There has been a lot of discussion around the pressure of having a perfect life and the negative effects of social media recently. Hayley from London Beauty Queen recently wrote a very honest post on the impact of Instagram culture (read the post here). I have written about the pressure to be a perfect blogger in my Thoughts on Fashion Blogging post. From some of the comments I received on that post, it’s clear I’m not the only one left feeling inadequate sometimes. I wanted to add my own opinion on whether or not Instagram is to blame for these feelings.
I know I’m no less of a blogger than anyone else just because I take my own images or don’t have a wardrobe full of designer clothes. But I’m a grown woman who understands what goes on behind the scenes of social media. I know every Instagram image is heavily edited (I even do it myself), I know how clever editing and lighting can make any photo great, and I understand that what you put on social media is a highlight reel and not the full story. No one shares the dull or ugly parts of their life. I’m not going to share a picture of me picking up after my dog, but I will share my view of the countryside (carefully cropped so you don’t see the electric pylons) while I’m walking him. I’m giving you a filtered view of my life, in the same way, I see a filtered view of those I follow.
I also understand what goes on between brands and bloggers, in fact, I’ve been lucky enough to be gifted items because of this blog. I understand that blogs have become powerful marketing tools. A lot of the clothes, shoes, bags etc you see promoted on blogs and social media have been gifted to the blogger. Now this isn’t a bad thing and bloggers worked incredibly hard to reach the stage where they can work with brands. But the concern with this is that young viewers see all these images of so-called perfect bloggers with their instagrammable homes and design bag collection and think it’s normal and want the same thing (hell I want it too and I’m 30). This is when the negative side of social media starts to show its ugly face. It’s not normal to live it a show home with a walk-in wardrobe full of designer clothes and a collection of Chanel handbags at 25, heck it’s not normal at any age. These young girls are also subjected to images of bloggers and instagrammers with perfect bodies. Personally, I don’t follow any fitness bloggers or Instagram accounts so won’t comment too much but it’s exactly the same as the image from the dog walk. They are only showing a filtered version, using clever angles and lighting to show a perfect body. I know most of them do have amazing figures and rightly should be proud of them but no one has a completely flat stomach, everyone sucks it in for pictures.
Part of me is really glad I grew up before social media took off, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel pressure to be perfect growing up (and I’m sure my mother’s generation felt the same). Yes, I didn’t see images of so called ‘girls next door’ showing off their Chanel collection or marble homes. But I did buy magazines to look at airbrushed images of celebrities and models. I used to come home from school and watch MTV (who remembers TRL), watching music videos full of girls with perfect bodies. I think, unfortunately, the media showing us what it thinks is a perfect life will always be part of growing up. But unlike today, I didn’t also have images from bloggers like me and those that commented on my thoughts on fashion blogging post show me what life is really like. I couldn’t follow ‘normal’ people or even celebrities on social media to see what their lives were really like. I only saw the perfect images the media put out. In some respects being able to see behind the scenes can help but if everything is filtered to look perfect it’ll just make things worse.
Is Instagram to blame?
As I’ve said already there has always been some form of media, whether it’s TV, magazines or Instagram showing us the so called perfect lifestyle. I just think Instagram is today’s version and we will move on to something else in a few years. What’s different about Instagram from TV and magazines is that it’s ‘normal’ girls on there and not just celebrities and models. We can watch someone’s life change as they gain popularity and grow their accounts. I may be in the minority here, but I love this about social media. I think the fact that it can change people’s lives in this way is amazing. I completely understand why people want to share beautiful images. I want to look at beautiful Instagram accounts, and let’s face it I’m far more likely to follow someone with pretty pictures. If beautiful pictures get you followers (which can help you create a career) then, by all means, share beautiful images. We filter out the ugly when talking to friends in real life (believe it or not but I don’t go to work and tell everyone I cleaned the bathroom at the weekend) so why not do it online. We just have to be aware that not everyone viewing our images will understand that they are filtered versions of our reality. Yes make your Instagram as beautiful as you can, but make sure you’re honest about your life. Remember not everyone reading your blog or checking out your Instagram will understand what goes on behind the scenes. It’s OK that your life isn’t perfect and its OK to show it. I totally get not wanting to show it on your Instagram feed, but what about your Snapchat or Twitter?