It’s a well-established fact that many of the images you see on social media are at least a partial lie.
After multiple rounds of posing, editing, lighting readjustments and FaceTuning, the images that finally make it to your Instagram feed may barely even resemble the subjects of the posts. The end result can prove harmful to viewers’ mental health as they struggle to attain beauty standards that are, quite literally, only reachable through Photoshop.
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Still, keeping up with one’s image on social media can be stressful for those who feel pressured to post polished photos, resulting in an ugly cycle that leaves everyone feeling terrible about their appearances.
Erica Romy (@eribodysbeautiful) is a nurse and body acceptance content creator advocating for greater transparency in the posting process. In her new TikTok series, she sheds light on the torment she went through to capture some of her most-liked Instagrams.
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In one of her most viral segments, Romy displays a photo of herself smiling in a bathing suit. She explains that, although the image stirred up envy from her peers when she posted it, it was actually taken while she was battling a severe eating disorder and body dysmorphia.
“People were like, ‘Oh my God, your stomach is so flat — jealous! How did you get so healthy?'” Romy explained. “Little did they know, I was in the middle of a very severe eating and exercise disorder. The more compliments I got, the less I ate.”
“I was so hungry this day that I actually don’t remember taking the photo,” she continued. “It looks cute and candid, but I actually took hundreds of photos because I just couldn’t get the pose right.”
TikTokers were in full support of Romy’s transparency. Many thanked her for taking the time to expose her own posting methods.
“Thank you for your honesty and helping to end the stigma,” commented another.
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” a slide from a 2019 internal Instagram presentation stated.
Even more troubling, one of the slides that WSJ reviewed showed that out of teens who reported experiencing suicidal thoughts, 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.
Still, both Facebook and Instagram continue to downplay the impact that the two apps have on users’ mental health.
In a May 2021 congressional hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that research suggested that “using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental health benefits.”
In response to the WSJ report, Instagram published a statement saying it was “increasingly focused on addressing negative social comparison and negative body image.”
“One idea we think has promise is finding opportunities to jump in if we see people dwelling on certain types of content,” the company’s blog read. “From our research, we’re starting to understand the types of content some people feel may contribute to negative social comparison, and we’re exploring ways to prompt them to look at different topics if they’re repeatedly looking at this type of content. We’re cautiously optimistic that these nudges will help point people towards content that inspires and uplifts them, and to a larger extent, will shift the part of Instagram’s culture that focuses on how people look.”
In The Know has reached out to Erica Romy for comment.
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