I don’t have to tell you that social media isn’t always fun. It has disadvantages and it can lead to insecurities. Young girls are especially susceptible for this. Girls who often use technology, are five times more likely to feel depressed or sad nearly every day (Hinkelman, 2017). On Instagram, perfect pictures are depicted and everyone wants to show how amazing their life is. Since a few years, the shape of your body has been a major focus. Fitgirls and -boys show their progress and how perfect their body is, which is similar to the ideal image. Or is the ideal body image similar to theirs? Has the ideal image changed due to Instagram? I think so. 98% of the girls experience a huge pressure from external sources to have a certain look (National Report on Self Esteem [NRSE]). ‘External sources’? Such as social media? As I said, the perfect Instagram world often leads to insecurities. People who see these pictures on their phone, mainly young girls, can feel jealous and want to look like them. It can even result into eating disorders (Hefner, et al., 2016). Maybe we can say that nowadays social media is the main cause of eating disorders…
The ideal body image isn’t only shown on Instagram of course. Way too thin models can be seen in magazines and on TV. Well, not necessarily too thin, but definitely arduous to achieve if you want to look like that. Several changes already have been accomplished within this world: since 2015, models in France are needed to have a medical certificate with the permission to walk the runway with their BMI (British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC], 2015). The campaign agency Models of Diversity has worked for years with models who deviate from the standards (who have, for example, a disability) (Models of Diversity, n.d.).
And something new has arisen, this time in the Netherlands. As of this year, the TV program Holland’s Next Top Model has worked with curvy models. Plus-size model Nienke van der Peet already signed up in 2015, but then the program didn’t want her (while she had the most votes). Now the time has come: a HNTM for curvy models has started and the models have an average size of 42-44 (VOGUE, 2017) (Duffy, 2017). This alteration proves that (Cultural) Diversity is getting more and more powerful. Juror Daniëlle van Grondelle believes this program couldn’t have existed in 2010, but now the timing is right. She thinks acceptation and tolerance have grown. (Grondelle, 2017).
Curvy Supermodel is closely related to eating disorders. Finally, the media shows us that not only size 32 is beautiful, but size 44 is too. I think plus-size models will decrease a lot of insecurity for young girls. One note: these plus-size models are still stunning and have a perfect appearance. Shall we see ‘Imperfect Next Top Model’ next year? But that’s another issue that I won’t be discussing today.
I wanted to talk about eating disorders. Eating disorders aren’t new, these have existed for decades. What is new, is the eating disorder world on Instagram. I would like to narrate my experiences from my own recovery account. Since a few years a so-called ‘Recovery Community’ has been existing on Instagram, this basically is a collective noun for certain Instagram accounts. The people behind these accounts all have a mental illness, in this case an eating disorder, and they show their recovery. They share how they’re doing, how much weight they gained or lost, pictures of their food, etc. The Recovery Community has two sides: a positive and a negative one. The positive aspect is that girls and boys support and help each other. Worthwhile friendships can be a result. The negative side is that the people of the community trigger each other extremely. That an eating disorder isn’t nonsense, but a terrible illness is often forgotten. The voices inside your head say the most ridiculous pronunciations, like ‘’you’re not allowed to eat more than 200 calories a day’’ or ‘’you’re waaaay to fat, you have to lose two kilos by today!’’. As soon as an eating disorder patient scrolls through Instagram, he or she gets triggered by seeing someone else losing weight or eating insufficient. As a result, the voice inside their head screams: ‘’you can reach that goal too!’’. Frequently, people block or delay their recovery unintentionally, due to others in the Recovery Community. I realized maybe it’s a hype to have an eating disorder. Young girls are often interested in recovery accounts. They think this illness is ‘cool’ and sometimes they want to be in that world too. Why? I think it’s linked to status. The organisation Trendwatching believes all human behaviour is based on our need of status, they name it Statusphere (Trendwatching, 2010) . But what’s the connection between status and eating disorders? Well, not eating for days requires discipline and people often respect you (although mainly when you’re recovered). I dare to state that some people act like they have an eating disorder in order to get attention.
Besides, I noticed something else. I have been recovered for 1,5 years now, but I kept my recovery account for over a year. And I know I’m not unique. Why? Why would you stay in the eating disorder world voluntary? I think it’s a bit addictive. As I said, a mental illness is horrible. An eating disorder is your biggest enemy, but often feels like your best friend. Feelings of safety and control are significant. It’s tough to leave that world behind forever.
What will the future bring us? I don’t think there will be a crucial shift around eating disorders. Neither do I think people with ‘real’ eating disorders will increase. I anticipate more films, documentaries, etc. about bulimia, binge eating disorder and orthorexia will be produced, and less about anorexia. In three years, Instagram won’t change, but I think it will around 2030, because then social media won’t exist anymore. And Curvy Supermodel? That also won’t exist anymore. On the runway you will see everyone combined: size 32 and 40, asymmetrical faces and limp hair, crooked teeth and huge nostrils. Let’s celebrate the imperfect!
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Veronica Hefner. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Hinkelman, L. (2017). The Girls’ Index: New insights into the complex world of today’s girls. (R. O. eXperiences, Editor) Retrieved February 16, 2018, from Static1:
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