Transparency is the New Instagram Aesthetic

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Photo credit: Reid Guerriero

In a Youtube video with more than half a million views, Dallas fashion influencer Dani Austin tries to fix the mascara streaks running down her face to cover up the fact that she’s been crying. The video shows Austin breaking down for the first time on camera about her hair loss.

The 26-year-old blogger has so much hair loss, she has to wear a wig. As her husband films, Austin tells her fans that she wishes she didn’t care so much about looking perfect.

“My life is online and I try my best to be real and transparent with my girls,” said Austin, who has more than 300,000 followers on Instagram, in a recent email interview. “But this issue was so deeply personal that I think it was the hardest thing for me to share.”

Young women are bombarded daily by images of perfection, especially on Instagram, which can lead to low self-worth. Ironically, some of those Instagram influencers who create the images feel the same way. Now, many say they are fighting back against this online pretend perfection and instead, showing their followers that it’s okay to be “imperfect”.

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Photo credit: Dani Austin

Their followers like it, and so do some advertisers.

“I think it’s great that influencers are doing this,” said Samantha Havenstrite, a junior Finance major.

As a consumer, Havenstrite said she would more easily trust a product from an influencer that can discuss their real thoughts rather than someone who sugar coats everything.

“I think it’s easy for people on Instagram to pick out the influencers that aren’t being real,” said Havenstrite. “We can tell when influencers are trying to be perfect all the time.”

More and more, businesses want to partner with influencers who show their real sides. Instead of perfectly curated photos that match a color-coordinated feed, this new breed of influencers is taking it back to their Instagram roots posting pictures on the fly (think mirror selfies with an action shot of their dog in the background).

Instagram should be an inspiring place, said Meredith Welborn. Welborn runs her own Instagram blog and knows first-hand the struggle of trying to stay real online.

“It can be a creative outlet if you don’t take yourself too seriously,” said Welborn. “It’s okay to be yourself on Instagram and have fun with it.”

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Photo credit: Reid Guerriero

Journalism professor Karen Thomas, who teaches about women’s issues, agrees that consuming too much media can lead to low self worth. Women are so busy measuring themselves against people who only post on their best days that it leaves them feeling like they are not perfect, she said.

“This comparison creates a feeling like we aren’t as glamorous or as pretty as the people we see online,” Thomas said.

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Many students at SMU say that they feel a certain pressure from Instagram to always be perfect.

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This is the downfall of being on social media every day. Social media is already so ingrained in society, no one wants to give it up, said Thomas, who teaches her students how to be media literate and how to have an awareness of the damage to our self-esteem that can occur.

“If you’re having a bad day, why would you scroll through Instagram where it seems like you’re the only one having a bad day?” said Thomas. “I don’t know why we still fall for it when we know it’s false.”

Lydia Brooks

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