Is Instagram Distorting Our Perception Of Beauty?

by Allen Gil March 18, 2015

Is Instagram Distorting Our Perception Of Beauty?

Raise your hand if you have an IG account.

::300 million arms are thrust into the air with Mary Catherine Gallagher abandon::


Okay, now tell me about a time that you posted a picture that was anything less than OH-MAH-GAH shareworthy.

::Crickets chirp::

Within the past three or so years, the digital kingdom’s coolest photo-sharing application has transformed itself from undercover iOS novelty to a staple piece of any youngish person’s bag of smartphone goodies.


Instagram has woven its way into the fabric of our social media experience in part because its visual medium is so easy for us to consume, and consume it we do. Voraciously.

Those of us who use Facebook, Twiter, Pinterest, Tapiture and the like are accustomed to passively gliding a thumb across the screen of a phone or tablet and only stopping to absorb those things that keep our interest for longer than 1.5 seconds. We are greedy and demanding with our entertainment. We don’t stop to read long posts because our appetite for social information is insatiable. Instant gratification is the name of the game for the modern human.

It’s like we’re all movie producers – if you can’t sell me on your story within the first three words, I’m not interested. Instagram has positioned itself to deliver only the most attractive and glamorous versions of those stories, however, and this is where it gets dangerous.

As a user interface goes, IG is the bee’s knees. But as soon as you consider the litany of ways Instagram can make you seem more interesting and beautiful, it becomes more apparent that tilt shift and Valencia are quietly sabotaging your self-esteem, one amateur edit at a time.

If comparing yourself – your beauty, your life, your happiness – to others through Facebook is a drag, you obviously haven’t checked out the scenery on Instagram. Because as an Instagram user, te following four things probably cycle through your mind every time you check to see if you have any new hearts, speech bubbles, or follower silhouettes:
  1. OMG, her skin and hair always look amazing. I need to start doing a coconut oil mask or a seaweed wrap or something;
  2. Jesus, 693 likes? I wonder if he pays for followers;
  3. That cat is not real!! It’s too cute to be a real cat. Is it real? Blech, I bet they took 100 shots to get that one; and
  4. I never dress cute enough for brunch. She takes risks with her wardrobe! Damn it, I need to prioritize IG over guzzling mimosas.

Instagram makes everyone’s butt look bigger, eyes brighter, champagne fizzier, six-pack more defined, and that brunch is a nonstop affair sponsored by Moët & Chandon.


This stuff is not true. You know it; I know it. But unfortunately, it doesn’t put a dent in the deleterious effects Instagram has on our sense of self-worth. Crema, Amar, soft blurs, contrast, highlights, shadows: these are all tools we use to enhance a raw image and make ourselves look as great as we want to look. It’s become such common practice to doctor and prettify our photos before we add them that there is even a way to prove that they are unaltered.


#nofilter. Yep. Sure.

And the hashtags are out of control. I am guilty of this, too, but really, it’s because we all want to make sure we are seen and heard in the social sphere for beautiful people, because if you get 100 likes on a selfie you took in the bathroom, you feel good.



You essentially just got 100 pats on the back for being cute, and as lame as it sounds, our need for reassurance is a real human need. It’s fed through all the likes, comments and new followers we get via social media, which is why we keep doing it.

In real life, there’s nothing to define how many people think you look good on any given day. In digital life, though, everything is quantifiable, and if the metrics show you got 343 thumbs up on something, well, shit, that’s cold, hard data confirming what you always hoped: that you’re awesome and people like you.

So, yes, Instagram is definitely encouraging the dissemination of selectively edited bits of our lives, which often make us feel like everyone else is more beautiful, more wealthy and having more fun than we are. It seems like no one has cellulite and that cut-up midsections are just something you’re born with but I honestly think most of us are wise enough at this point in the IG game that we know all the tricks people use to appear this way.

Allen Gil
Allen Gil


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