If a photo on Instagram looks too good to be true, it probably is. Even though the platform can be a wonderful and inspiring place, full of beautiful and artistic images, oftentimes it's misleading, too. Photography "tricks" and post-production dissolves the difference between real and fake. And some people try to make use of it, turning their looks into what they think society desires.
Eventually, it got so bad, a counter-movement emerged on Reddit in 2017. The community is called Instagram Reality, and it is dedicated to "exposing" these personas, trying to stop the spread of unreachable ideals and unrealistic expectations. To do so, it is posting side-by-side pics of how Instagrammers look online and in real life.
Bored Panda has already written about the subreddit (most recent articles here, here, and here), but it continues to dig out more and more... "specimens", so we gotta keep up; the pictures are getting more and more ridiculous.
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In 2019, Marika Tiggemann and Isabella Anderberg released a study called "Social media is not real: The effect of 'Instagram vs reality' images on women’s social comparison and body image." The research revealed that such images have the power to limit the impact social media posts have on our mental health.
As part of the study, a group of women were randomly assigned to view one of three sets of images: "Instagram vs reality" images, the 'ideal' side alone, or just the 'real' side. When women viewed either the real or comparison posts, researchers noticed that the identification or complete avoidance of the 'perfect' images as fake could "disrupt the comparison process," reducing the negative impact on body image and actually decreasing body dissatisfaction.
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"Results suggest that the popular quote 'Comparison is the thief of joy'… has some truth to it," Renee Engeln, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, writes for Psychology Today. "However, it seems to matter who the target of your comparison is. We may have more luck accepting our own bodies if we see more realistic and diverse representations of other bodies in our social media feeds.
"By following users who regularly challenge the frequent phoniness of Instagram posts, we can practice appreciating the diversity of human bodies and perhaps learn to appreciate our own bodies along the way."