Considering the average user spends 53 minutes of their day on Instagram, it is impossible for influencers and celebrities not to have an effect on our perception of reality and ourselves. Beauty standards are set high by the most-followed people on Instagram and this is becoming a physical and mental health issue.
Certified fitness instructor and YouTuber, Cassey Ho, posted the video “Decoding the Instagram Beauty Standard.” I thought this video was extremely important and eye-opening in a world in which following someone blindly is as easy as tapping a button on a smart-phone.
Ho shortlisted the 100 most followed women on Instagram. Then, she came up with 22 physical attributes — things like hair colour, face shape, body shape, eye colour, clothing size, etc. — by which a woman can be judged. She did this to examine if there were any patterns in body type among the most followed female influencers.
After all this research, Ho was able to state that “there is most definitely a formula and a very specific beauty standard that the top 100 most followed women on Instagram adhere to.” Of course, in a social media platform in which aesthetics is foundational, this was to be expected. However, what is so interesting about Ho’s experiment is not only the beauty standard she exposed, but also, with a sprinkle of Photoshop, the ideal body type is completely reproducible.
The top three most followed women on Instagram are Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, and Kim Kardashian, respectively. I am starting to notice a pattern already. Some of the physical characteristics that Ho recurrently found in her sample were dark and big eyes, dark hair, flat (but not muscular) abs, white skin, big lips, heart-shaped face, small nose, and big butt and chest. Only with those characteristics, you can start picturing the kind of woman that is being described. She is everywhere on Instagram, and getting more popular by the minute.
To take her experiment a step further, Ho photoshopped pictures of herself to look exactly like the ideal woman as discovered per Instagram — and the results were eerie! Ho managed to look like Kim Kardashian meets Kylie Jenner. Most notably, she looked nothing like herself.
I think this speaks well to a larger issue occurring in our society because of Instagram. We do not know what is real anymore. In a world of aesthetics, we would much rather get likes than show our true selves. This even goes beyond beauty standards, which can be extremely subjective. Even Cassey Ho’s experiment had to lend itself to a bit of subjectivity considering there is no real way to measure what entails a big butt.
With the introduction of Instagram stories, it is not only about how much we can edit a picture but also how we can edit our lifestyle to consistently appear interesting and joyful. The extent to which some people will go to appear in a particular way is worrisome. For the sake of imitating and for the sake of belonging and generating a particular response, authenticity and sanity are being lost in the swiping and tapping waves of social media.
The only way to stop this is to be conscious of the way we use the tools we have been given. Instagram can be a really positive, accepting, and uplifting place if we make it so.