Last week I went to dinner with three girlfriends. We ordered drinks and when the waiter brought them over, we spent a solid ten minutes clinking our glasses together in attempts to snap the perfect boomerang to post on our Instagram story. By the time we each got one we were satisfied with, the ice in my drink had melted and the cute four leaf clover that was formed out of sugar on the top of my drink, had turned into what looked more like a blob. This, my friends, is what social media has turned into for me.
Within two years, I went from occasionally posting awkward, unflattering pictures of myself to spending 4 days a week creating content for the platform. Now, not only do I care more about what I look like in my pictures, but I also plan out shoots and edit my pictures before I post them. This isn't necessarily bad. In some ways becoming a digital content creator has helped me focus on details more than I would in the past, and it's increased my interest in photography. It's also been a great tool to help me promote my comedy and it's allowed me to network and become friends with a ton of fellow artists. In fact, I've met a few of my closest friends through Instagram. I've even written articles for entrepreneurial bloggers about why I love Instagram. However, there's a flip side to everything, and as great as I think social media is, what isn't great is the effect that its had on my self esteem.
I became pretty active on Instagram a little over two years ago. I had just gotten out of a very unhealthy two year relationship and found out that my ex broke up with me to be with a lingerie/pin up model. The whole situation left me feeling really shitty about myself and I honestly was so insecure that I didn't even want to go out in public at certain times. I spent hours staring at pictures of this girl (that were all on Instagram) and wondered if that's why I was single - because I wasn't like her. I wasn't as sexual, or curvy, or as overly exposed as she was. I wasn't only hurt, but I was also jealous. I wanted to look like that, not like me. I began to find that she wasn't the only girl posting pictures like this on Instagram. It turned out that there was an entire world of women out there who were posting pictures in thongs and bikinis and striking poses that I would need to see a chiropractor after if I attempted to copy.
And, the weirdest part of it all, was that a lot of these women were posting motivational, sometimes even religious quotes underneath these overly sexualized pictures. It was like they were trying to offset the fact that they were practically naked by emphasizing that they were also deep and intelligent.
This led me into the whole world of fitness models. And that's when I created my first comedic character, Serena, and I even made her her own Instagram account called @worldsbestfitnessmodelonig. Below is one of the several videos I had made:
In some of my sketches, I would have Serena give really bad fitness advice or strike sexual poses while talking about serious issues. After Serena, I created Lacey, a lingerie model:
Between Lacey and Serena, I was able to express a lot of the frustration I felt towards the superficiality of Instagram. What's interesting, however, is that making fun of these models began to affect my self esteem. I was spending so much time scrolling through pictures of beautiful women with perfect bodies to think of ideas, that I noticed myself becoming overly critical of my own looks. And, I was doing things that I was making fun of these other women for doing such as editing out excess fat or smoothing out the occasional blemish. Ironically, I began embodying the exact thing that I was poking fun at. Sure, I kept away from the motivational quotes (I even continue to make fun of them), but I didn't stay away from slightly altering my appearance (kind of like when Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls actually starts acting like the very girls she was making fun of (if you get this reference, yay. If not, go watch the movie, it's really great)).
In addition to editing my pictures, certain things about my appearance that didn't used to bother me a few years ago really began to bother me. I became hyperaware of things like smile lines, wrinkles on the side of my eyes, and the fact that my upper lip is a lot smaller than my bottom one. I even went so far as to get botox on my forehead.
DISCLAIMER: I don't have a problem with botox. I actually believe that people should do whatever makes them feel good about themselves, as long as it's not harmful. So, if you want to get fillers or botox or a nose job, go ahead, just don't go overboard.
Although I'm okay with all of this, what I didn't like about what was happening to me, was that I was becoming almost obsessed with how I looked. I was spending longer getting ready before I went out and I was noticing tiny flaws in my face and body that I never would have paid attention to in the past.
Fast forward to the present, and although I've gotten past the super insecure phase I went through, I still am affected by the plethora of beautiful people I see on Instagram daily. And because of this, I have to limit the amount of time I spend on social media. For instance, I know that I can't stare at pictures of models for hours at a time without feeling bad about myself. I've also realized that I do care what I look like, but I try my hardest to focus on the things I love about myself and that make me unique rather than dwell on my faults. And, instead of scrolling through pictures of models, I try to stick to watching comedic videos.
Recently there's been an increase in posts about natural beauty and un-edited pictures. A woman I follow even goes so far as to compare herself posing for a picture versus just standing normally in order to highlight the difference between the two. In the short time that this body positivity movement has been happening, I've noticed a big shift in the content on Instagram which has been really great. Despite this, however, there's definitely still times when I have to exit out of the app and remind myself to stop comparing what I look like with other women.
I could honestly talk all day about the affects of Instagram but I'll end this here. Especially because I'm definitely not immune to the whole thing. All I know is that shedding light on unrealistic beauty standards has become even more important to me since I realized how much I've been personally affected by them.
To be continued....
Lots of love,