Image by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash ​​​​​​​
Founded in 2010, Instagram has become a force to be reckoned with. Reaching a staggering one billion monthly active users in 2018 alone, just 8 years after its release, the popular social media app is now one of the four billion user properties owned by Facebook. Beginning as a photo- posting app the platform has developed into a money making machine for its users, from ‘influencers’ to sales channels for small and large businesses worldwide. Yet, constantly being exposed to the perfect image seems to be having a negative effect on many of its users.

There’s no denying that social media imposes beauty standards that are almost impossible to obtain without some form of surgical modification. We are exposed to images of the ‘perfect’ person through Instagram on a constant basis. Attributes such as small noses, big lips, defined jawlines and tiny waists are just a few of the characteristics idolised in this day and age. In reality we know that people come in all shapes and sizes and most of us almost certainly don't adhere to the idea of ‘perfect’ in the eyes of social media, with that being said  it can be hard to think about reality when we are constantly glued to our phones. Understandably this is extremely damaging, especially for those who can be prone to mental health issues. In fact spending endless hours on social media is being linked to increased issues with body image and in extreme cases even body dysmorphia and suicide. 
What we have to remember is that a high percentage of what we see on Instagram is fake, consisting of paid promotions, photoshopped images and models that have carved a career out of being ‘perfect’, when in fact a lot of them are not. What many ‘influencers’ don’t want you to know is that they have actually undergone surgery themselves or photoshopped their images to make it seem like they have, with some going as far as paying others to do it for them. The scary thing is these ‘influencers’ do exactly what they say on the tin, they influence. At what point do we allow them to dictate our lives and the way we view ourselves? Still, the reality is that at some point the vast majority of us will have been influenced by content we've seen on social media. 
With it’s new business feature, Instagram has allowed cosmetic surgery clinics and small independent home based cosmetic businesses to be promoted more than ever before and target specific audiences. Accounts showing before and after pictures have inevitably led to surgery becoming glamorised and normalised. Surgery is now more attainable and accessible to all. A study showed that viewing cosmetic surgery–related material on social media, spending longer hours on its platforms and having a negative self image when looking at this content are all associated with an increased likelihood of considering undergoing cosmetic procedures in the future.
In 2019 we saw Instagram hit the headlines for deciding to ban it's ‘cosmetic surgery’ augmented reality (AR) filters after concerns of them becoming a danger to users' health. However, despite the ban Instagram still features a range of filters that modify users appearance. Even if only changing features slightly these filters can definitely still have a negative effect on body image.
There has been a disturbing increase in suicides linking back to social media within recent years. Platforms such as Instagram, originally created to connect people virtually have taken a turn for the worse and have become a toxic environment leading to cyberbullying, insecurity, emotional distress, and ultimately sucide. 
We have to ask ourselves if this is sustainable. Can we keep going in this direction without questioning it? We might have survived the pandemic but will we survive social media?
If you or anyone you know have shown suicidal thoughts or feelings please click here for help, or call Samaritans on 116 123

Article written for Read 24. 

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