We might acknowledge the fact that magazines and television use photoshop and other tools to improve the appearance of models and celebrities on camera. But there is also a more subtle yet powerful influence on our self-perception. On Instagram, people such as Alexis Ren and Cameron Dallas are distorting our ideas of the perfect body. Articles about the fastest ways to “Achieve the Perfect Bikini Body” can alter the way we feel about our bodies. They can make you believe that your body isn't good enough or is something to be ashamed of. They can make a fun activity, like going to the beach, anxiety inducing. These articles can also skew the way we perceive health, presenting our bodies as something requiring a quick-fix.In actuality, healthy bodies manifest as a result of healthy habits continued over long periods of time.
When all we see is one snapshot on Instagram, it’s easy to ignore the long hours of training required to achieve hyper-toned, tanned bodies like that of “Social Media Mommy” Tammy Hembrow, who has used Instagram to document her two post-baby body transformations. We also are unable to see the often 100's of pictures that are taken to achieve one perfect shot at the person's best angle. Simply search the #fitspo and you will see endless pictures with 1000s of likes and comments like "goals" below them. The truth is there is no such thing as the a bikini body or the perfect body - being healthy and happy with who you are is all that matters. Here are some ways to reduce negative impacts of social media on our body image during the summer:
Focus on what your body can DO, and less on how it LOOKS
Remember: these are the legs that bring you to your favourite places, that let you run around with your dog in the park. So what if they’re a bit jiggly! These are the arms that hug your mum, your dad, your best friends. Who cares what they look like? If you're concerned about your health then focus on getting stronger rather than getting thin.
Recognize that social media is not reality!
Many fitness and lifestyle Instagram accounts are personal online businesses. This means they are marketing platforms aimed at consumers, just like magazines like Vogue and GQ. Often, if not always, photoshop or other editing tools are used to perfect and airbrush the bodies of models, which can alter our ideas about how we think we should look. Lately, there have been an influx in Instagram posts bearing captions which read “Posed vs. Natural” and “Instagram vs. Real Life” revealing users’ awareness of how much Instagram can distort reality.
Take social media breaks
If you use social media quite frequently, start off by leaving your phone for a couple of hours. Don't check Instagram, Facebook, Twitter for 1-3 hours. Delete the apps off of your phone for a few days. You’ll still have your account, and many social media sites can now be accessed online as well as in-app. You might find yourself less inclined to go back to using apps like Instagram and Facebook as avidly.
Notice: do you feel any less trapped in comparison and self-judgement?
According to American Communications professor Richard M. Perloff, an integral component of social media’s power lies within the dynamics of a reciprocal transaction between the media itself and the individual who engages with it. Essentially, the way you choose to use social media, how people choose to use social media reveals how it will impact them. Whether it’s a lot or a little, it’s up to you how you choose to let social media affect you. No matter what, remember that this summer, you are in charge of the frequency and type of social media you expose yourself to!