay, he says he doesn't. He says he has no idea why it gets delivered every month. But then like...how did they get his name and our address??
Whatever. The point is that I was bringing up the mail the other day and the magazine's floral, glossy cover was calling to me, begging me to take a peak in honor of my high school self. And there, in the left hand corner, was a headline that spoke to me more than I would like to admit.
PRETTY HURTS: IS INSTAGRAM KILLING YOUR CONFIDENCE?
And home alone in my apartment, shoes still on and sunglasses on my head, I shouted, "YES!!"
In recent years, there have been tons of articles dissecting the way that women are portrayed in the media and on pages of fashion magazines, and don't get me wrong, I think these articles inspire essential dialogue about self-image.
Still, this didn't help me too much growing up. I was certainly aware that models were often incredibly underweight and that actresses had stunning features enhanced by makeup, personal stylists, and sometimes plastic surgery. But to me, these women seemed kind of on a whole different plane. I'm pretty sure that we would all look real nice if we had the money to get a blow out every day, but I'm also aware that some people are just naturally born with angelic looks, and celebrities tend to fit into one of these categories. When I look at someone like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, I'm not like, "Wow, I should look like that." I'm more like, "Wow okay, yeah, so she's an alien who was randomly born with extreme physical beauty and it also probably took four hours to prep her for this photoshoot -- cool."
But this Instagram era changes things. Instagram photos usually aren't taken in perfectly-lit studios with expensive cameras. A glam team probably was uninvolved with makeup and wardrobe. Instagram shows photos of real girls, your age, in your city, maybe even at your school or work, doing things that seem five billion times cooler than you are, traveling to places five billion times cooler than you've ever been, wearing clothes five billion times the cost of anything you can afford.
So there you are, in your room alone, feeling five billion times less cool than this girl on Instagram.
And this is a serious modern problem. Slate has a great article with quotes from Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University Berlin, co-author of a study analyzing the relationship between Facebook and envy. She points out that photos encourage immediate social comparison, which leads to feelings of inferiority. You wake up on Sunday morning and scroll through your Instagram feed and see photos that a girl you follow posted the night before. Suddenly you're looking at her outfit and thinking about what you wore last night (pajamas), checking her geotag and considering where you were last night (your apartment), and clicking on the profile of the other girl tagged in the photo with her and thinking about who you were hanging out with last night (your Pillow Pet).
Catalina Toma of the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison makes a great observation in the article --
“You spend so much time creating flattering, idealized images of yourself, sorting through hundreds of images for that one perfect picture, but you don’t necessarily grasp that everybody else is spending a lot of time doing the same thing.”
Like...what the heck, guys!! We're intelligent, self-reflective women, right? So why does it sometimes take someone else saying the simplest thing to make you slap your forehead and be like, "....oh!"
A few years ago, I saw a quote on Pinterest that really resonated with me.
I still think about this quote. It's so important to remember --
nothing positive comes from envy
everyone has a story. And no, not the one you see on Instagram.
Next time I'm scrolling through my feed, I intend to watch my thoughts. Stop any comparisons I make. And translate the emotion that, if I'm not careful, manifests as envy -- and instead, find something inspiring and motivating about the photo instead.