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Identity in Communities and Networks

Need for Validation: Visual Social Media and Influencer Identities Promotion of Unrealistic Expectations for Adolescent Females

Abstract: The evolution of technology and social media has transformed the ways adolescents communicate and portray themselves. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and most recently TikTok, heavily rely on visual affordances in the portrayal of user identities. The emergence of influencers is made possible through these visual affordances, as everyday users can build a strong following portraying themselves through images. However, these visual representations of identity online may have adverse effects on female adolescents as images promote unrealistic body expectations.

Keywords: unattainable body, influencers, visual social media, identity curation

Visual social media dominates the virtual world, enabling people to create online identities for themselves through images. This has resulted in the rise of influencer identities, an unprecedented phenomenon, which allow everyday users to gain a large following; similar to that of celebrities. Influencer’s are individual users with a large following on social media, paid to assist in the marketing strategy of brands via promotion (Kadekova & Holiencinova, 2018). They form active relationships with their followers, and therefore can influence purchase behaviour (Kadekova & Holiencinova, 2018). Due to the unique relationship between influencers and their followers, the representation of authenticity is highly valued. Influencers are intended to represent everyday users, and can therefore generate unrealistic expectations and social pressures, specifically for female adolescents. Pressures experienced online by adolescents and young adults contribute to the search for their own identity construction. The pressures to conform to a particular body ideology can be represented by influencers and encouraged through accessible image modification influencing young people to adopt detrimental body images.

Web 2.0 has allowed social networking sites to incorporate more visual-based features and have been swiftly adopted worldwide. Visual social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and most recently, TikTok have become domesticated in the sense that they are embedded into the daily routines of young adults and adolescents. These sites can now be considered an essential part of everyday contemporary lives and most people with mobile devices have the potential to construct an online identity through visual means. Young adults and adolescents have become accustomed to social media, through growing up in an environment saturated with technology (Aran-Ramspott, 2018). Visual social media cultures continue to grow and engage users through content created by others (Leaver et al., 2020). These platforms are considered “a space to work out identity and status, make sense of cultural cues, and negotiate public life.” (Boyd, 2017). The public sphere on social media is a platform for individuals to create and perform their social identities, and as such plays a crucial role in this development (Boyd, 2017). Younger people on the internet seek to be a part of digital culture where they can share and communicate with friends (Aran-Ramspott, 2018). This ongoing curation, and constant consumption on visual social media platforms can aid in constructing cultural and social norms, as well as having adverse effects by adding pressures to which users conform.

The growing emphasis on visual affordances of social media can generate unrealistic expectations based on idealistic stereotypes. Adolescents is a time of dramatic transition specifically pertaining to identity construction and self-expression, bringing cultural and social norms online. Mascheroni et al., (2015) states that young girls are more susceptible to the social pressures of always looking ‘perfect’ online presented by popular social profiles. Body ideals can influence the ways in which women feel ‘entitled to eat,’ and therefore, are more likely to be stringent and diet in relation to the thin body ideology (Germov & Williams, 2017). These body ideals guide conformity, especially with the impact of visual content on internalized thoughts. The pressure to conform can limit self-expression on social media through both the norms and attitudes established by their network, as well as affordances of the social media platform (Mascheroni et al., 2015). Social media platforms give users a ‘heightened self-consciousness,’ generating a need to control their identity as performance is vital for online popularity (Pearson, 2009). Christofides, Muise, and Desmarais (2009 via Barbovschi et al., 2018) surmised that adolescents were more likely to disclose further information about themselves through a perceived aspiration for popularity. Mascheroni et al., (2015) also makes the point that likes are a common indicator of popularity and conformation to social standards. Adolescent females tend to portray themselves in a way that will be perceived positively by their connected peers, even if this does not completely resemble their offline identity. This is because there is a perceived desire for validation by a user’s peers (Boyd, 2017). Features such as number of likes and followers highlight why adolescent females may feel pressured to take the ‘perfect photo,’ thus generating a higher need for validation. Perfectionist attitudes and need for validation by adolescents can produce negative impacts on users, drawing attention to the influence a network can have on self-representation. This is further enhanced by influencers, their popularity, and social norms generating a need for validation.

Influencers are an unprecedented phenomenon, narrowing the gap between celebrities and ‘regular people,’ as well as opening up two-way relationships between brands and users. For this purpose, businesses pay influencers to impact brand awareness and shopping behaviour as influencers can set trends for the wider community (Bratu, 2019). Companies and influencers have become equals in the digital world, as influencers have the ability to spread information about brands to users they may not have previously had reach to (Bakanauskas & Kisieliauskas, 2018). Influencers are perceived as contemporary role models, that other users compare themselves to, and aspire to imitate (Aran-Ramspott, 2018; Islam et al., 2018). They have a significant role in the digital landscape, as they attract attention from everyday users, and can signify the belonging to a particular group (Ramalho, et al., 2020). Influencers have the ability to develop a deeper connection with their followers, and thus create an element of trust, highlighting their ability to lead opinions and trends. This is not only in relation to brands, but also body ideals, specifically targeting adolescent females. Katie Price, Georgia Harrison and Lauren Goodger have a combined following of over 3 million users, with their content placing high emphasis on their idealized bodies (Savin, 2019). They have been known to promote dieting products, despite already having ‘perfect’ bodies (Savin, 2019). This draws attention to the role influencers play through paid promotions to influence a user’s purchasing habits for unrealistic means, specifically adolescent females who strive for an unattainable body image.

Body image and self-reflection can also be an issue for online users with relation to influencers. Influencers can set trends for particular hairstyles, fashion, as well as body representation. According to Germov and Williams (2017), the ‘thin ideal’ stemmed in the 1960s through celebrities Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. An ‘anti-fat’ stance was then adopted by medical research, the fashion industry and government (Germov & Williams, 2017). With the contemporary emergence of J-Lo and the Kardashians dominating social media, they have promoted a curvier ideal (Germov & Williams, 2017). However, the growth in popularity of being ‘thick,’ still comes with limitations as it is about being ‘thick in the right places,’ not completely embracing curved body types (St George, 2015 p.13 via Germov & Williams, 2017). Barbovschi et al., (2018) discusses the idea of performance being ‘always on,’ as the barrier between online and offline identities blends through the perceived necessity of technology in daily routines. This highlights the ways social media standards blend into social norms and govern the ways in which people feel pressured to portray themselves. Whilst J-Lo and the Kardashians among others, do challenge the thin ideal, they cannot be considered positive idols of body self-acceptance due to their involvement in body altering procedures such as cellulite treatment and dieting pills (Germov & Williams, 2017). This can generate unrealistic ideals; which adolescent female users may feel pressured to conform to.

Female adolescents in particular are influenced by social pressures and are more susceptible through visual social media features to constructing online identity. Since social media is largely visual in a contemporary context, adolescent girls in particular were highlighted to rely more on the need for validation than boys, through the acute attention paid to engagement features such as likes and comments (Barbovschi et al., 2018). The media specifically endorses ‘cultural stereotypes,’ which can lead to unrealistic expectations becoming internalized and young women experiencing body discontent (Perloff, 2014). ‘A thin body is considered the epitome of beauty and sexual attractiveness, and has been linked to social status, health and even moral worth,’ especially in Western societies (Germov & Williams, 2017). Body dissatisfaction and the desire to be thin are increased after seeing photos on visual social media platforms, due to negative social comparisons (Germov & Williams, 2017). These negative comparisons may lead to body image concerns, specifically for female adolescents, however, it is largely subjective to the perception of the user in determining how detrimental it will be for the user (Chia-Chen et al., 2018). It is also internalised by the user, inversely meaning that whilst the content is placed on visual social media platforms, the interpretation by users is not to be blamed on such platforms (Germov & Williams, 2017). In this case, influencers like Olivia Molly Rogers can be a positive person to follow. In 2017, Olivia Molly Rogers took the title of Miss Universe Australia and as a result she has managed to amass a large following (Elle Australia, 2020). However, it is not solely due to her flawless body image and skincare routine. She has transformed her digital platform from a place to flaunt her body, into a scene where she openly discusses body and mental health positivity. Affordances of social media platforms allow constant content-creation and viewing, creating a higher contingency of internalized comparison (Perloff, 2014). Whilst social media is not directly linked to developing eating disorders, or body image issues, users with low self-esteem may be more likely to develop these through social media influences (Perloff, 2014). Germov and Williams (2017), also acknowledge that accessibility of image modification digital applications may result not only in users comparing themselves to unrealistic images, but also encouraging editing of their own content. Following influencers such as Olivia Molly Rogers may help contradict this internalized comparison and create positive social influences for the user to follow, as well as give them more of a sense of freedom.

The sense of freedom users have in self-expression online is a consideration for identity construction. Whilst it appears social media platforms give adolescents freedom around choice and identity construction, they are still largely influenced and limited by the norms established within their network, as well as platform affordances (Barbovschi et al., 2018). Hence, they can be perceived as ‘reflections’ of external influences rather than purely authentic self-expression (Barbovschi et al., 2018). Celeste Barber has 7.1 million followers on Instagram and is globally known on a comedic level for her #celestebarberchallengeaccepted posts. These images commonly compare her, with a non-idealized body to models in magazines for comedic effect. Deeper than this, she represents a part of the ‘body positivity movement,’ resisting pressures on social media to confirm to particular body shape ideals (Baker, 2019). In an interview with Vogue she stated:

“I get approached by lots of detox tea companies for sponsored posts on my Instagram and I always respond the same way: I don’t promote any products that make women feel we need to look a certain way to feel a certain way.” (Baker, 2019)

Celeste Barber represents a resistance to influencers promoting unrealistic body image expectations. She can be perceived as an empowering influencer, as she not only highlights body positivity through her posts, but also features in fashion events and runways such as VAMFF 2020 (Baker, 2019). Social media allows easy access to constant content for users to compare themselves to and ‘self-esteem can play the role of an identity motive, and identity outcome, or a parallel correlate of identity clarity,’ (Chia-chen et al., 2018, p.2116). Through the findings of Chia-chen et al. (2018), comparison via social media contributes to reduced identity clarity, allowing popularity and trend-following to mandate sense of identity. However, Celeste Barber provides a positive outlet for followers away from unhealthy comparisons. Identity construction is relative to that users’ network; however, it is not solely influenced by strong ties (Pearson, 2009). The multifaceted features of identity performance can insist on having ‘accessible privacy’ to weaker ties on the network in order to receive engagement from these users (Pearson, 2009). Through the rapid adoption of social media by adolescents, it has become a new platform to influence the way they communicate and connect with others, thus contributing to their identity formation and interaction with influencers (Barbovschi et al., 2018). Female adolescents can experience insecurity over their identity due to the sense of freedom they have surrounding self-expression.

Online identities can be considered another form of social connection, which is valued specifically by adolescents and young adults. Connections, construction and performance online can have impacts on this demographic in real-life situations. Adolescents likened staying connected, and publicly establishing relationships online was integral to school reputation, drawing attention to such high perceived importance of social networking sites (Boyd, 2017). Before establishing their own profile, users can look at their friends and look through their network to see the types of profiles that are ‘socially appropriate,’ (Boyd, 2017). Performance online can be considered largely visual; by users representing themselves visually online, they can portray information, and gage behavioural responses to this information. “People are more like diamonds: their identity is prismatic,” this is a comment on the dynamics of personality as ever-growing rather than fixed as most visual social media sites encourage (Poole, 2011 via Van Der Nagel & Frith, 2015). A personality cannot be stagnant, nor the same across multiple situations. Users can adapt their performance based on behavioural responses to posts, whether they are positive or negative (Boyd, 2017). The network of a user can be referred to as a ‘context collapse,’ since this network commonly includes friends, family, work colleagues, and other groups of people that the user usually interacts with separately offline (Marwick & Boyd, 2011 via Van Der Nagel & Frith, 2015). Barbovschi et al. (2018) also acknowledges the tagging and commenting of other users on the network can disrupt the cohesive self-performance portrayed by a user, contributing to ‘context collapse.’ This highlights that whilst users have control over the types of content they post to construct their ideal selves, other people can contribute to this image, meaning users do not have complete control over their online identity. As Chia-chen et al. (2018), concluded, adolescents and young adults utilize social media through adaptive practices. Performance of identity is largely important for a user, highlighting the dynamic nature of someone’s personality, as well as the aspiration to portray themselves in an ideal way.

Through visual social media platforms becoming embedded into daily routines, construction of identity for adolescents and young adults have largely been influenced. Influencers, social pressures, and identity performance all have agency in aiding a user represent their own identity, as well as having influence on online behaviour. These can generate unrealistic expectations for adolescents and young adults, specifically females who struggle with social comparison. Whilst social media cannot be blamed for these adverse effects on users as interpretation of content is largely subjective, these issues should be carefully considered when on the topic of online identity construction.

References

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22 replies on “Need for Validation: Visual Social Media and Influencer Identities Promotion of Unrealistic Expectations for Adolescent Females”

Hi Mia,
Your paper was brilliant in the way that it explored the impact of social networking sites on the expectations and perceptions of adolescent females in relation to body ideals.
I was particularly fascinated by the point you made about how the portrayal of body ideals online can make some women feel less deserving of food so that they can conform to thin ideals.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the spread of challenges, such as the “skinny enough” challenges that went viral a few years ago. Do you think they normalise unhealthy body standards?
I also enjoyed reading your take on the pressures for adolescent females to conform to particular norms that are performed online. My paper actually discusses some similar concepts, such as discussing the ways people in mental health communities feel the need to conform to the common behaviours associated with their mental illnesses and discussing the problematic attitudes featured in the “pro-ana” community. I would love to hear your feedback on it if you have the time.

Kind Regards,
Kiralee.

Thank you Kiralee for such positive feedback on my paper.

I definitely think challenges such as the “skinny enough” challenges normalise unhealthy body standards. More specifically, they can create unhealthy habits for users by damaging relationships with food or exercise. This is why I think influencers such as Celeste Barber and Olivia Molly Rogers who were mentioned in my paper have such an important role in combatting these negative influences through spreading body positivity.

I will definitely take the time to read your paper, it sounds very interesting and looks at a part of mental illness in a way I have not thought about previously.

Thanks for drawing my attention to those two accounts, Mia- it’s great to see two influencers who are advocating for body acceptance, and also mental health awareness too.
I enjoy how Celeste Barber highlights the ridiculousness of the beauty industry by showing how bizarre some of the poses, props and outfits are that are curated to make thin people look more attractive.
It’s also wonderful to see that Olivia Molly Rogers talks openly about her mental health journey in an environment where there are high expectations to present an ideal appearance.

Hi Mia,

I really enjoyed your article.

I agree with your point that users do not having completely control over their online platforms. I think this reinforces the belief that we need to examine the effects social media platforms as a whole instead of blaming users personally for negative effects of using the platforms. Instead of society simplistically stating that if you don’t like what you see on social media don’t use it we need to accept that it is an everyday part of life for most young people and the concept of just not having it sometimes is not realistic.

I also agree with you and the above comment on how satirical content can be a way to expose the unrealistic norms that exist on social media. Celeste Barber is a really good example of this and I think her influence and presence on social media is vital to achieve some sort of balance and contrast in the content being posted and consumed. I also liked how this highlighted that social media isn’t inherently bad its just sometimes how its used that can have negative effects.

My paper focuses on the same topic mainly looking at the negative effects that social media can have on users body image and mental health. I would love to hear your feedback on it if you have time. The link is below.

https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/17/social-media-has-universially-changed-the-way-that-we-form-our-personal-identities/

Hi Victoria,

Thank you for such kind feedback on my paper.

I definitely agree that we need to examine social media as a whole, not purely focusing on accounts. By doing this, the younger generation can also be taught proper conduct on social media, and how to keep positive mental health a priority in the digital landscape.

I believe that comedic content by Celeste Barber drawing attention to the ridiculous campaigns some models are a part of and especially draw attention to the fact that young females should not feel pressured to look that way. It is definitely the ways social media is utilised that creates these negative impacts and habits. As in my previous paragraph, if younger users were aware and more educated on this side of social media it would be more effective in creating positive social norms. It would be interesting to see the impact COVID-19 has had on these issues.

I will definitely read it, thank you for sharing the link.

Hi Victoria,

Thank you for such kind feedback on my paper.

I definitely think that the lack of control users can have over their platforms can reinforce negative behaviours online and does draw the need for attention to be placed on the platforms in a wider sense as opposed to targeting specific users. If younger users are more educated on these negative impacts social media can have, it can be easier to develop positive behaviours online.

The comedic content of influencers like Celeste Barber definitely encourage positive behaviours online. I think drawing more attention to this type of content can help young females recognize they should not have to look a particular way to be well liked. By changing these social norms, it can create positive mental health habits for younger users. However, I think it would be interesting to analyse the impact COVID-19 has had on these younger users whilst in isolation.

I will definitely read your paper, thank you for providing the link.

Heya Mia, I loved your paper! It was super interesting to look at it from this point of view, seeing as I’m a boy I rarely get insight as to the pressures girls have in relation to body image and visual representation. Your paper did raise a few questions.

Pretty basic one but do you think young males are affected by similar issues? I know you mentioned that girls are more susceptible but i’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the other end.

Also, you mentioned in your paper that social media platforms weren’t necessarily linked with body image issues but do you think the rapidly growing emphasis on visual appearance and the unrealistic expectations deriving from that is systemically a result of the features that come with online social media platforms? Sticking to that idea, do you think that as a result of their standing in relation to influencers and their position in the cultural environment do you think it’s on social media platforms to change their inherent features to help combat this larger social issue?

On kinda the same idea, before social media and online influencers were a major staple of society, was a similar effect taking place with traditional media celebrities? With that in mind, do you think the issue of female body image and the emphasis on visual appearance will be a never ending issue that’s constantly evolving to match the socio-cultural landscape of the era?

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Again, great paper and i’ll see you soon :))

Hi Nick,

Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. I am glad I could give a unique insight into these issues for you, and raise some questions for discussion.

I definitely think males experience similar issues, and there are statistics to support this. However, as a young woman I personally related more closely to this side of the issue and therefore chose to tackle that.

Not only the growing emphasis on visual appearance of users, but also the popularity of editing apps such as Facetune certainly encourages unrealistic expectations. Especially for those users who perceive highly edited photos as ‘natural,’ or users who have had varying surgeries relating to physical appearance. Not to take a dig at users who do this, as I believe everyone has a right to do what they wish with their bodies; but the lack of openness on these photos certainly persuades users into comparing themselves to something not naturally attainable.

Influencers can definitely help combat these issues. An example I haven’t utilised in my paper is Shani Grimmond; an influencer with 1.4million followers. She does have a ‘perfect body,’ but has openly discussed her surgeries with followers, so they know parts of her body are not naturally attainable. However, I also believe that it is ultimately the users’ perception of these images that can lead to unhealthy behaviours and habits. As well as this, the frequency and extent to which a user exposes themselves to perceived ‘perfect bodies,’ whilst not focusing on other things shared through social media can also foster body image issues. Influencers certainly cannot be blamed for causing these body image issues, but they can help combat them.

If you consider traditional media celebrities as a reflection of what wider society considers beautiful, it may have a similar effect on body image. However, this would be a topic that needs to be researched further. I do think that the emergence of social media does create a platform for consistent comparison, unlike traditional media where these audience did not always have control over access to this content. Not to discount body image issues that were definitely prevalent historically, I think that these issues will be constantly evolving based on technological affordances and the socio-cultural landscape. It is more a matter of raising awareness, and teaching young women ways to manage these issues as opposed to attempt eradicating the issue altogether.

Thank you for such interesting questions, I hope I have answered them all sufficiently for you. However, do not hesitate to reach out again if you would like further discussion.

hey Mia and Nick,

the point you addressed as to how this might be affecting male adolescents is an equally important one in my opinion. These issues are interlinked within our society as I think that they perpetuate each other. The toxic expectations of all genders pitch everyone against each other as men are expected to disrespect women, women are expected to not trust each other and to also not trust men too. Within the media it promoted these types of relationships, taking advantage of the emotions attached to these experiences for capitalistic gain, resulting in the further normalisation of these practices. That results in the normalisation of unrealistic expectation upon all people as people are being compared with each other and the ‘better’ one is being rewarded with praise. An example of this was from Clementine Fords book where she discusses how in her childhood, she experienced an eating disorder and her family responded positively to this toxic level of weight-loss obsession. I think that if we try becoming more aware of the issue as a society and educate everyone on how to exist in a healthier way that doesn’t encourage these toxic practices then hopefully society will be better for it.

Hi Charles,

Addressing male adolescents is definitely equally as important a discussion as female body image issues. I agree with your point as well that the media is perpetuating these toxic expectations and relationships, thus making it normalised.

The Clementine Fords example is extreme, but certainly a prime example for this discussion. As a society, we definitely should educate people on healthy physical and eating practices, as well as the ways visual social media can create unrealistic expectations; not celebrating unhealthy habits. I would propose that these issues be discussed in high schools, as it is the age of people most effected by these issues. Would you agree, or is there another way to educate people you believe would be more effective?

Hi Mia,

Thanks for reaching out to me and letting me know about your paper. It was a very enjoyable and well researched paper with lots of academic evidence to support your discussion.

I completely agree with you that the rise of social media, specifically image based social networking sites such as Instagram are having more of a negative impact on adolescents mental health.
In addition, I do believe that influencers such as Celeste Barber do challenge the traditional aspects of influencers and challenges the norm of attractiveness. However, do you think that the way in which she addresses other influencers and the beauty industry may further influence the way in which her audience perceives these industries, making them seem even more unrealistic and unattainable? Or do you believe that the way she presents the issues in her comedic manner, negates that desire that beauty influencers are trying to push?

I’d love to hear what you think about this question, and I’m sorry if it is a bit hard to understand.

Overall, your paper was very well written and insightful.
Sam

Hi Sam,

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my paper.

I think influencers such as Celeste Barber are making these images seem unattainable but for comedic effect, and definitely an attempt to negate the desire beauty influencers try to create. By drawing attention to how unattainable these images are, they create a more positive outlook on comparisons, especially through her confidence to show off her own body that is not considered the ‘attractive norm.’ She usually parodies high-profile celebrity editorial photoshoots which involve a lot of behind the scenes work, as well as post-production editing. For this reason, I think it highlights the ways in which women shouldn’t compare themselves to bodies in these types of photoshoots.

Thank you for your question, and for such positive feedback on my paper.

Hi Mia,
Great paper! I really enjoyed your paper and your point of view. I found you argument about women and feeling less deserving about food. We all know body shaming is a huge topic no matter your size, everyone usually has felt some sorta body shaming or feeling of not be “perfect” enough.
I would love to hear your opinion about the recent movements over the years like the “anit-beauty” movement or “self-care” movement. Do you think these are making a difference within the online beauty societies? Also what is your take on the social media platforms themselves and their outlook, Do you think they could do something to make a difference to body shaming and ultimately the need we all have for validation?

I spoke about a similar topic. I wrote about one’s self-identity within online and offline communities and the effects it can have on as individuals. I used the beauty communities as my prime example. This is the link if you would like to read about it. I feel you might enjoy it and i would love to know your opinion on it as you havea. very strong argument in your paper and i think your insight would be interesting if you are interested.
https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/10/what-sacrifices-do-we-make-in-order-to-blend-in-between-online-and-offline-communities-and-how-much-of-our-self-identity-do-we-lose/?preview_id=141&preview_nonce=dd7c64d8c5&preview=true

Again, great job on your paper, i really enjoyed reading it!
Thanks,
Jade

Hi Jade,

Thank you for such kind feedback on my paper!

These movements have definitely made a difference in the beauty industry. Through the shifting sources of influence, specifically as a result of the affordances of Web 2.0, an increased focus on self-care has become popular whether it was intended by beauty brands or not. In relation to influencers, this encourages more honesty and natural posts.

I do not think any responsibility can necessarily be placed on social media platforms specifically, as it is users perceptions of these images that result in body image issues, as well as norms set by wider society offline. I think it is more a matter of educating young women on these issues and how to manage them.

Thank you for reading my paper, I will definitely take the time to read yours.

Hi Mia,
Thank you for replying to me.
I completely understand you point of view about it being the users perception. Although i think that a little blame could be placed on the social media platforms. I say this because Instagram for instance stands for freedom of self-expression but many users aren’t posting what they truly want to but what they think everyone else wants to see. I think this would be hard for the social media platforms themselves to correct or make a difference of change but i also think if they didn’t feel any blame than they wouldn’t be trying to make a difference.
Instagram has recently removed the amount of likes users could see on others posts. They did this to help represent a company and a platform that stands for freedom of expression. According to this article on business insider Instagrams CEO Adam Mosseri states “We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health,”. (https://www.businessinsider.com/instagram-removing-likes-what-it-will-look-like-2019-11) To me Instagram took a step in the right direction and yes, they can’t fix this problem alone but it is a start.

Thanks,
Jade

Thank you Jade for sparking a further discussion.

I completely understand your perspective, however, Instagram as a platform of self-expression stays that way until governed by external social norms, which also prevail in offline lifestyles. So to say users do not have complete freedom for self-expression would go beyond the social media platforms themselves.

On another note, I definitely agree with your point that if social media platforms did not receive blame, they would not try to make a difference. It was interesting to see Instagram’s move to remove likes, as I did not think it would make as much of a dramatically positive impact that it did; not only for everyday users, but for influencers as well.

It is definitely a step in the right direction, whether it was a result of mental illness statistics, or a publicity stunt to change business is another question.

Hi Mia,
Thanks for replying!
I think we both have similar opinions on this topic and i can understand your point of view about the self-expression going beyond the platform itself. I do agree that the platforms are just offering a space or environment for users to freely express themselves though i still feel that they play a role.

I agree that it more external factors and other users than the platform though to me they have to have some factor in the equation or as i mentioned in my last comment at least feel like they do for them to be making a change.

I too was also surprised by the impact this movement had on Instagram but also other social media platforms. I think this shows that the platforms can truly have a positive impact if they keep working together and make it an overall change to all or at least majority platforms. Which i think wouldn’t be as hard as they are all so connected within the brand/brands.

I agree it’s definitely a start. But yes also we will never truly know. I did some research on this topic when it first happened and many reliable sources say it was to help with mental illness but when companies do this only them who make the decision truly know the motive behind it.

Here are some new links i found about Instagram and their reasoning. If you wanted to check any of them out :).

This link shows some great backlash they go from this movement. Now i say “great backlash” because even with this negativity Instagram still made the decision that they thought was the right one. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/nov/15/instagram-likes-influencers-social-media

This one shows how Facebook thought it was a good idea from a business perspective but Instagram still states it was for cyberbullying. So i find this very interesting as they are owned by the same person. But have different teams. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/06/instagram-hiding-likes-could-increase-post-volume.html

Finally i also found this article to be a very good read. It states about how teenage girls rely a lot on “feedback” which is likes, comments and interactions with their post. So i think the Instagram stunt play an impact on this too. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2018.07.003

Thanks for continuing this discussion with me!
Jade

Hey Mia,
I like the way you balanced your paper. I completely agree with your argument, social media such as IG & Tiktok impacts and influences adolescents, especially the young women who often fall into trap of social comparison. Nowadays I do feel few men as well facing the same issues.
In a same way I do appreciate your way of concluding, social media cannot be blamed for these adverse effects on users, as users its our responsibility to not get influenced or manipulated, instead understand how it works and use it to our needs.

I would like you to invite to read my paper where I mentioned the same issue in social commerce.
https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/23/instagram-marketing-has-revolutionized-social-commerce-the-consumer-trust-and-the-role-of-influencers/

Thank you 🙂

Hi Jashwanth,

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my paper, and for such positive feedback!

I definitely believe that these issues presented on visual social media platforms such as Instagram and most recently TikTok are having an increasing effect on men as well as women. However, I did only argue the women’s perspective, as it is something I personally can better relate to.

Thank you for appreciating my way of concluding. I think it can be easy for users to blame the social media platform, and influencers for their mental health. It is important to educate users, especially these young women who grow up surrounded by social media to see self-value beyond a profile appearance.

I look forward to reading your paper.

Hey Mia,

Thank you for leading me to your paper, it was incredibly enriching and provided a lens on a side of social media that my own paper which shared similar themes to yours, had not touched. Much like yours, my paper discussed how social media influencers and editing apps allow users the ability to construct their online identity, often to shape their images to one that fit current beauty ideals. However, your paper made me realised that mine was limited in highlighting the use of social media as a tool to amplify ‘body positivity’ movements. Celeste Barber makes an excellent example of the emergence of body positive driven influencers who are representing a more diversified idea of beauty.

Within my paper I mention the growing popularity of Instagram pages such as ‘celebface’ and ‘socialmediavsreality’ which are pages dedicated to exposing ‘the truth’ of popular celebrities and influencers through comparing photoshopped vs unphotoshopped images. I would love to know your thoughts on these kind of pages, and whether you feel that these pages are making a positive impact (as they are showing how unrealistic beauty ideals are), or if you believe that these pages further objectify women and are detrimental to the mental health of women who appear on these sites, perhaps further placing pressure on these women to complete plastic surgery in order to reach an unattainable standard of beauty.

All in all, your paper was nicely articulated and genuinely such a good read and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Warm regards,
Nur

Hi Nur,

Thank you for taking the time to read my paper.

I think pages such as @celebface and @socialmediavsreality can be confusing for users. They definitely spread the message that photos are highly edited however, some posts are not always reliable. I have seen some posts from these accounts that use photos of the same person which are years apart, which obviously is not a true representation of what these accounts are supposed to represent. In saying this, it does address an important issue, and can be positive for some users.

On another note, it can damage the mental health of the users’ photos that are posted, as they may be editing images since they are insecure themselves. This is also why those types of accounts are inconclusive about whether they are overall more positive or negative. I think it all comes down to transparency over the internet, and in the case of influencers specifically, creating authentic content for followers.

Thank you for such kind feedback on my paper.

Hi Mia!

Thank you for linking me to your paper, I thoroughly enjoyed this read! My paper shared similar themes, so it was great to establish a wider perspective, with your extensive knowledge and discussion.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that you identified specific examples of influencers, such as Celeste Barber and Olivia Molly Rogers. I think it is really helpful to make these specific distinctions, rather than just discussing their communities at large.

I focussed greatly on the idea of social comparison within my essay and just wanted to hear your wider perspective on this topic. Do you feel as though social comparison online is only damaging in terms of physical appearance? or do you think this can have negative effects on individuals’ lifestyle satisfaction too? I’d love to hear you take on this!

Thanks again for a super thought provoking read.

Regards,
Emily.

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