Behind the envied image

Instagram 'It Girl' Stephanie Claire Smith says two photos taken 30 seconds apart can look completely different due to lighting and angles. Photo by Stephanie Claire Smith.
Lighting and angles can manipulate anyone’s body shape on Instagram, writes Brooke Grebert-Craig.

Glamourous photoshoots in picturesque locations such as Bali and Hawaii seem to be a regular for her. Endless work out routines in trendy activewear look to be so easy. Perfectly captured snapshots that glorify her tone and tanned body might make every girl envy her.

However, everything is not always as it seems on social media and Instagram ‘It’ girl Stephanie Claire Smith proves it. “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. But then I realised only good would come from it.”

Smith and her friend Laura Henshaw took to their site, Keep It Cleaner, a platform that inspires a healthy lifestyle for young adolescents and adults, to educate their viewers on the misconception of body image online. Smith and Henshaw each uploaded two images of themselves 30 seconds apart. Each photo was dramatically different, one being more flattering than the other.

“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 and others like us. That is great, but as long as they are aware that we are not always on point,” says Smith.

Both girls wanted to convey the message that good angles and lighting can make your body shape seem completely different in a photo compared to another. “We all have bad days, bad angles, bad lighting but we wouldn’t post it online. We are human and we would only post what we look good in, like anyone would. But we realized that this can cause misconception. We didn’t want girls thinking that we always looked this certain way. Not everything you see on social media is real,” says Smith.

Not only is the 22 year-old Smith a model an ambassador for  Myer Fashion on the Field, but dominating the social media scene with a following of over one million on Instagram. Although having a huge following can start amazing career opportunities, one can be faced with immense pressure to live up to social media’s expectations on their body weight and shape.

“Sometimes, I do feel the pressure to live up to people’s expectations of being a model. 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,” says Smith.

Although hashtags on social media sites can motivate people to exercise and eat healthier, it can become a dangerous tool of self destruction for many young girls. The obsession with #fitspo and #fitsporation can manipulate girls to work out to solely to look like a microcelebrity on Instagram instead of exercising for their own personal health.

“Never aim to look like someone else. Social media can alter your expectations. We are all living different lives, we all have different genetics and it is not possible to look just like someone else, no matter what you eat or how much you exercise,” says Smith.

Twenty year-old Instagram user Deandra de Krester couldn’t agree more. “Social media creates a false standard of the average person and their body. In young adolescents, so much negativity comes from poor self esteem issues due to comparing their own body with Instagram fitness models,” says de Krester.

Recent studies have shown that social media sites can cause body and life dissatisfaction as well as increased feelings of envy for those who are perceived superior or better off.

Psychologist Jessica Ciarma believes that through social media sites people develop “low self-esteem and may feel compelled to diet or exercise excessively as the 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,” says Ciarma.

“I think it is important for everyone to keep in mind that the standards shown in social media sites are often unattainable. Two people with the exact same eating and exercise regime may have very different body shapes. It is important to keep in mind that we may never achieve a body that we have been idealizing in social media,” says Ciarma. She also warns that Photoshop and other filters can often “distort images on social media” that are not realistic.

De Krester believes that social media changes need to be made to combat the misconception of the stereotypical body shape. This includes less staged posts and less sponsorships for products that don’t help create a positive or realistic message of health and fitness. “People need to be more accepting of everyone’s body types no matter if you’re petite, plus size or somewhere in the middle. We need to learn to embrace it more rather than feeling envious or upset that we don’t fit into society’s standards,” says de Krester.

It is time young adults stop focusing on what they don’t like about themselves and direct their attention to what they love. The misconception of online body image will only be combatted through the power of the users and followers. With Smith’s social media popularity on the rise, she advises 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.”