BY: REGAN MCNEILL
I guess you could say that for as long as I possibly could, I have tried to bypass social media. Before the birth of Instagram, there was Facebook. After briefly enjoying the novelty of “creeping” people I went to high school with and posting silly messages on my friends’ walls, the anxiety of keeping up appearances and getting “likes” on my photos made the whole thing kind of painful rather than a pleasure. So I deleted it.
I knew I was missing out on something, but I just didn’t care to know what that was anymore. Then came Instagram.
I was twenty-years old when I made an Instagram account. This was about four years after I had deleted my Facebook. At first, I was totally consumed by the coolness of being able to edit and post my pictures; hashtagging essentially meant I could share them with the world! I noticed that every time I got a “like” on one of my photos I felt a small sense of pride and gratification. I never really thought about whether this was a healthy feeling or not.
It has been two years since I started an Instagram account, and like with Facebook, I have started to grow a bit cynical about the whole trend of posting pictures and waiting for the likes to roll in.
There is one trend in particular that has captured my attention and the more I think about it, the more upset I am about it. Instagram has become a digital hub for the objectification of butts, balls, boobs, bulges and bodies.
I know what you are thinking. That it is liberating and progressive to be able to post whatever pictures of yourself whenever you want. You are thinking those women are taking power into their own hands when they appropriate over seven million followers for posting low angle pictures of themselves doing squats.
Most of all, you are probably thinking that I am an insecure girl that needs to get comfortable with seeing other men and women’s naked bodies on the Internet. But I want to tell you one thing: I am comfortable with seeing naked bodies, just not the fact that we are so comfortable with objectifying them.
It still alarms me that sex symbols Kendall and Kylie Jenner have over 39 million followers each because this means that they have more of a following than Canada has citizens. But what is more alarming is the fact that the images they share reach so many fucking people. I wonder what it must feel like to have over a million people liking a picture of your butt.
The images they share reach more people than Canada’s entire population.
I am not bashing these people or the things they do, I am just wondering at what point does the line between liberation and objectification get crossed? Is it the point when so many people like your photo that it gets “re-grammed” by thousands of people that it is out of your control? Or does it happen right away when people decide whether or not to like your photo or tag their friends in it as they continue scrolling down an endless feed of imagery and digital dust?
We can’t blame the media when we are the ones producing the content.
Traditionally we bash the media for creating negative images of bodies, but now we are a part of the problem. When Rashida Jones openly expressed her view that media is becoming more pornographic and it is problematic that it’s reaching younger audiences than ever, it resonated with me. I thought, finally, someone knows what I am talking about.
Unlike Instagram, pornography is taboo. With the explosion of the Internet it has become more commonplace and it is pretty acceptable that almost everyone watches it. I support your sexual drives and what could be a freaky fetish… But I don’t need to know about it.
Instead Instagram erases any need for privacy, because everything is easily accessible and as so, acceptable; you will not be judged for liking something that hundreds of others express that they like too! That is the world Instagram creates for you.
What does this mean for those youngins who will grow up in a world where Instagram always existed? It means a new relationship with self perception and a new idea of what it means to be “liked” by others in the digital and real world. It means the virtual manifestation of our urges and desires in the tap of a finger.
As I see more and more little kids on iPads and cellphones, I know that social media will enter their lives soon. I know that social media anxiety will probably be coined as a condition in the next twenty years and I know that I am not the only person who is anxious about this.
So I ask you, what does it mean to you to like a photo? Are you objectifying or celebrating that man’s muscular abs? Are you trying to convey that “you go girl” message when you like a picture of that headless beach body in a bikini? You only know for sure.
It is certain though, that when you “like” photos on Instagram you may be part of this construct that is much bigger than the Internet and one that extends far into the past. You are creating a dynamic between the observer and the observed, contributing to the world’s view of the sexes (whether it is positive or not) and to the way future generations are apt to value themselves.
The funny thing is, you may not know you are doing this at all.