Instagram And The "Girl-Next-Door" Epidemic - the Lala

Instagram And The “Girl-Next-Door” Epidemic

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‘Tis the season of bikini pictures on Instagram. I swear, you guys, I can’t check my Instagram feed without seeing at least five different pictures of girls in bikinis. Let me start by saying that I’m not judging anyone that posts bikini pictures, and I’m not saying I won’t ever post one, but it’s starting to take a toll on me. Here’s why:

For a long time, we blamed the media for telling us what the “perfect woman” should look like. We blamed photoshop and models and magazines for setting these unrealistic expectations of how we should look and act and dress. We told ourselves that it was okay that we don’t look like that because those girls aren’t real. We rolled our eyes at the too-thin models that graced every grocery store aisle and runways because we basically told ourselves, “Normal women don’t look like that.”

But now with Instagram and selfie culture, real, normal girls are uploading real, unedited pictures of themselves for the world to see. On one hand, it’s so cool to see how far technology has come. The fact that you can upload a silly picture on the Internet and potentially reach millions is still kind of mind-blowing if you stop to think about it. But on the other hand, we now have a constant feed of thousands of these normal girls that look like models, and we no longer have the photoshop excuse as to why we don’t look like that too.

There is no “model vs. normal girl” distinction anymore. Now it’s more like, “Oh my gosh, everyone looks like a model/girl-next-door/perfect Barbie… Why is her life so perfect? What is wrong with me?” kind of thing.

I’m going to be honest with y’all – this pressure to keep up with how Instagram tells me I should live my life is exhausting. I am emotionally drained every time I log onto Instagram. I’m constantly having to convince myself that my feed is good enough, that it’s okay that I don’t have bikini pictures all over the Internet, that I am pretty enough/smart enough/good enough/skinny enough even though that random boy I don’t even know unfollowed me or didn’t like my picture.

This new pressure we have to compete with every girl on the Internet is ten times harder than having to compete with the once unattainable, Photoshopped model.

I recently read a Tweet that said, “Don’t compare someone else’s highlights to your behind-the-scenes.” I mean, can I get an amen? At the end of the day, we have to take a step back and remember what Instagram is for: to share pictures of our lives for our “followers” to see. Is anyone going to post an ugly, boring picture of themselves? Probably not. And the reality is that even though a picture might not be Photoshopped, filters do work wonders. I’m guilty, you’re probably guilty, we’re all guilty.

I’m never going to be the girl with thousands of followers on Instagram posing on the beach with my perfect model body posting pictures of my daily workouts eating a picturesque meal afterward going on beautiful vacations with my fabulous friends that also look like models. It’s just never going to happen no matter how hard I try, and guess what? That’s okay! The second you stop trying to be someone else and be exactly who you were made to be is the moment you will know what it feels like to be free. Free from the pressures of society, free from the pressures of yourself, free to be you.

So now that we’ve all agreed to take a step back from Instagram, here’s how to do that:

Move Instagram off your homepage.

I did a social media fast with my best friend and deleted the Instagram app. When I re-downloaded it, I moved it from the homepage on my phone. Now every time I open my phone I am not tempted by the logo. I don’t get on it just because I see it and automatically click on it. I only go to the app when there is something I want to see.

Avoid the “following” tab.

Avoid it like the plague. The root of most of my insecurities come from looking at what everyone is “liking.” If I see that the boy I like just “liked” ten pictures of beautiful girls, I start wondering why I don’t look like those girls. What am I doing wrong? It is the beginning of a very vicious cycle. Just stay away.

Don’t obsess over likes.

There are so many things that go into how many “likes” you get on a picture. The time of day you post, the day of the week, etc. As silly as it sounds, it’s true. Just because you got 99 likes instead of 100 doesn’t mean a thing. Neither does the amount of followers you have. You are not defined by any number.

Post what makes you happy.

If you didn’t like the picture, you wouldn’t have posted it. Who cares if no one else likes it? You do. It is your Instagram, not theirs. If you are posting pictures solely to get likes, you are missing the entire point of Instagram.

Clean out your “following” section.

Why are you following that girl with thousands of followers and a “perfect” life that you’ve never even met? What is her feed adding to your life? Nothing but comparison and negativity. Follow your friends, your inspirations, and a few other random accounts here and there. But following people just because they have “pretty” feeds will only contribute to the pressure you feel to keep up. You don’t need that in your life.

Turn it off.

Take a break from social media… All of it. Start with a day if you have to and work your way up. I gave it up for a week, and when I was done with that week I wanted to do another. Now is the perfect time to cleanse your mind and go cross some things off your summer bucket list. So go unplug for a bit. Leave the likes, favorite, and retweets behind and find what makes you happy and do it every day because no one can take that away.

Mackenzie Friedman, Texas Christian University

Major: Sports Broadcasting
Her heart belongs to: Jesus Christ, golden retrievers, Dallas sports teams, and The Bachelor
You can find her: probably stalking bloggers on Instagram, maybe working out, definitely online shopping

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