Here, Sarah Kelly highlights why carefully curated social media pics can cause unrealistic expectations of how people look …. even when you are a model!
You’re scrolling through Instagram when you see a photo of a stunning model, and you say to yourself, “I want to look like her.”
Here’s the issue, though: that model may not even look like that. Social media has raised society’s beauty standards to a new level, especially since AI-generated filters entered the picture and it’s something to be very wary of.
Reality versus perception
I was recently stunned when two of my TikTok videos went viral. The first video I posted – When you are the model in the picture and even YOUR body doesn’t look like that – got 1.5 million views. https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSRbBrKg8/
The second – Unspoken rules of plus sized modelling – got 1.2million views.
In my attempt to demystify the reality versus the perception of how different people can look on the net, the subjects hit a chord with millions of people.
Even while we are all now aware that social media is only a highlight reel, we should ask ourselves whether we really comprehend its full scope. Videos are now able to have filters that can change how we look drastically with the tap of a button. Where will it all end?
The insidious creation of the ‘candid shot’
One recent development has been the curation of the ‘candid shot’. The kind of shot where someone’s just ‘relaxing’ on the beach, but it’s stunningly shot, lit and filtered. For the most part, the ‘candid’ images I have are the ones your friends post when it’s your birthday and everyone looks awful!
The reality of so-called ‘casual shots’ is that hundreds of photos were most likely taken. Specific poses were selected, meticulously edited, and scrutinised before posting, creating the pressure of curating the ‘perfect life’ that appears to be effortless. You only need to look at the Kardashians’ Instagram and recent beach shots of Kim and Khloe to see this in action.
How I’ve navigated my own social media journey
My childhood dream of growing up and becoming a model was exactly that. A dream. A naturally curvy girl, I knew my body would never resemble that of a ‘model’. The moment I saw my first plus-sized model, everything changed. My childhood dream now looked somewhat achievable.
Fast-forward and I’m now thrilled to say that I am a fully-fledged model with top agency Bella Management. However, modelling these days isn’t just about taking pretty pictures.
The success of my modelling and content-creating careers is largely dependent on my online presence. So, I get it. I too have to think about what kind of shots I post and how I look, however it can be a tricky thing to navigate, given I don’t want to be something I’m not.
It’s easy to get sucked into a pit of self-doubt and comparison when I see other models getting booked for shoots and other creators getting invited to events I wasn’t. Was it because they looked ‘better than me’ on their feeds? The fact is that maintaining a social media presence is part of my job, so I can’t just delete my accounts, ignore them or not give content much thought.
Over time, I’ve developed strategies for overcoming these destructive thought patterns. Whenever this happens, I stop whatever it is I’m doing or thinking and just breathe. I’ll take a minute to acknowledge my emotions and then remind myself that social media just depicts a small fraction of someone’s life. Why am I comparing my whole self to a fraction of someone else’s?
Sometimes, I take a step back from social media and make conscious efforts to set boundaries and limits. I’ll block off work time and won’t check Instagram stories or feeds at all. I’ll be honest and say that there have been occasions when I’ve blocked people in an effort to break the habit of constant comparison. I now know I need to keep my attention fixed squarely on my own life, where I am already playing the main character and supporting cast all at the same time.
I realise that social media can provide a welcome means of escape. In the heat of the pandemic, it was sometimes the only source of social connection that many people had. But for many it has become all consuming. Suddenly, our entire lives are concentrated on new kinds of connection. From constantly checking our own faces on Zoom to aimlessly browsing TikTok, social media has become a primary source of distraction in modern life.
Given social media consumption has increased so exponentially, it’s now more important than ever to be aware of the realities of social media.
All is not what it seems on the net
To me, the internet and social media are about as ‘real’ as reality television. Although the people can appear to be genuine, and a show seems to be unscripted, events are usually carefully orchestrated to get the desired outcome for the show’s producers.
Similarly with Instagram you have complete creative control over the setting, so you can create whatever kind of world you choose to display online, realistic or not. For me, showing vulnerability and speaking about my own experiences with mental health and body image online is crucial for my sense of self and gives my feeds actual ‘realness’.
The moments I have that aren’t perfect, the times I struggle, the insecurities and feelings that aren’t spoken about enough aren’t just for my followers. They are also for me. It’s something tangible to remind me that life isn’t a highlight reel which holds me accountable in the moments I forget. In spite of appearances, not everyone is blissfully happy and enjoying the ideal life they show on Instagram. We need to keep reminding ourselves of that.
Find Sarah Kelly (@learningtolovesarah) on TikTok here.