Everyone knows what Instagram models are: they're the beautiful, mostly young, wealthy women (or girls) on Instagram who have built up their following, their brand, and even full-fledged modeling careers all on an app.
They're the people that probably all of us are guilty of excessively stalking and comparing ourselves to, imagining how great life would be if we were them. This isn't to say that Instagram models/bloggers/influencers are inherently bad; they've simply taken advantage of the platform provided by Instagram to make a name for themselves and even start a career.
Many models that have started on Instagram are now walking the runways for designers, or have founded their own clothing lines. I'm all for ending the patriarchy, but one big "opportunity" it's given women (whether it's "ethical" or not) is to use the system that focuses so much on women's beauty to capitalize off of it. And that is exactly what these Instagram models have done.
However, there's a big problem with the popular rise of Instagram model/influencer culture. Instagram users--girls especially--are already comparing ourselves to and getting major FOMO from, the posts we see on our feed. It's common knowledge that Instagram is mostly reserved for showing our Best Selves--the shiny, glittery, successful moments and versions of ourselves that we want the world to see.
And while this is happening, more and more of these posts that we see on our feed, in our "discover" pages, whatever, are of impossibly beautiful, thin, wealthy, and mostly white, so-called "Instagram models" and "influencers." This takes the FOMO, self-hate, and insecurity that we're already getting from these seemingly "perfect" posts on Instagram to an entirely new level. So much so that, at increasingly younger ages, girls are internalizing that they, too, have to obtain this "perfect", unrealistic image.
For example, a girl I went to high school with, who is now sixteen and finishing up her sophomore year, has acquired over 3,000 followers on Instagram, and dresses and looks, traditionally speaking, at least five years older than she actually is. Now, I'm not here to hate on her--she looks amazing. I'm pushing nineteen, and even now, I'm wishing I could look like that.
However, the underlying problem here is the desire, itself, to obtain this perfect, grown-ass image among girls, some of whom aren't even out of middle school yet, let alone high school. This, to me, is different from the desire to simply look good or look cute. If you compare the girl from my high school's Instagram feed with those of popular Instagram influencers, you'll see more similarities than differences. Another example is Daisy and Phoebe Tomlinson, Louis Tomlinson's fifteen-year-old twin sisters. Even two years ago, when they were thirteen, they started posting pictures on their Instagrams which more resembled those of a twenty-two-year-old professional model than of middle-school-aged girls. And, again, I'm not trying to police any girl's right to wear the clothes they want, the makeup they want, or post the (legal) pictures that they want. But the thing is, young girls shouldn't feel pressured to look like adults.
Teenage girls are slowly, but surely, having their childhoods stripped away at younger and younger ages by the societal pressure to look like the perfect, photoshopped, twentysomething real-life Barbie dolls that they follow on Instagram. And that's not right.
To any teenage girls reading this, especially those who are in high school, I'm begging you not to stress if you don't look like Olivia Jade, Emma Chamberlain, Sofia Jamora, Kylie Jenner, or whoever else you may follow. These girls and women have spent up to thousands of dollars on plastic surgery, personal trainers and the most flattering clothes, and spend just as much time photoshopping their already flawless figures as they do taking pictures to get just the right angle. You have just as much right to a full childhood as the girls who came of age, even just seven years before you, before Instagram model culture exploded.
Of course, you deserve to feel sexy and gorgeous and be confident in yourself; none of these are bad things. However, you have your whole life ahead of you to look as "grown" as the wealthy models on Instagram do. And as for the rest of us, we need to do what we can to make sure the younger girls in our lives who look up to us--sisters, cousins, friends--know that the perfectly-crafted images that they see of beautiful girls on social media are just that: crafted. Instagram influencers are worked on by plastic surgeons, made up by professional makeup artists and hair stylists, and photoshopped to the max.
And we--as well as these influencers themselves--need to be transparent about these processes and make sure that young girls know that no matter how many posts they see of these beautiful women per day, most people do not look like that. Especially not teenage girls.