A story cropped up in the media over the weekend that caught my eye. Now before I prattle on, commenting on news stories isn’t usually my thing, but after reading this I wanted to write a response of sorts as the article irked me a little. Firstly let me talk about me (standard) and my Instagram page. I love posting photos of lovely (or terrible) food, coffee (lots of the stuff), occasional photos of me or the kid doing something silly. I generally try to write a comment underneath each photo that is true to life, something about that scenario, something funny the kid has done or something going on in my life at that moment, like clearing up toys or being so tired I need matchsticks for my eyes, that kind of thing. I want to show and comment about the reality of parenting. It’s not all pretty filters (although they help, obviously) and smiling children. Quite often it’s lots of wine, poo, tears from both the baby and you and sleepless nights. In fact when I started my page, one of my most popular photos was one of me covered in sick, at a soft play. It showed me that fellow parents liked this disgusting but funny and truthful side to Instagram.
This is the story that made me a bit cross. Katherine Ormerod, a very fashionable, beautiful woman, wrote a piece in the Telegraph about her picture perfect Instagram account. She was talking about how posting one particular picture of her looking incredible in a bikini got her thinking. All the comments she got about what an amazing, on-point body she had made her realise that people didn’t know the truth behind the photo. People didn’t know the journey that she’d been on to get that ‘on point’ body. Her hope was that young women would read her story and see that no one’s life is perfect, despite how pretty Instagram might make it look. Sounds great on paper doesn’t it, I’m all for not lying to potentially impressionable young girls (or boys). But then I read her ‘story’ which consisted of, ‘yo-yo dieting, calorie-counting, not exercising, drinking a bottle of wine a night at University, smoking, eating ready meals, fluctuating weight, fad diets, bad skin and an aching body’. Erm, I’m sorry, have I missed something here? This sounds like my history? Most women I know now, grew up living these with these diet and lifestyle problems. This isn’t a story. I struggled to shift my puppy fat, I smoked, drank excess amounts at university and beyond (still do on the odd occasion) I’ve dieted, I’ve tried not eating (failed miserably), I’ve eaten ready meals and I’ve had terrible skin. Katherine’s ‘story’ is a bit of a, well, a non-story. And the photo of Katherine when she was younger, could pretty much be me in my twenties. No shocker there.
After this rough ride, Katherine decided to do something about her lifestyle. She got fit and started to eat well, like most of us have probably done later in life. So aside from sharing her ‘story’ what other things has Katherine done to make sure young girls know that her Instagram life isn’t so perfect? Ah, Katherine has a website. She’s created a website for other ‘insta-famous’ women to share their background stories. On her website Katherine says, ‘I post pretty pictures on social media. I love hotels and shoes and have absolutely no intention to hate on the incredible aesthetic universes that men and women have created and curated on social platforms. I just personally feel like I need a dose of reality to balance out the fantasy and that I need to share a little more of the depth of my own life to not feel like a total sham. While there are amazing sites, there’s often little discussion about what happens behind the ritz and glitz and that can lead to some pretty dangerous thinking, especially amongst young women.’ I’ve read the stories on her site and there are some incredibly hard working women on there. Some women juggling crazy work loads and schedules and this is hugely inspiring for young people to be reading. Katherine is sharing that side of Instagram. But what about sharing the other side too and dispelling some of the myths about these perfected insta-pages?
I don’t wish to attack Katherine, or any others that have beautiful Instagram accounts. And I can only comment on Katherine’s Instagram page and website here, I don’t use Snapchat or Instagram stories, on which she may well convey another side to her. I’m talking about the main two tools she’s uses, that most people have access too. And my overall issue with her article was her comment about worrying about young women, if she’d left this out then I wouldn’t have given it two thoughts. My point is this, if she truly is worried about young women thinking that what she displays on Instagram is real life, then instead of just talking about the story behind the photo/the women, why doesn’t she also show some actual real life photos? And I’m talking about some unedited, unfiltered ones. Why not have a mix of fabulous photos and throw in a few crappy, silly ones too? I know beautiful sells, I get that, but how will young people know what’s real, if all they ever see is perfection? If you want young women to see past the Instagram filter, then remove the filter. The lives that some people portray on apps like Instagram quite simply aren’t real and the younger generation who are growing up only knowing social media, need to know this. Social media can be a dangerous tool, we need to use it wisely. The more we can do to help, the better. Lets share stories yes, but lets also show them the real life shots too please.