What Is Instagram Doing to Our Self Esteem?

2014-01-02 11:24:52

What Is Instagram Doing to Our Self Esteem?

Why this culture of Instagram hair crushes, girl crushes, and hair twins may be causing more damage than good.

How to Look Like Me

“You’re seriously the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”


I wrote discounting my own, my mother's and grandmothers’ beauty all in one line. I slid my fingers down my timeline knowing she wouldn’t comment back – she never does. Oh well I don’t say nice things to be recognized, I say it because I mean it. Fifteen minutes later and I’d seen all I needed to: my woman crush put up a new selfie, my style crush got these amazing new shoes, my hair crush is having another amazing hair day, my hair twin did an up-do that I straight goods can’t do. I put my phone down on my night stand noting that I had spent ten more minutes than I probably should have on my damn device rather than in my damn bathroom getting ready for hella damned school.
The bathroom floor is freezing, I wince and flick on the light then catch myself on the sink in horror: my hair is everywhere- my silk scarf must have come off in my sleep again, my skin has broken out on my forehead and I’m not even gonna start on how yesterday’s 10 p.m. binge is now hanging ten all over my waistline. With my nose inches from the mirror I close my eyes and try to pictures those pictures – a life where I could be perfect and the entire world would nod their heads along in agreement.    

A few days ago I was at my friend’s house scrolling through her Instagram feed – I don’t know if anybody else does this with their friends but it’s become the equivalent of magazines at the doctor’s office for me – and I realized that 90% of the people she followed were other women, gorgeous women with mostly curly hair at that. I asked her why that was and she said it gave her hair/ beauty inspiration. I thought about that: is it not totally reasonable to immerse yourself in your passion by surrounding yourself with relevant imagery? Or have we surpassed the days of damage done through mass-magazine consumption with our new-age obsession over “everyday” people?


When on my own feed it is not unlikely for me to catch a “I wish I looked like you” comment underneath some beautiful woman’s photo (as yes, I too follow many) I think I would lean towards the ladder. I also believe what makes idolizing regular people’s imagery so problematic is that we compare them to ourselves with a lot more weight. These individuals did not have a hair and makeup team on hand before they snapped that “good morning, no filter” selfie. Nor did they have a master photographer/ photo retoucher manipulating the imperfections in post (though a lot can be said for a strong window light on a cheap camera coupled with several carefully chosen app edits). So if a woman has the same tools as us, same resources, in some cases same hair, then what’s our excuse for not measuring up?


When I was in my formidable years I pretty much bought every Sophisticate’s Black Hair Magazine I could find and through all my consuming I remember this one picture of this woman with perfectly spiraled, non-frizzy curls that I ripped out and put on my mirror – my first hair crush I guess. After giving the instructions in the two-lined write up a go a few more than a few times I improvised on my own. My style sheet? I soaked my hair in gel or mousse then wrapped it around a small barrel like a pencil and blow dried it until it hardened. Of course this process would take forever on thick hair so I just put my hair in a bun and did select pieces around my face so I looked like a house with icicle lights on it.


Eventually I brought that image to my hair dresser and she explained the world of straw set to me and furthermore how my length at the time and texture would not yield the same results. We had a lovely conversation about the difference between admiring others and imitating them. From that day forward I have admired many women’s hair and taken notes but I do my best not to expect to wake up looking like them, since in reality I don’t really even know what they actually look like underneath it all.


So now we go back to the story at the top, a story that I made up but truly believe through my many visits to girl’s groups/ high schools as well as my own observations online, is a common one. This culture of hair crushes, girl crushes, hair twins, etc… may be causing more damage than good. I often think about the women, the ever increasing amount of women, who create entire accounts strictly dedicated to highlighting others’ good hair days – but behind the good intention does that woman love her own beauty? How many of us have the discernment necessary to understand the difference between praising others without putting down ourselves? And if you yourself don’t have a clear answer to that question, perhaps it’s better to turn off that screen and pick up that looking glass.


Written By Shannon T. Boodram


Shannon Boodram is an award-winning TV personality, wedding photographer and writer. You may recognize her from her YouTube channel Those Girls Are Wild. You can catch more of Shannon on YouTubeTwitter or Instagram.



Shannon Boodram is an award winning TV personality (Rogers TV’s Impression Award for best On-Air Personality), wedding photographer (100+ happiest days documented) and writer on love/ sex (LAID: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture – Seal Press 2009). She has over 8.5 million YouTube views and 60,000 subscribers on her first online channel, Those Girls Are Wild. Her newest self-titled channel ShannonTBoodram is focused on sex, love and relationship issues concerning generation Y.

WEBSITE: ShannonTBoodram
I agree with curlyfrola. At the end of the video I was like oook... she still has a gorgeous face and gorgeous hair sooo... I like the message but her video doesn't get it across well :-/
i understand what the author is saying but considering i do post "selfies" on instagram and hashtag them i have 2 comments....1) i have always had low self esteem and getting nice compliments from complete strangers on my pictures kind of helps it and 2) a lot of the girls (myself included) don't have perfect hair and perfect skin every single day. I know personally I only post selfies and photos when I am looking my absolute best- i wouldn't post a picture where my hair looks bad (and there are days it does), etc. just my thoughts on this.
Yes, comparing yourself to someone else is a dangerous practice
Shannon I love your articles. Quite honestly I had been thinking about this myself. I had promised myself that I would never become a social media junkie ever. Needless to say I had a twitter, kik, instagram, snapchat, facebook, pinterest, and all that jazz lol. Anyway I told myself I had to delete everything. I currently have just a Facebook and snapchat. Best decision ever. It is ridiculous how all this happens. I mean going on social media and seeing people do such amazing things or look a certain way can make us feel as if our lives are nothing compared to theirs. However, we really don't even know what the REAL deal is. Needless to say I haven't worn nail polish or makeup regularly in public this entire year. I also chopped my hair that had been waist length almost my entire life to my chin back in October. A year or two I would never have thought I'd be this way. I'd actually laugh if I could have seen into the future... All I can say is it was an amazing decision and I do not regret it at all. After all my hair will grow back, I can always put makeup back on, and social media is ever evolving. However, not once will I compare myself to another. I am not just what my hair, or what my mascara makes me. I'm just me and I'm not afraid of being all out NAKED. This is an extraordinary experience indeed and its a liberating feeling when you open your eyes. I will probably never have your gorgeous curl pattern or that exotic biracial beauty of yours. But I sure as hell can admire you for that and of course all the right reasons. After all it is what it is. Amen chica- keep writing and I'll be reading. And Happy New Year Girl!
She actually looks more beautiful IMO when she is not made up at all!! I guess that's why I thought Aaliyah was far more beautiful than Beyonce could ever be. A good example would have been Beyonce as opposed to the author using herself in the video. I don't find Beyonce to be beautiful at all as she is tooo made up and fake visually.
I do get the point that the author is trying to make, however, she is equally beautiful when she removes the hair extensions, makeup etc. I didn't feel that there was a drastic enough difference in her appearance to really drive the message home.