Women are revolting. In a small but influential corner of Instagram - the very platform that champions digital enhancement - a deliciously ironic beauty rebellion is taking place. Stylist contributor Anna Pollitt charts the rise of a new and refreshingly honest vein of Instareality.
A photo posted by Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) on
In a visually obsessed, narcissistic society preoccupied with feminine beauty, perfect poutface selfies have thrived and raw, spontaneous snapshots are a rarity.
Reality is a powerful tool, but one that we’ve long been editing and filtering away.
It's shameful that apps like 'facetune' and *ahem seriously* 'cream cam' exist, you don't need a smooth face, no wrinkles, no freckles to be beautiful. What does it do for self confidence adjusting your face to within a inch of recognition? How does that increase your self worth when you're not being yourself. I would revel in our differences and embrace the ageing process, you are you and nobody else can be you. That's pretty powerful. Please embrace the you that doesn't need to look like a generic version of beauty/womanhood. We're all different and that's a GREAT thing. #nofilter #nofacetune #nocreamcam #nopicmonkey #saynotoretouching #selfworth #youareyou #beproud #youdontneedit #refusetobegeneric #bugbear #noteverythingisperfect #embrace #embracewrinkles #embraceyourface #youreallyareworthit #whycoverup #bebeautiful #beyou #thebestyouisthetrueyou #nomakeup #nomakeupselfie #sometimesyoudontwantmakeup
A photo posted by Sarah Woodier (@love_from_sarah) on
I planned on wearing make up today but the braids I had were worn out so out they went. So I guess I going natural today. The natural hair isn't really my thing I like my hair braided and I hate combing when it's like. Just recently I started where make up and I like the way I look in it. Especially since I have all these dark marks. But either way I know I'm a beautiful person. Real hair or weave. Thin eyebrows or full grown. Lipstick or Chapstick. Embrace the your beauty.
A photo posted by Comelia Shawnae (@comeliashawnae) on
Feeling a bit of the yoga love today. I have to accept my body won't be the same as before but it doesn't mean it can't be just as good- all these fad diets and changing your lifestyle exercises are making me feel guilty that I'm not a size 8 with a six pack. I love food and exercise and do it when I can. I'm lazy and often lack motivation but I know that to feel good about myself I have to embrace more! Enjoyed taking the time for myself whilst Ruby napped too. Relaxing and feels good! So bring on the yoga!! #selfishmother #feelgoodtees #yoga #iaccept #youdontknowuntilyoutry @adrienelouise #lovetheyogayoutubevideos #nofilter #CelebrateTheImperfect
A photo posted by Caroline (@paparazzimumma) on
While airbrushing apps like Facetune, Cream Cam and Perfect365 are touted as necessary social media accessories to make our faces more palatable for an online audience, the result is a deluge of exhaustingly perfect selfies - complete with skin that's been blurred into "flawlessness" and contoured to work for the camera lens.
Like Mindy Kaling (above), Fearne Cotton is another high-profile Instagrammer who has sought to reject unrealistic standards of perfection on Instagram, voicing her desire to "reverse this scene."
In a message with her "greasy-haired," and "tired mum eye bags" shot, Cotton called social media culture "out of control":
Ok let's reverse this scene. Who is with me? Our social media culture is getting way out of control with filters/editing/perfect snap shots which are leading to acute pin pointing of so called imperfections. I want to celebrate my imperfections and embrace it all. So here I am. No make up, greasy hair, tired mum eye bags, bottom brace, un-plucked brows, and happy. #CelebrateTheImperfect
A photo posted by Fearne (@fearnecotton) on
Filters and edits, much like the transformative powers of make-up, allow us the novelty of making ourselves look brighter, bolder and glossier.
While having instant access to "tweaks" that go far beyond the illusory wonders of a good foundation may make us feel momentarily happy when the likes are racking up, what happens when we look in the mirror?
"We are over-exposed to images that inevitably warp our sense of what's real and what's possible when it comes to women's appearance," psychologist Elaine Slater tells Stylist.co.uk.
She describes photo-editing and filtering selfies as a "toxic" practice that can lower self-esteem and body confidence, as well as trigger depression.
"In order to belong to this virtual community, we feel we must succumb to a narrowing aesthetic and the tyranny of a flawless ideal of perfection," she says.
One woman who knows all about succumbing to the pressure of displaying a "perfect" life on Instagram is model Stina Sanders.
Sanders had more than 100,000 followers tuning into her feed of bikini shots, yoga poses and yacht dates, when she switched to posting real pictures as part of an experiment for The Daily Mail.
Close-ups of the 25-year-old bleaching her moustache, squeezing spots, unflattering up-nostril angles and one in which she admitting she hadn’t showered, lost Sanders thousands of followers in a matter of weeks.
She did, however, win a new batch of fans attracted to the novelty of turning the medium on its head.
Sanders tells Stylist.co.uk that the experience was "liberating" and says she believes we'll see much more Instarealism from female stars.
"When we see a celebrity showing an airbrushed selfie, it doesn’t sit well with everyone, because we know life - no matter how much money you have - is never perfect," she says. "We also know that everyone suffers with some sort of imperfection, whether that’s acne, frizzy hair or depression."
A photo posted by STINA SANDERS (@stinasanders) on
Another model who exposed the "manipulation, mundanity and insecurity" of a life lived through Instagram is Essena O'Neill.
The Australian teen earned money through sponsored posts to her half a million followers before she spectacularly quit last year, explaining: "Social media isn't real. It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers."
In notes later added to her pictures, O'Neill, 18, revealed how the contrived final shots were a far cry from from the happiness they depicted:
“Edit: “Please like this photo, I put on makeup, curled my hair, tight dress, big uncomfortable jewellery... Took over 50 shots until I got one I thought you might like, then I edited this one selfie for ages on several apps- just so I could feel some social approval from you.” THERE IS NOTHING REAL ABOUT THIS. #celebrityconstruct”
This is what I like to call a perfectly contrived candid shot. Nothing is candid about this. While yes going for a jog and ocean swim before school was fun, I felt the strong desire to pose with my thighs just apart #thighgap boobs pushed up #vsdoublepaddingtop and face away because obviously my body is my most likeable asset. Like my photo for my efforts to convince you that I'm really really hot #celebrityconstruct
A photo posted by Essena O'Neill (@essenaoneill) on
Bella Younger, the woman behind the hugely popular parody account Deliciously Stella, is well-placed to comment on fakery at play on social media.
She tells us that she welcomes the tentative uprising of Instarealism, especially among celebrities and influencers.
"It gives people some respite from the constant glamour," Younger says. "It’s nice to see a person I admire is like me, sat at their desk with Hula Hoops in their hair.
"Instagram is essentially a highlights reel of people’s lives but everyone has a crap time to deal with some of the time."
Spring has sprung! So pleased to spend my first day in the park this year with Colin. Thanks for the organic grape juice @latypiquewines. It's kept me energised all day. #eatclean #gettheglow #springhassprung #organic #wine #grapejuice #juicecleanse #brockwellpark @colinjacksonthedachshund
A photo posted by Deliciously Stella (@deliciouslystella) on
Slater believes the new wave of honest selfies among celebrities could also be an attempt to redress the balance of judgemental gossip coverage.
"Anyone who doesn't look like a mannequin is open to the 'circle of shame' with grey hairs and pimples held up for judgement," she says. "Celebrities are showing signs of reclaiming these 'flaws' and taking ownership of their looks - halting the toxic process of society telling us what we should look like."
Before you post that perfect selfie...
Slater suggests that before editing our faces on Instagram, it's useful to think about how we view ourselves as women:
- Acknowledge and value what defines us as women beyond our appearance such as; intellect, emotional intelligence, professional success, loving relationships, creativity, capacity for empathy and compassion, resilience and strength, loyalty and leadership, kindness and love, health and vitality
- Mindfully avoid subscribing to someone else’s reality in terms of what defines who you are as a woman
- Embrace your sense of individuality and uniqueness and avoid getting caught in the toxic trap of comparison
- Remember being flawless and perfect is a myth - it does not exist. True beauty lies in our flaws and imperfections - they are what make us unique
- Trust that your space in the world is assured and believe that you are enough just as you are.
While Instarealism has yet to grab the likes of Victoria Beckham or the Kardashian/Jenners, take inspiration from these famous faces who are saying it like it is and rejecting filtered standards of perfection on Instagram:
A photo posted by Adriana Lima (@adrianalima) on
unfollow me now if you can't deal with pimples, hair, stretchmarks etc literally anything that isn't airbrushed cuz your negativity and ignorance isn't welcome on this insta and there's no room for more hate and shaming here - this is not just about me but about all the amazing girls/women/whatever I photograph that deserve to be celebrated and represented
A photo posted by Petra Collins (@petrafcollins) on
A photo posted by Agyness Deyn (@aggy_deyn) on
A video posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on
A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on