Instagram: The Perfect Life or the Perfect Lie?
I think it’s time to face it; social media are no longer used only as a way to catch up with old friends or get informed about news. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms are now creating a whole new visual world that many people even find more important than their actual “offline” lives.
Social media has a great impact on our personal lives and relationships. But how exactly have they changed the way we look at ourselves and perceive a healthy lifestyle? I decided to do my research and take a deeper look at Instagram and its influence on health and body image.
Instagram, which now has 1 billion users globally, has evolved from a simple photo-sharing network to an influential marketing tool used by individuals or businesses to promote the concept of ideal healthy living. A platform where we are all encouraged to show off our “perfect Life”: Luxury vacations at exotic places, the perfect beach body, our healthy meals, professional make-up skills and so on.
So has our perception of appearance and health changed through Instagram? And if yes, is it for better or for worse?
My Instagram account is filled with delicious food, beautiful places that I visited, great shots with my friends and videos of my boxing training. As is the case with most people, though, these carefully cropped and selected photos are half-truths. Just like in television, magazines and anywhere you can be publicly exposed, so as in social media, it is all about projecting the best version of your life and cropping anything that shows your messy reality.
“Eat like me – look like me”
Food bloggers, models, personal trainers etc. started a new era of becoming thinner and healthier involving detox teas, fancy water bottles filled with fruits, amazing-looking kale smoothies, and chia puddings. Undoubtedly, it is a positive outcome that people now are being inspired to eat healthier and follow healthier eating habits.
In fact, it made it a lot easier for people to be inspired and discover new exciting healthy recipes, and nutrition facts or exercise tips.
So, where’s the problem?
So, what is wrong about photographing our lives, down to every jogging at the park, every new dress, every salad we ate? Does this mean we have issues?
The answer is Yes!
First of all, using our eyes to appreciate beauty is no longer enough.
It always has to be captured and shared the next moment. My first thought at a cute puppy- where’s my phone?
Why read books when you can look at pictures? Why look at and admire beauty when you can take a photo, edit it and share it with everyone you know?
The biggest concern, however, is the part of comparing yourself to others.
People become obsessed with eating “clean” and this can lead to cutting out important food groups like carbohydrates. If an important Instagrammer says that “this food is bad for you” or “this is what I eat to keep me fit” many people will instantly follow these advices without the consultation of a professional. Unfortunately, most of these pieces of advice are not based on scientific evidence.
If you feel that you may suffer from lactose or gluten intolerance, do not just cut out all dairy and starches, what you need to do is to visit your GP for a proper diagnosis.
What science says…
According to recent studies, Instagram appears to have the greatest negative effect on mental health when compared to other social media, related to feelings of anxiety and negative body image.
Instagram might easily make women and young girls feel insecure about their bodies and make them feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough, ignoring the fact that people edit, crop and filter their photos in order for them to look “perfect”.
We need to remember that just as every normal people; we all have different lifestyles, timetables, and responsibilities. Most of these famous Instagrammers make their living by showing off their bodies and sharing what they eat, where they’ve been and where they exercise. Not being able to make it at the gym every single day does not mean you are weak or worthless.
When it comes to fitness, health, and beauty, Instagram can be a wonderful tool for inspiration and tips. However, we need to have in mind that it’s impossible to always look well-groomed, always eat healthily, and live in a perfectly ordered house or constantly visiting beautiful places. This can lead to a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress. At the end of the day, our offline lives are the ones that matter the most.
We get to choose whether to spend hours showing off our lives from the best angle and gaining approval or to spend more time living in the present. Start by sharing beauty with a person…or yourself. The best filters are your eyes, so stop looking down and see the world.
Clinical Dietitian- Nutritionist, MSc
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Dobrean, A. and Pasarelu, C. (2016) Impact of Social Media on Social Anxiety: A Systematic Review. New Developments in Anxiety Disorders, Available at: (Accessed: 7 April 2018).
Pantic, I. (2014) Online Social Networking and Mental Health. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(10), pp. 652-657.