The “Real” Deal: How Instagram Impacts Me as a Woman


When I was in high school, I remember seeing a photo of a girl in a magazine and envying her thigh gap.

In the photo she was bent over, laughing about something, her fabulous blonde hair swooshing to the side, and she had this gap between her thighs that really highlighted just how thin her legs were.

I remember standing in front of my bathroom mirror, mimicking her bent-over posture to see if I could recreate the perfect thigh gap, but my thighs were slightly thicker than hers and didn’t quite have the same number of inches she had achieved. I decided my thighs were fatter than hers.

Of course, I came to realize more that this girl and countless others in my magazines was photoshopped to look perfect, or at least coached from birth on how to eat and exercise well, and soon it became fairly common knowledge among most women that images in popular culture were not very realistic.

And then along came Instagram, the answer to the problem of not seeing “real life” in the media.

It was supposed to be this chance for us all to easily and quickly share our real moments – real people sharing their real selves and moments. No fancy lighting effects, no professional photographer and make up and hair stylists calling the shots, and no Photoshop.

Instagram was supposed to be the solution, but I feel like it actually made things a lot worse.

It was semi-easy to look at magazines and TV shows when I was younger and not be totally bogged down in the way those women looked. Sure, I still found myself comparing my body and my features and my clothes to theirs, but ultimately I knew it was a very small percentage of women featured in these pages, and most of them had been digitally manipulated in some way.

But now, thanks to Instagram, it’s even harder not to compare myself to the women I’m seeing because these women are in fact “real”, and they are everywhere because almost everyone has an Instagram.

They aren’t models (per se), they haven’t been digitally altered (because we are a generation that thrives on the natural and organic), and we are supposed to look at these women and each other and appreciate their realness.




But this is what I really struggle with, here:

These women I’m seeing on my Instagram feeds, these “real” women who supposedly combat supermodel, magazine-worthy norms because they are “just like me” and taking random photos on their phone of daily life, these women are still unbelievably beautiful, skinny, and flawless.

These “real” women have perfect, trendy haircuts, have somehow managed to find at least five different pairs of cutoff shorts that fit them like a glove (I have never been so lucky to find cut off shorts that do not make me look either like a desperate hillbilly or a foot shorter), and they eat pizza and donuts and ice cream and have no fat rolls.

When I sit down, my stomach collapses into two rolls of fat. I can take my stomach in both my hands and wiggle it around. I weigh 120 pounds and I can do the truffle shuffle.

I feel like Instagram screams at me to be authentic and real and then presents me with images of “real” women who are these things but who appear to be doing life better than me.

Maybe it’s my fault, and I should stop being so sensitive. Maybe I should not be so easily manipulated by the images I’m seeing and learn to love my fat rolls and lack of cut off shorts.

But when the world tells me that these are real, authentic, people and not photoshopped supermodels, how am I not supposed to compare myself to what is “real”?

If it’s attainable, why don’t I look like that? Why isn’t my life playing out like a hipster paradise? And how does everyone afford those blankets they are always wrapping around themselves, because I looked those things up and they’re like $60.

I don’t know what the answer is here, other than just not looking at Instagram. But I genuinely enjoy taking photos and sharing them, and I find myself inspired by a lot of photography on Instagram. I don’t want to give it up.

Ladies of the world, I ask you: What have you done to combat the feelings of inadequacy Instagram so easily fosters? What can we do to support each other, enjoy Instagram, and not get caught up in the “authenticity” it offers?

6 replies »

  1. I like to follow body-positive people/profiles along with the more ‘hipstery’ people/profiles to make my feed a mix of beautiful ‘real’ humans. @effyourbeautystandards is my favorite.

  2. It is so hard to offer advice when it comes to things such a social media because we all interpret what it offers us in a very unique-to-us, subjective way. I will admit that I never see these sorts of accounts on instagram – I don’t use the search feature, and I follow people who DO share real, in-the-moment moments, and the every day and ups and downs that so many of us go through as human beings in this day-and-modern-age. I have built a supportive, encouraging, and inspiring community around me, one in which I thrive in, and – oh my – I do hope that you’ll come to find the same, Julia. In fact, I’d be happy to help you to do just that, if you’d like me to (gross self-promotion: you can find me at @toris_tales). Because, I ignore the rest. I think I’ve seen maybe one or two bikini/denim shorts shot during my time on IG and that was enough for me to make sure it never happened again…of course, it’s fair easier said than done – rather, it’s far easier for me to say ‘just unfollow’ or ‘don’t search’ than it is to actually do those things – but I’m one of those social media enthusiasts who wants you to know that there is an online world out there that doesn’t include supermodel-in-the-real-world-esque types but, instead, gorgeous on the inside and out women who run businesses, and live through the daily grind, and adventure (and share their stunning, outside-their-door landscapes), and share real, torn-from-their-skin stories. I promise they’re out there, and I promise they make visiting IG one of the highlights of my day!

    • Thanks for sharing this with me! I’m glad that you can speak to another side of Instagram I have trouble finding (or, I should say, challenging myself to find), and that that has in turn created a community you get life from. I would love to be able to check out your feed and the people you follow. Thanks for your encouragement and thanks for reading!

  3. Hey! Stumble onto your blog, and it is so wonderful! Thank you for your honesty and “realness” about issues. Such a breath of fresh air. Keep up the posts and sharing your insights!

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