Should we blame Instagram influencers for the negative impact they can have?

Perfect tan, silky hair, a tiny waist and beautiful beachside vacations. It’s the life we want to live, and it’s the life we live vicariously through the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Miranda Kerr and Kendall Jenner. Instagram influencers live the lives we dream of and are kind enough to share their experiences with us common folk through videos and photos. But while their content is enjoyable to devour, it has some negative side-effects that can be devastating. Should we be blaming Instagram influencers for the negative side-effects?

Instagram models flood people’s feeds and Discover pages on the app, advertising their glamorous lives to us. And many who enjoy their content aspire to be just like them. And while hoping to spend a summer at the beach is perfectly fine, aspiring to have a body just like your favourite model can be detrimental to your health.

When seeing these gorgeous women, young girls are especially susceptible to comparing themselves to them. They can become envious of these models’ thigh gaps, flat stomachs and hourglass shapes. This alone can not only lead to self-esteem issues, but to much more serious problems. Being envious is one thing, but wanting to emulate the look of these models is another.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to get fit or lose a few pounds. The problem lies in unhealthy goals that are not achievable with your given body type. Take the thigh gap, for example. While it is something physically obtainable for some, it’s completely based on the body you were born with. A thigh gap has nothing to do with how much fat you do or don’t have on your legs, but rather the literal structure of your skeleton. You can be extremely skinny and still have thighs that touch because it’s based on how far apart your hips are set.

And therein lies the problem surrounding Instagram models and the influence they can have. People are aspiring to look like them in a way that they would need to alter their whole body. While this is not necessarily the fault of the models themselves, they are not completely free of blame.

Perhaps another big problem with Instagram models is their sponsored posts that advertise products that will supposedly help you look just like them. Famously, the Kardashians and Jenners advertise hair gummies and waist trainers as ways to achieve their look. The advertising itself is not a problem, but giving the illusion that a body that may be augmented by surgery is obtainable with just vitamins is potentially harmful to their followers. Not to mention that these body goals may be unhealthy for some.

Young, impressionable followers may blindly buy these products in the hope to look just like their favourite content creators. And while hair gummies may be relatively harmless, waist trainers can have severe medical side-effects. Wearing them for prolonged amounts of time can push around internal organs, cause bruising and chafing and even acid reflux in wearers. And it’s not like these side-effects are little-known facts. Women have been wearing corsets since the Victorian age, and they caused dangerous health problems including a seriously displaced stomach.

Not to mention that the ethics of advertising these products to young people is questionable at best. A lot of teenagers and young adults follow these Instagram models and hold them in high regard. When they see them endorsing these products, they may feel more inclined to buy them even if they’re ineffective or downright dangerous.

The problem with these models doesn’t stop at product advertisement, unfortunately. There’s also the very real problem of self-esteem issues that can arise from constantly seeing these stick-thin girls. And even more serious are the eating disorders that can come along with those issues.

Often, these Instagram influencers are featured on “thinspiration” blogs. These types of blogs feature photos of extremely, and often unhealthily, thin people as inspiration to lose weight. Again, while wanting to get healthy and lose weight is not bad, these blogs often advocate anorexic or bulimic behaviours to reach these weight goals. When people’s feeds are bombarded by beautiful skinny people living glamorous lives, they start to compare themselves to those people. And when you start to compare yourself to someone, you can start to put yourself down. This in itself is harmful enough emotionally, but when it becomes a matter of health, it’s even more severe.

It’s well worth mentioning, however, that Instagram models are not necessarily at fault for these issues, it’s not like they post their content with the intent for others to harm themselves. These models are putting out content that most people will enjoy at no cost. While some may view a post of a model’s legs on the beach and think of how they wish they were there, others might see it and wish their legs were that thin. A model, to some extent, is not responsible for how someone adds meaning to their content.

And there are also those who strive to make a change. Aerie Real model Iskra Lawrence has a heavy presence on Instagram, constantly preaching body positivity and even volunteering for NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). Her captions on her Instagram posts are often aimed at helping others accept themselves in the bodies they have, utilising the hashtag #fitspiration to as a healthy alternative to #thinspiration.

So while there may be a problem surrounding Instagram models, it lies in the culture surrounding them rather than with the individuals themselves. The models cannot be blamed if someone develops an eating disorder in hopes of looking like them. But this is a part of a bigger problem within society. These models often adhere to traditional beauty standards that are unobtainable by many.

These models are held in too high a regard in some people’s lives. It’s important to remember that there’s a difference between enjoying someone’s content and wanting to emulate it in unhealthy ways. And if that distinction can be made, hopefully, it can help remedy some of the negative effects that Instagram models have on their audiences.

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