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Turning the Tide: Social Media and Self-Acceptance

Much has been made over the years of the effect that social media can have on our body confidence. Aimlessly scrolling through apps such as Instagram or Facebook, you might come across a flood of images from an influencer’s holiday abroad. Sometimes you might take a glance and scroll past it. But say this particular image catches you off-guard, on a bad day, when your self-esteem is low and your emotions are high. What then? Having confidence in oneself has always been a difficult task, but this is made even harder by the impact of social media.

A recent tweet provides interesting food for thought about the relationship we have with our bodies. Suggesting that the reason why we can feel low about our appearance is that we see ourselves through the male gaze (a term invented by Laura Mulvey in the 1970s), while simultaneously viewing our friends and loved ones through the new-coined female gaze. We internalise male fantasy. We feel the need to promote our best selves, to enhance our appearance, and it is exhausting. And so we must ask ourselves — why? We scrutinise ourselves due to unrealistic standards of beauty and yet, they will never be attainable, for the so-called ‘ideal’ body type is ever-changing. Even though society has come a long way in the last 50 years, the concept of the male gaze remains, and it is rife through social media. The TikTok Silhouette #RedFilter challenge springs to mind here. So what can be done to change the narrative?

After the launch of Instagram’s body positivity trend ‘reality versus reality,’ which emerged last year, more and more influencers have taken to their respective platforms to empower their followers to feel comfortable in their own skin. One such person is Dana Mercer, a freelance health and travel journalist and self-love activist, who has dedicated her Instagram to remind young women of their worth. Her page is a mixture of body-positive posts and videos exposing tricks that some influencers use when capturing those ‘picture-perfect moments’. It is surprising to see the difference that certain angles, lighting and poses can make to the way we look. But, more importantly, to the way we view ourselves.

Instagram: @danaemercer

What makes this trend different from those that have come before though; what is arguably the most liberating, is that it’s about unification. Choice. As Dana Mercer quite rightly said “Online is filtered. Perfected. Curated. Even when it comes to something as simple as sitting. So don’t compare your casual happy self with someone’s posted snapshot. Because you’re amazing. Posing or relaxing or any way at all.” It does not matter whether you use filters or apps such as Photoshop and VSCO to edit your images, or if you prefer to show yourself without makeup and in your favourite pair of baggy joggers. What matters is that we appreciate our bodies for all that they can do. For all the wiggles, wobbles, lines, and indentations. And to find peace with it. Listen more to what our bodies need and trusting in that, rather than the deceptive weight-loss ads we find scattered around the internet.

Instagram: @danaemercer

Another Instagrammer that has dedicated her page to body confidence is Victoria Spence. With over 120,000 followers, Victoria uses her platform to inspire women to move their body, whilst also promoting healthy relationships between one’s body and food. She has a running theme throughout her posts; to take everything that is seen on social media with a pinch of salt. “If you scrolled down my Instagram feed to about 5/6 years ago, all of my posts were either picture of abs, motivational quotes or smiling selfies. I received sooo much validation from social media, and I would show up to be so confident and happy but my actual reality was that I had zero life other than going to the gym”. While platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are a great way for people to document their life, it is more important to live it; to be present. People view social media through the lens of their own lives, they make comparisons that can be harmful to their self-esteem and self-worth. And this is something that certain Instagrammers and influencers are trying to change.

Instagram: @victorianiamh

It is important to remember too, that it isn’t just women who need body confidence. Men also struggle with societal beauty standards and are frequently inundated with messages on how to look like 'real men’ — they must be lean, muscly, an athletic physique. Kelvin Davis, the creator of Notoriously Dapper blog and Instagram influencer, has set out to ‘show men of big size that they can be stylish regardless of limitations.’ And he is not the only one trying to expose the male ‘ideal’ body myth. @mattchuupicchu, @gentlemenscurb and @realryansheldon are just a few other notable influencers proving that all bodies are worthy of validation.

Instagram: @kelvindavis

According to a recent survey — noted in an article by Forbes— there appears to be a correlation between low self-esteem and social media, and this seems to affect girls in their teenage years. Research carried out by The Prince’s Trust and Education Policy Institute confirmed there was a distinct drop in girls ‘sense of self between the ages of 11 and 14. At 11, 15% had said they felt unhappy about their appearance. However, by the time they were 14, 29% said they were unhappy.’ Whilst the study suggests that there is a decline in mental wellbeing for both sexes throughout their teenage years, it is more severe for young women. Therefore, this growing pattern of self-care influencers can only be a positive thing.

Perhaps, by consuming healthier online content or following body confidence activists, there is a chance we can slowly turn the tide. To one where online social comparison becomes a thing of the past and self-acceptance is the constant. But this is wishful thinking unless we concentrate our time and energy on the things that matter most. Redirect our focus on the people or activities that make us feel good. Taking those negative feelings and using them as an opportunity to self-evaluate, which might include taking some time out from social media.

Megan Howe - Editor and Writer at Social Songbird
A recent BA English graduate with experience in writing, acting and editing. Bit of a bookworm, lover of Shakespeare and all things theatre.

Turning the Tide: Social Media and Self-Acceptance Reviewed by Megan Howe on Friday, March 05, 2021 Rating: 5

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