A lot of things have changed in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic seems to have given us the push we need to reevaluate many aspects of our lives. Many of us have been stuck indoors a lot more, clinging desperately to our phones as the last remaining strand connecting us to the outside world. It’s no wonder, then, that we’re spending more time on social media. As a result, we’re more closely evaluating the content we see on there.
I know I’m not the only one guilty of pausing my scroll in order to analyse an influencer’s latest post with envy. Every second image on my feed shows a beautiful, symmetrical human with a tiny waist, flawless skin, pouty lips, and a booty often captioned “no filter”. Salt in the wound. I’ve often found myself thinking “wow, it must be nice to look like that” and wondering how I can improve my skincare or exercise regime in order to do so. But the truth is, no matter what I do, I’m never going to look like one of those people, and neither will you. Let’s talk about why.
Not even influencers look like influencers
If you take one thing from this article, let it be this: Instagram isn’t real. Basing your self image on the perfection on your instagram feed is like walking through a hall of trick mirrors and believing you actually look like all the warped reflections you see. Unfortunately, unlike the trick mirrors, a trompe l’oeil on our social media isn’t advertised as such. We’re supposed to be fooled into thinking it’s reality, and that makes it so much more nefarious.
The reality is that you’ll never look like an influencer, because not even they do. And guess what else: They’re just as self conscious about it as we are. The proof lies in the fact that they’re tweaking their skin and hips on FaceTune in order to fit into that ideal – that is, if they haven’t already paid thousands to change their faces cosmetically for real. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some of the seminal Instafake works of 2020 so far.
Kar/Jenner Photoshop classics
What better family to use as an example than one that lives their lives completely in the public eye. They have a reality show, which clearly shows the world what they look like (and how their faces and bodies have changed over the years) and yet they still feel the need to try to trick us into thinking they look like something else. Is anyone else offended?
Let’s start with Kylie:
Y ya eliminó la foto
— L|C (@wichocantu98) April 28, 2020
As Holly Hammond points out for Betches, Kylie Jenner seems to have a super weird swimming pool “because in every photo, the structural integrity of the pool seems to completely fall apart whenever it’s near Kylie. Also known as “the Kardashian Vortex”.
Not only must it be super exhausting to pose like this every day, while lying around your house in quarantine, but imagine forcing one of your siblings or your house keeper to take the three hundred pictures you’re then going to butcher in FaceTune. I say butcher because there’s an obvious chunk missing from the side of her pool in one of the photos ( which was later cropped and replaced). What the hell was the girl even trying to edit to make a mistake like this?
I have so many questions.
Hammond sees a sliver lining here: “At least Kylie’s grotesque editing of her body is the one constant in our lives in these uncertain times”.
Kylie’s siblings don’t seem to be cutting down on their photoshopping either. in fact, Hammond has pointed out that Kim Kardashian may actually be setting a whole new standard for beauty: having three hands.
“Once again, Kim has created a completely ridiculous body for women to try to attain: now we have to have THREE hands to be sexy!” writes Hammond.
Let’s just take a quick glance at the first photo. Even ignoring the fact that the shadow on the wall doesn’t match Kim’s pose even remotely, there’s a far bigger mystery happening here.
In the photo, Kim clearly has two hands up against the wall, right? So, why is it that on closer inspection there’s also another – with the same manicure– in her hair? I’m not ruling out the fact that the Kardashians may actually be a family of reptilians in people suits, but it does seem far more likely that Kim, already a gorgeous woman, has had somebody chop up the photo and reassemble it in a completely different way in order to make it “more attractive”.
Hammond says that this kind of thing is common because celebrities like the Kardashians take their photos apart piece by piece “like f*cking Hannibal Lecter”.
“But instead of making a nice skin lamp, they then add back limbs and body parts in different positions to feel out what looks best. They then try to post it like this is actually their body type, when their waist was cut out like it was done with an ice cream scoop. That, and then they leave extra fingers around.”
It’s actually a little disturbing and is triggering flashbacks of that creepy shower scene in the Grudge.
Kylie and Kim aren’t the only members of the Klan who are guilty of representing themselves dishonestly. Every one of them has been accused of photoshopping and Facetuning themselves until they’re only barely recognisable. And again, this seems completely pointless because the whole world sees their actual faces on TV every single week. Do they really think they’re fooling anyone? Are you fooled?
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with aspiring to look your best, but for most of us that means spending a little more on your skincare products and investing in a new lip gloss. The Kardashians and Jenners are role models, looked up to by millions, many of whom are young women, and actively fooling them into believing that they have to look like plastic dolls 24/7.
It promotes extremely unhealthy self images in their fans and perpetuates highly unrealistic beauty standards that are not only impossible to achieve in reality, but also seem like a heck of a lot of work.
The Kardashians basically shape contemporary beauty standards. Kim’s curves may even have played a role bringing curves back into fashion after the waify days of Paris Hilton, Kate Moss, and other icons who looked like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. But what’s the point in flipping the script on society’s notion of beauty if you’re just going to create an equally toxic ideal?
Hammond writes that the Kardashian/Jenner clan “consistently undo any positive influence they had on beauty standards when they perpetuate this scary cyborg puppet version of women as if that is what is or should be considered attractive. And the most toxic part is that, in actuality, they don’t even have it themselves and can only achieve these looks through plastic surgery, expensive treatments, and then polish it off with complete bullsh*t photo editing.”
But that’s enough picking on the Kardashians for one day. Since we all know we’re being tricked by their false perfection, let’s move onto something far more dangerous.
Toxic Fitspo and why you’ll never look like a fitness influencer
I’m a self-proclaimed workout addict, and so my instagram feed is also full of fitness influencers, many of whom have lately developed a fondness for bicycle shorts and a very real aversion to having internal organs. Can somebody please tell me why it’s now trendy to look like you’ve sold all your insides off on the black market? Where in these teeny tiny trending waists are people supposed to fit in all the things that actually keep us going, like livers, colons and stomachs?
Perhaps we can overlook it when it’s just normal people scooping out their sides, but when the same behaviour comes from fitness influencers, it’s far more toxic. Aren’t these the people who are supposed to be promoting healthy habits and healthy body image? Why are they setting the bar so impossibly high that no real human being can attain them without causing themselves physical and mental harm?
It’s super disappointing then, when fitspo sources that’re usually really good at being inclusive and showing off the broad spectrum of body shapes ( because for those who don’t know it, people are different, and no amount of diet and exercise is going to make you look exactly like anyone else) start posting garbage like this as if it’s reality:
View this post on Instagram
Sunday Funday HITT workout by @twinsb_fit 😅 🌟10 burpees with pumps 🌟10 squat jump 🌟10 slots jump 🌟30 sec of knee raises 🌟30 sec of sheath oblique access Complete this workout by doing 3 rounds minimum with 20 seconds of recovery at the end of each circuit 🔥 Tag someone who you challenge to complete this circuit 🤔 #Gymsharktrain
No doubt the girl in the post is super fit, and puts way more effort into achieving her body than most of us have the energy or willpower for (nothing wrong with that), but for some reason it was still deemed necessary to pull her waist way in, causing the shape of the tiles to warp into her body. Like in the case of the Kardashians, this seems silly because the videos that follow clearly show that while, yes, she has a banging body, she also clearly has room for her intestines.
How many women are seeing that first image, of the influencer with the unnaturally small waist, and then looking in the mirror thinking that they’re doing something wrong? How many people are pushing themselves to work out out of self-hatred rather than enjoyment, because their social media feed tells them they don’t fit the formula of what’s “hot”?
And there is a formula.
What’s hot according to instagram?
Cassey Ho, a fitness instructor and the influencer behind the Blogilates channel, was curious about what exactly the recipe for beauty was in 2019, and so she investigated. Working with a researcher, Ho compiled a list of the top 100 female Instagrammers purely based on the size of their following. She then came up with 22 attributes to compare, which included factors like eye colour, eye size, face shape, hair length, skin colour and age.
After weeks spent gathering her data, Ho wrote on her site that “there is most definitely a formula and a specific beauty standard that the 100 most followed women on Instagram adhere to. It’s fascinating but also, incredibly eerie in a time when you would think social media has evened the playing field for women of all body types, sizes, ethnicities and skin colour”.
Wanna know what she found?
The most common age of the top 100 is 22 – I know, it hurts to hear that as a millennial.
75% of them have dark eyes, and 78% of them have black or brown hair. Only 20% are blonde and 2% are redheads. Longer hair, reaching the mid-back was most popular, followed by shoulder-length hair. Predictably, most of them have flat stomachs, an hourglass figure, and not much muscle.
Ho went into detail here, stating that the results found that “only 9% of the top 100 female Instagrammers have abs with definition. 79% have plain flat abs with no definition. Only 11% have soft bellies or rounded bellies”.
The instagram ideal has full lips (“Only 29% of the top 100 have thin lips. But in the top 10, thin lips drops to only 10%.”), and she’s caucasian. Shockingly, only 8% of the top 100 female instagrammers are black.
She has a full chest and a heart-shaped face with a pointy chin. 93% of the top 100 have small noses and 72% have long, slender necks.
Most importantly – and pay attention here – she doesn’t exist. She is a fabrication of the internet.
Cassey then went on to prove this by transforming herself, with make-up and photoshop, into this fictional instagram goddess to prove that, really, it can be done by anyone.
As you can see, Ho transformed herself from being a normal woman like many of us, but fitter, into what Instagram has convinced us women should look like.
Her research is interesting for a number of reasons, one being that in the age of body positivity and inclusivity, only 5 out of the top 100 female instagrammers were plus-sized, and none of them fell within the top ten.
“It’s weird because Instagram is a place of free will,” she writes. “We choose to follow who we idolize. No media company or advertising agency is telling us who’s beautiful and who’s not, and yet we still are somehow adhering to the old beauty standards of idolizing light skinned, large chested women with big eyes, and small waists”.
Stop trying to look like an influencer
This is 2020. We know this is going on. We’re not oblivious to the fact that, just like it has been for centuries, female beauty is based on unhealthy and frankly absurd standards. So, why in the name of all that is holy are we still acting like suckers and falling for it every time?
We are not cyborgs with poreless skin, tiny noses, and impervious to ageing. We have internal organs that serve us well, and without which we would be feeling pretty shitty. Pretending to be these plastic robot alien creatures on our instagram feeds isn’t healthy, nor is is sustainable. Not to mention, it has susceptible young women all across the world spending money on detox teas, whatever the hell those corset things are that Kim Kardashian was punting, and other absurd products their favourite overly-photoshopped influencers have been promoting.
Can we please start revolting against these ridiculous standards and start embracing the fact that human being come in different shapes, sizes and colours? The fact that we’re different is what makes us unique, memorable and yes, even beautiful. I’ll never look like an influencer, and most likely neither will you – but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing after all.
I for one definitely have to clean up my instagram feed to remove some of the misleading bullsh*t and I hope you’ll do the same. If you enjoy seeing the artificially enhanced barbie dolls on your feed, but also want a little dose of reality from time to time, check out this list of 5 celebrities who don’t photoshop the hell out of themselves, or follow this account that shows you just how different reality and instagram really are.