This is what a social media star wants you to know about body image online
All is not what is seems when it comes to those model-style snaps posted on social media.
What you see is not always what you get.
With the rise of social media, this Noughties spin on the old saying has become more prevalent as Instagram “It” girl Stephanie Claire Smith is proving.
Steph and friend Laura Henshaw have used Instagram to educate their followers on the misconception of body image online.
The 22-year-olds uploaded two photos of themselves 30 seconds apart to their Instagram accounts. Each was dramatically different, one more flattering than the other.
“At first it was daunting uploading the comparison body shots on Instagram … social media gives judgmental people a voice to put you down, which can be tough at times,” Steph says. “But then I realised only good would come from it.”
Both women wanted to convey the message that good angles and lighting can make your body shape seem completely different in one photo compared with another.
“Laura and I agreed that it was something we needed to share our opinions on. We are aware that a lot of young girls look up to us. That is great, but as long as they are aware that we are not always on point.”
“We didn’t want girls thinking we always looked a certain way. Not everything you see on social media is real,” Steph says.
They have also launched the Keep It Cleaner website, a platform that aims to inspire young adolescents and adults to lead healthy lifestyles.
A model and Myer Fashions on the Field ambassador, Steph is also dominating the social media scene with more than a million followers on Instagram.
But while that can lead to amazing career opportunities, there is also immense pressure to live up to social media’s expectations on body weight and shape.
“Sometimes, I do feel the pressure to live up to people’s expectations of being a model,” Steph says.
“I think you have to be strong and know that you are being the best you can be. It is important to only try and impress yourself, not others. So, ignore the haters.”
The downside of the social media movement
While social media hashtags can serve as motivation to exercise and eat healthier, they can also become a self-destructive and dangerous tool for many girls.
The obsession with #fitspo and #fitsporation can manipulate girls to work out solely to look like a microcelebrity on Instagram instead of exercising for their own health.
Recent studies have shown social media sites can cause body and life dissatisfaction as well as increased feelings of envy for those who are perceived as superior or better off.
“We didn’t want girls thinking we always looked a certain way. Not everything you see on social media is real.”
Psychologist Jessica Ciarma believes social media sites can cause people to develop “low self-esteem and feel compelled to diet or exercise excessively as a means to alter their bodies”.
This can be harmful as “dieting may lead to the onset of disordered eating, and weight loss gained through dieting is rarely sustained in the long term,” Jessica says.
“I think it is important for everyone to keep in mind that the standards shown on social media sites are often unattainable. Two people with the exact same eating and exercise regimen may have very different body shapes. It’s important to keep in mind that we may never achieve a body that we have been idealising on social media,” Jessica advises.
She also warns Photoshop and other filters can often “distort images on social media”.
As Steph’s social media popularity continues to rise, she asks young adults to “be the best you can be and only follow people that motivate you in a positive way”.
“Don’t follow those who make you feel insecure,” she says.
Written by Brooke Grebert-Craig