The implementation of online social media into everyday life was a game changer for how young women view the lives of others, and how they construct an image of themselves. Growing up is inarguably already an emotionally confusing time, and because adolescent girls and college aged women are prone to body dissatisfaction, what they see on the internet and social media could significantly alter the way they see themselves.
Lets get really real about the influence that social media has over self perception: Scrolling through Instagram doesn’t suck, but feeling bad about yourself does.
When social content posted online is misrepresenting, distorting, or glamorizing a situation, the end result can cause young women viewing it to manifest unrealistic expectations. The young women in question are often basing their own self perception and worth on comparisons between themselves and what they are seeing on social media.
A photography series featured in a Fubiz article titled “Hidden Side of Perfect Instagram Pictures” presents the work of Chompoo Baritoneas, a female photographer based in Thailand. Each photograph in the series shows a different Instagram picture. Though each picture is different, they all share qualities of effortless artistic expression, showing what a perfect moment might look like when caught on camera.
But there’s a catch. Each photograph includes the part of the picture that was cropped out of the perfect snapshot. Disregarding the definition of a ‘perfect picture’, it is clear the part of each picture that was posted and the part that was cropped out are unlike one another. Yet they are obviusly still obviously one unified piece, and that juxtaposition created by the photographer does cannot go unnoticed. With this series, the photographer is addressing the idea of frequent misrepresentation: the polished, edited, filtered pictures that people see and post are only a very small part of a much larger picture. Literally.
The photograph above, a part of the series, shows just how different the pictures posted on social media can be from it’s reality. The posted picture is simplistic, artsy, organized, and altogether it is aesthetically pleasing. But what is going on outside in the rest of the picture isn’t accurately represented by what was posted. The cropped out portion is messy and disorganized, but the person that “likes” the posed photo doesn’t know that.
The photographer is attempting to remind her audience of something that they have forgotten: when we post something, our online following and virtual audiences only see the pseudo-realities that we selectively share. Just as young women that see pictures other people post perhaps don’t realize that “almost all forms of media contain unrealistic images” and that comparing their own lives with what these images depict can “[translate] into body image [disturbances]”. The photography series does more than show unedited Instagram pictures: it reveals how the reality of a situation can be misconstrued, whether intentional or not, and in doing so, makes a case for the effects social media can have on the development of young women's self image.
In a recent interview Miley Cyrus described scrolling through social media feeds and constantly seeing posts that show an unattainable look or lifestyle displayed in a way that makes the audience believe in its attainability.
“When you look at retouched, perfect photos, you feel like shit. They lighten black girls’ skin. They smooth out wrinkles. Even […] I get stuck on Instagram wondering, Why don’t I look like that? It’s a total bummer”.
In the quote above, Cyrus is talking about the mass media’s tendency to set a standard for physical feminine beauty. However, the photos from Bartoneas’ Instagram series, none which were taken from the profile of a media outlet or celebrity figure, make it clear that mass media and celebrities are not the only ones that influence the standards young women might compare themselves to.
The Bartoneas Instagram project demonstrates that young people are not only comparing their bodies and lifestyles to celebrities. They are comparing themselves to their friends and peers. This comparison could potentially be more detrimental to the still developing self-image of a young woman, because she could be more likely to consider the images of her peers as an attainable goal. But as the photography series by Chompoo Baritoneas showed, the reality of a situation is not always accurately represented by a post on social media.
This isn’t a manifesto against cute Insta snap shots. Who doesn’t like cute pics? Perhaps all we need to consider is the idea that our own cuteness is not dictated by other people’s Instagram
Although Baritoneas’ series does not provide a clear solution to the issue of selective sharing and online misrepresentation, instilling a sense of awareness in young women of the reality that exists behind the pictures they see on social media, will help them construct a more accurate perception of themselves.