image posts

Hyperreality and Hashtags: How to navigate Instagram without a body-image crisis

August 9, 2016

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As a platform, Instagram is great. It allows you to catch a glimpse into the worlds’ of your friends, family and those who inspire you across the globe – usually whilst you’re dossing in bed with your phone held precariously above your face, wearing last night’s makeup. Doubly, it allows you to share your own experiences (*cough* selfies *cough*) and manipulate them in a fashion that – 99/100 times – conveys your lifestyle as ‘more’ than its reality.

However, with this opportunity to curate online presences that convey an hyperreal, ‘rose-tinted’ approach to an already media-saturated society, comes an inevitable spike in low self-esteem and body-image issues. With magazines and adverts already bombarding young people with airbrushed images of unattainable perfection, the onslaught of unfathomably beautiful, often very thin girls on Instagram’s Explore function can often be too much to bear.

As someone who has struggled with body-image issues for over a decade, the Explore function had – until recently – been banished to 4am comparison sessions of blood-thirsty self-loathing, which would leave me utterly dysmorphic and disgusted with my own appearance within a matter of minutes. Friends and I would sickly revel in comparing ourselves to girls half a decade younger than ourselves, cursing them for their boyishly skinny figures, berating ourselves for not being as “thin”/”pretty”/”good at makeup” until we’d be sulking into our respective pints.

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But then, finally emerging from some self-professed chrysalis of ‘I-no-longer-give-a-fuck’, I gradually started to realise: it’s all a bunch of bullshit. People are beautiful – yes. Occasionally I will see someone in real life, have a pang of jealousy at their appearance and it will mar my confidence for a fleeting moment. However, I came to realise the frequency at which that happens in reality, is drastically less than the inescapable barrage of ‘beauty’ we encounter whilst perusing our friend the Explore function.

And why is this?

This is because Instagram isn’t real. Just looking into my own profile, I know that I spend a pathetic amount of time manipulating each post. Firstly, there’ll be the act of actually taking the ‘selfie’ (which, as we all know, is initially more like 236 selfies per ‘selfie’), which will subsequently take a good few minutes of narrowing down to about 10-15 shortlisted shots. Let’s not forget that these initial eleventy-million shots will have been taken in a number of different rooms for different lighting, and at a plethora of different angles until my back hurts from subtly jutting my collarbones out. Also, you can bet your sweet life that I don’t take any pictures of my face from head on. All about that tilt, grrrl.

Then, it’s onto my basest of loves, VSCOCAM, for some hxc editing, which is repeated for each of said 10-15 images until I find a couple I can actually get down with. One of Instagram’s built-in filters is applied to about halfway across then I’m good to go.

But, #plotspoiler: I DON’T LOOK LIKE THIS IN REAL LIFE. My skin isn’t that clear (I’ll sometimes put an amount of concealer over a spot solely for the sake of the picture, that would look ridiculous face-to-face), my face most definitely isn’t that thin and to be honest, my body isn’t THAT banging (tho’, it’s pretty damn bangin’).

This is just me. Some random fashion-loving writer girl from Instagram who spends a little time working on her pictures. I’m not a fashion blogger, or a celebrity, or an Insta-famous lady who relies on the creation of perfection in her (actual) work, so let’s just imagine the fine-tuning that goes into their snaps.

I’ve met many of the people I follow, and many fashion bloggers who I’ve first encountered on social media, through my old job in fashion – and, whilst they may all be beautiful in their own ways; they seldom make me want to wear a paper bag over my head or starve for a week, like the absolute falsehood projections of Instagram are almost always guaranteed to do. It’s just not real.

I’m a 23-year-old woman who likes to think she’s pretty in-tune with herself these days, despite my struggles with eating disorders and BDD, but imagine the internalised ideas of what ‘beauty’ has become to younger generations growing up on Instagram now…

Just please: when you find yourself in that 4am Instagram comparison pit of doom – stop. It’s not real, and until the day when we’ve all been fitted with futuristic virtual contact lenses, nobody is the walking embodiment of ‘Valencia’ in the flesh. You’re a babe, I’m a babe: we’re all babes.

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Posted by Ebony in Life

You Have Body Image Issues? But You Post So Many Selfies?

April 8, 2016

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If I had a pound for each time somebody asked me this question, I wouldn’t be claiming Universal Credit, put it that way. Assuming that you’re a frequenter of my blog, you may have happened upon a post which outlines my history of eating disorders and poor body image. If not, I would politely recommend you have a gander at the first post as this has a lot to do with the BDD I have surrounding my face shape.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been quite the ardent selfie-taker. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always vehemently despised the shape of my face. If you’re (un)lucky enough to be close to me, you may have had to endure a drunken Ebony sobbing over the fact that “no matter how skinny I get, my face will always be fat” around the 3am point of a night out (sobs, sniffs and chip breaks edited out for concision). If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, you’ll find that the vast majority of my tagged photos are of me artfully perched next to a friend, selfie pose initiated, always the one in control of the camera – a stark lack of normal group shots or candid snaps.

For this, and the fact that I post at least one selfie to my Instagram a week, people seem to assume that I’m vain and utterly besotted with my own reflection. My exes have thought it, former frenemies have thought it, even my own mother thinks it – despite watching me physically shrink myself through my eating disorder as a teenager, in a futile bid to burn off the biological shape of my facial bone structure.

I wish this was the case. I wish that every time my nan gleefully brandished her camera and declared it family photo time, I could happily oblige without the fear of subsequently looking at the image and wanting to quite genuinely take a knife to my own jawline (or lack thereof). I wish I could be less uptight and not beat myself up for days after seeing pictures from a party, ruthlessly berating myself for not having the dainty heart-shaped faces of my friends. I wish I could let boyfriends take cute candid pictures of me without getting in a psycho tizz if I look like a glorified moon adorned in red lipstick. I wish my head would let me spend more time caring about things that actually fucking matter in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I feel like a badass bitch and I do everything in my power to internalise the fact that I have a similar face-shape to Dita Von Teese, and she’s an internationally-renowned, bonafide bloody babe. However, even on those days, let somebody pull a camera out and watch how quickly my face contorts, or how I just magically disappear altogether.

So, where do these selfies come in? If I’m such a moon-face, why am I always whoring it out across my social solar system? Why is my Instagram curated solely of my meticulously vsco-cammed pouts, some vegan meal snapshots to profess how endlessly virtuous I am, and a bunch of personally relevant quotes/poems? Am I just completely vapid and shallow?

When I take a picture of my face/body/outfit on Instagram, I’m conforming to the social media standards of externalising my life to look all refined and rose-tinted-glasses, but I’m also striving to internalise a version of myself into my own head – one that isn’t the moon-face. One that has cheekbones and an actual jawline and a face that doesn’t look like it belongs to a podgy 12-year-old. One that hasn’t led me to starve myself or self-harm because I can’t handle the ‘reality’ of it. Given the nature of BDD, whereby I haven’t the frigging foggiest as to what exactly my face-shape actually looks like in person, I tend to use images of myself as a form of body-checking which, in turn, creates an internalised ‘reality’ of what I look like mentally.

By taking all of these staged, angled and filtered up-to-the-nines pictures, and surrounding myself with them – projecting them out to the world – they become ‘me’, and I can just about handle being that ‘me’. If I lived life with the gay abandon of most people who aren’t lunatics and let people take photographs of me here/there/everywhere, I would internalise myself as this fat, satsuma-shaped mess and my self-esteem would baseline, leading to my eating disorder’s immediate resurfacing. Whether that’s what I actually look like, or not.

It may seem delusional, bizarre or just completely fucking stupid, but it’s how I get by day-to-day and it’s just one of the mechanisms I use to help myself get out of bed. If anybody can relate, in any shape or form, kindly leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter @Ebzo, cause I’m a tad concerned that I sound insane right now. But I beg of you: nobody ask me that fucking question again…


Ebony. 25. Manchester.
Marketing Manager who likes to mouth off on here about stuff she cares about. Expect mental health, Borderline Personality Disorder, and reviews - from restaurants, to books, to fashion. Talks to cats more than people, but seemingly has a lot to say.
ebonylaurenn@gmail.com