Unrealistic and Unattainable Standards: Instagram and Tik Tok Have Created a Photoshopped Platform

In a time where social media is rising exponentially and more and more young kids are becoming a part of its culture, the negative effects have become very apparent. Over the past few years, social media has become a place where people share their lives, and some have made it a place where they feel the need to make comments about others’ lives. Celebrities, influencers, and even people you know will post the perfect or edited parts of their lives on social media, making viewers/teenagers believe they are just subpar. Teenagers look at the lives of others for hours everyday and begin to wonder why their life is not like that or why they don’t look like the people they are seeing on their feeds. Also, in many instances when someone feels confident to post in their own skin, they will receive degrading comments from the outside world, resulting in negative effects on their mental health. On Instagram, we see tremendous amounts of photoshopped and edited images, and on Tiktok we see a ridiculous amount of body shaming, or degrading others about their body, aimed at young teenagers. Body dysmorphia and a lack of self confidence in teens result from a combination of the unattainable pictures from Instagram and the bullying from Tiktok. 

The original idea of Instagram was for people to have fun sharing photos and videos with friends, family, and other people on the app, however over the years it has taken a dark turn. As more and more people get into the world of social media, it’s started to become more serious. People are becoming famous because of it and other influencers and celebrities use it to share the things going on in their lives. As a result, a competitive nature and the idea that you have to look perfect for the outside world came into play. In the  New York Times article, “Blake Lively Says ‘99.9%’ of Celebrity Images Are Photoshopped While Interviewing Gigi Hadid” by Raisa Bruner, Blake Lively said, “It’s our job as actors and/or models to be in shape. We have access to gyms and trainers and healthy food. And then on top of that, 99.9 percent of the time the images are Photoshopped.” This expresses the fact that almost everything we see on social media is fake, but the editing is not common knowledge to everyone. Teenagers believe what they are seeing is real and what they should look like. Many big-name companies put out photos for the world that surface all over Instagram that are heavily photoshopped, making their overall bodies thinner and their breasts and butts larger and more defined, giving many young teenagers unattainable expectations of what they “should” look like. In the image to the right, you see Sports Illustrated, a well known magazine that gets its fame partly for its swimsuit covers of tremendously beautiful and fit women, took an already slim photo of Tyra Banks and heavily edited and photoshopped it. For many young girls seeing the picture on the left, it can make them feel inadequate and feel bigger than they truly are compared to others in society because they are looking at unrealistic expectations. Not only do big-name companies do this to try to create a “better” image for their brand by attempting to have only “perfect” models, but many influencers do it to themselves. Many people try to portray themselves as slimmer, believing it makes them look better. Tana Mongeau, a social media influencer, was caught photoshopping the pictures she posted online. This shows how reshaped her body became and shows that many influencers put out images that are fake in order to attempt to gain popularity. Also, when influencers are caught in these fails it makes it seem like someone who is already slim needs to look even slimmer, as they feel how they look right now is not enough. As a result, many young kids experience body dysmorphia, a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance, especially a flaw that appears minor or can’t be seen by others, as they are not seeing anyone who looks like them online. If someone online does have a similar body type, it’s not shown as influencers have already tried to edit their actual bodies, making people feel that the way they look is inadequate and discovering flaws that everyone has or no one notices.

In addition to celebrities and influencers setting unrealistic body expectations on social media, another issue that is becoming more problematic is the aspect of cyberbullying. On Tik Tok, teenagers will post a random dance video or any other type of trend like everyone else, and instead of commenting on the dance or the trend, people feel that they should be commenting on a person’s body. In these two photos, taken from the platform Tiktok, you see the comments made on girls’ bodies when all they are doing is trying to post dance videos to express themselves. The girl on the right looks like an average fit teenager and is being told she is too fat, while the girl on the left is being told she is too skinny, for example people are saying “ribs, ribs, ribs eat” or “can see the bones” or “skeleton”, in every single comment seen on the screen. Not only does this affect these girls individually, but it affects anyone who looks like or is smaller than the girl on the left, or looks like or is bigger than the girl on the right. Young kids will see these girls getting made fun of and feel their body is “incorrect” or not beautiful. This type of bullying leads to a decrease in confidence as your appearance is being made fun of by the masses. And it is not just happening to a few people; Lifespan, an organization affiliated with  Brown’s Alpert Medical School states, “….up to 43 percent [of teens] have been bullied while online.” Almost half of the teenagers on social media experience cyberbullying and it is leading to major mental health problems.

Many people do not agree with the fact that Tiktok is a platform that encourages cyberbullying and brings down an individual’s self esteem. Many say that because there are so many body positivity people the platform does not really have bullying, and it has more positivity. Many Tiktokers such as Sienna Mae and Xobrooklynne are examples of the influencers who promote that food is fuel and you don’t need to be extremely skinny to be beautiful. They create many videos in crop tops, bikinis, and tight dresses showing off their stomachs to the masses. They express how confident they are and use their platform to try to promote body positivity and confidence to all the teenagers who feel insecure about themselves. Although these creators have large platforms and are able to spread a large amount of positivity, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the hate still exists. Even the creators like Sienna Mae and xobrooklynne who are trying to only spread body positivity get hate about their bodies as well, being called fat or being told they look pregnant. The positivity that they are trying to spread will never gain more traction than the hate that is on Tik Tok, as these haters attack everyone; the normal people, the influencers, and even the people who are trying to make the community a more positive place.

Tik Tok and Instagram have created a platform that have become toxic environments that are beginning to ruin teenagers’ mental health. The constant photoshop, editing, and shaming have created a place where body dysmorphia and a lack of confidence has skyrocketed. In a day in age where teenagers are on social media all the time, these constant expectations that cannot be met are taking over the lives and minds of the young kids. After seeing all of these edits people then go over to Tik Tok and get bullied for just trying to be themselves while having fun. The social media environment has turned from a place to share content with friends and family to a place where you enter the apps and automatically feel bad about yourself. The overall mental health of teenagers in America has gone in a downward spiral, and social media is to blame.

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