The Age of Instaperfection

An Instagram search for #healthy might find you looking at #fitspo or #thighgap instead. 

Searching the hashtag “healthy” will supply you with imagery to keep you scrolling through your Instagram feed for hours. As I write this article, there are over 7,786,675 photos ranging from food that will make you drool, recipes you’ll be inspired to try and motivational quotes to get you off the couch and into the gym. A majority of these photos really do emphasize health and nutrition, the importance of eating clean and engaging in physical activity. But as I kept navigating through photos, it became more and more apparent that the line between healthy and skinny was not only blurry, but that for many it was also interchangeable.

We know that being skinny definitely does not always translate to being healthy. One could subsist off of Diet Pepsi and cigarettes to sustain a thin figure. On the other hand, one can engage in healthy practices and not necessarily be skinny based on genetics or predispositions. We continue to judge a book by its cover (or in this case, the person by their physical appearance) and make assumptions about their lifestyle and label them “beautiful” by their external appearance. For females in particular, body image is a topic we are constantly bombarded with whether we are conscious of it or not. Our standard for female perfection continues to be one of tiny waists and flat stomachs and seems to only gain momentum with the ubiquity of social media. Mixed in with the photos of organic meals and inspirational quotes are also the selfie photos taken everywhere from gyms to bedrooms. Before and after pictures are posted while close ups of specific body parts are posted to show muscle, loss of fat, and sometimes, just straight bone. This is where the line becomes blurry. I look at these photos and think, this isn’t healthy. This is the opposite of healthy. I have come across captions ranging from “I wish I was skinny,” “ excuse the fat, I’m fasting for 3 days,” and “hunger hurts but starving works.” And so the obsession for the perfect body continues.

In the past, we’ve always had national campaign ads and commercials to thank for feeding us the idea of a flawless female body. Now we can thank ourselves as well. Gone are the days where one had to open a fashion magazine to compare ourselves. These days, we can simply login to our social media accounts to compare ourselves to the everyday person striving for daily perfection. What we choose to post is our prerogative. So is what we choose to look at. But searching “healthy” because you want to check out a nutritious dinner recipe might also find you looking at photos you wouldn’t think belonged in that category. Half naked pictures taken everywhere from gyms to bedrooms appear on this tiny technological gadget owned by billions, deepening the belief of embedded thoughts on perfection. Because some of these photos hashtagged “healthy,” “organic” and “eating clean” are also grouped with the hashtags, “skinny,” “thighgap,” “fast,” and “diet,” showing that too many are confused in thinking these words belong in the same category. More minutes surfing the application will show you a darker side of the spectrum where skinny becomes an obsession and over 500,000 photos show up from searching eating disorder.

Needless to say, there are some disturbing images floating in cyber space. It is yet another reminder that as females we are still struggling with the perception of perfection and correlating self worth with body measurements. We are in a position now to be in control of spreading positive self-esteem and treating our bodies with love and respect. We have a medium at our disposal to connect this message to millions around the world and break away from the idea that thin is the only kind of healthy or beautiful. Instead of using social media as a breeding ground for “instaperfection,” we need to begin using it as a platform for support and self-acceptance.