When teenage Chloe Weinstein peruses the Instagram posts of hugely popular and glamorous influencers such as Kylie Jenner, Daisy Keech and Madison Beer, she can’t help but envy their jet-set lifestyle and compare her figure to their toned silhouettes.
Such feelings of inferiority partly contributed to the 18-year-old’s desire for breast implants.
“I demean myself by often saying to myself: ‘How [the influencers] looking so good in a bikini, flaunting all the fun things they do in places like the Bahamas? ” Weinstein told the Post.
The freshman in Randolph, New Jersey, is among 32% of young Instagram followers identified by researchers as being wronged by the platform. They found it exacerbated negative body image, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, thoughts of suicide.
The March 2020 study was commissioned by Facebook, the company that acquired Instagram nine years ago. But executives like CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram public policy manager Karina Newton have buried concerns he raised, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Newton posted on Instagram that although she thinks the WSJ article “focuses on a limited set of findings and presents them in a negative light,” she added that “we support this research.”
“We are increasingly focusing on combating negative social comparisons and negative body image,” she wrote.
But their efforts don’t equal social media influencer and TED Talk speaker Victoria Garrick. While acknowledging the benefits of Instagram, such as facilitating connections across the world, the 24-year-old denounces the constant promotion of “inauthentic”, doctored photos and other exaggerated ambitious content impossible for young people to achieve. impressionable girls.
Admitting to having been part of the problem in the past, Garrick, who started a lifestyle account in 2015, said: “When I first came to Instagram, I felt pressure to portray a certain image. I edited and edited my photos and presented a trailer online.
The constant tampering took a toll on her mental health, and after seeking therapy she made a 180 by posting unfiltered footage revealing her true personality. The LA resident, whose subscriber count has grown to 337,000 on Insta, now uses the hashtag #realpost and hopes other influencers and celebrities will follow suit.
This development would be welcomed by Carolyn, from Arizona, a 16-year-old who is currently undergoing treatment for an eating disorder. The college girl, who requested that her last name not be released for privacy reasons, claims her unhealthy obsession with fitness was partially sparked by Instagram. This was compounded by the platform’s “Explore” feature, which uses artificial intelligence to provide users with organized material similar to content they have previously viewed. In Carolyn’s case, once she showed an interest in weight training and related workouts, she was bombarded with so-called “fitspiration” messages.
“If this is what social media is telling me that is healthy, then I’m going to start doing these things,” she said. “I wanted to be like these people. “
The posts featured buff-looking gym rats with washboard stomachs and wasp waists. The diet tips were grouped under headlines like “The Golden Pyramid of Fat Loss” and “The Best Supplements for Fat Loss”, along with cute graphics and pictures of “healthy” portions.
Fortunately, Carolyn, who now works with a nutritionist Megan Kniskern, is more aware of the damage Instagram can do to vulnerable teens.
“Instagram doesn’t care about our well-being because they’re not going to filter out all the bad things that could harm our brains,” she observed. “They just spit out the things young girls my age click on – fitness workouts and calorie articles – that lead to bigotry about our health. “
Carolyn said the first thing Instagram should take to tackle toxic content is to rethink that “Explore” algorithm. “It sucks you in,” she said, lamenting that if you “like” or follow a potentially problematic post or account, it’s a “slippery slope” to similar content.
“There has to be some level of accountability for sure… I don’t know what that would look like.”
This is because the changes Instagram can make are amorphous as the content is user-centric. Campaigners such as Garrick say it would be too big a hill to climb for the platform to monitor every post – banning filters would be impossible to control.
Instead, Garrick urges influencers and celebrities to take this matter into their own hands by being honest about digitally enhancing their images. “I would like to ask everyone for transparency,” Garrick said, suggesting those who use filters or PhotoShop to add a hashtag or tag to the image signaling the changes.
Filters aside, images of slender stars are impossible to avoid on social media. For Gwenyth Harrington, a member of the support group for adolescents and adolescents led by the National Association of Anorexia nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), photos of Gigi Hadid and Taylor Swift were some of the dangerous factors behind his eating disorder.
She has also been negatively impacted by the platform’s “thinspiration” posts, which can often spark competition between young girls to look the skinniest of their peers.
The 17-year-old from upstate New York was admitted to hospital twice where counseling helped her assess the damage caused by social media.
“I was like, ‘Wow! I need to stop following people, especially diet accounts and certain celebrities, severing ties with them for the sake of my health, ”Harrington said. “Instead, I started following a girl who promotes body positivity in every one of her posts.
“It was a big help and made me feel a lot better.”
Additional reporting by Doree Lewak
If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, visit ANAD.org or call their helpline at 888-375-7767.