Paparazzi shots have recently surfaced of former Love-Islander Molly-Mae in a bikini whilst on holiday in Ibiza. A Twitter user shared a tweet expressing outrage at replies left on the Daily Mail article that showcased the images. Despite Molly-Mae having what many would consider a conventionally attractive, desirable, size 8 body, the comments were filled with body-shaming remarks.
I want to begin by stressing that body-shaming in any form is never ok. But I want to question whether body-shaming itself has emerged from the lack of unedited, raw, “real” bodies on Instagram and the subsequent blurred lines between Instagram and reality. Instagram is a place where many choose to showcase their best, most-flattering angles, and the highlights of their lives – rather than unedited or unfiltered versions of themselves and the less desirable aspects of their existence. But how damaging is this? If we scroll through Instagram to see only images that have been edited, facetuned or filtered, this may, even if only subconsciously, distort our perception of what real bodies “should” look like, damaging our perceptions of ourselves.
In a recent YouTube video of Molly-Mae’s, she referred to the paparazzi images in question as “unflattering”. But the images are natural and unedited, revealing her “normal” body. The comments on the article included “[She] looks lardy, out of shape and needs to lose that flab” as well as “go to the gym girl”. It is as though we have been conditioned into thinking that it is normal to look as posed and edited in real life as people are on Instagram. Through the rise of Instagram models and the easy access to pornography, edited, seemingly perfect bodies are everywhere. Though it is inexcusable, is it possible that one of the reasons for people increasingly body-shaming others is that raw, unedited photos (of women in particular) are not normalised or easily available in today’s society? Models are still routinely photoshopped for magazine covers, and influencers who do not present themselves as having desirable bodies and lifestyles do not gain the same following.
Young people today see filtered Instagram posts alongside criticism of unedited posts similar to the comments Molly-Mae received – how damaging is this? They may, for one, develop unrealistic expectations of their own body: it is impossible to look like an influencer/model on Instagram who has been endlessly photoshopped and edited. The lines between Instagram and reality have become so blurred that unachievable body types become lusted after and praised, believed to be achievable.
Are our distorted perceptions of body image beyond repair? Hopefully not. Influencers are now beginning to post unedited and “unflattering” photos of themselves to raise awareness and destigmatize “real bodies”. As unedited bodies become more prevalent, younger audiences will have access to images of bodies that may be similar to theirs, perhaps then easing the pressure and ridiculously high expectations of what they are “meant” to look like. It is unblurring the line between Instagram and reality – so necessary in regards to issues such as body dysmorphia.
But I also want to make the point that this applies to all bodies. Since Molly-Mae’s paparazzi shots have surfaced there has been an influx of people on Instagram posting realistic images of their bodies in a show of body-positivity. Though the posts hold good intentions, seeing unedited pictures of largely size 8 girls will not hugely benefit everyone. Just like society has normalised the size 8 body through it being widely accessible to view in the media, we need to work on normalising mid- and plus-size bodies in order for all body types to be recognised in the media. We can do this by supporting and praising girls who post body-positive images on Instagram, as well as pushing for a wider range of body types to be included in things such as brand campaigns. Only then can we truly unblur the line between Instagram and reality.