The world of social media can be a very glamourous thing – a place to showcase the fancy events you’re attending, the delicious food you’re eating, and the cool people you’re hanging out with.
Pick the perfect filter for you pre-night out selfie, and you’re guaranteed to rack up likes within double figures.
Throw into the mix that you happen to be a beautiful model who’s worked with the likes of L’Oreal, Lynx and Nike, and this applies times a thousand.
But when 24-year-old model Stina Sanders exchanged her usual snaps of exotic locations, glimpses behind the scenes at her photoshoots and perfectly placed pictures of her (very healthy) lunches for a more realistic view to her day-to-day life, she found her following dropped significantly.
After one week of posting real life images – de-fuzzing the moustache snaps, pre-pedi pictures and those unflattering accidental front camera selfies – she lost thousands of followers.
Sanders also reached into more silenced territories in her experiment - as she opened up about her mental health problems in her Instagram posts too.
This is the kind of picture her followers were used to seeing on her Instagram before the experiment took place
Speaking to Stylist, the model who also blogs at stinasanders.com explained why she opened up and exposed things she usually "wouldn’t share with my friends or family let alone social media."
"Working in the industry, it’s tiring to see how fake it's become. Social media is very clever at portraying someones life as something else. Lots of people are always quick to tell me how glam my life is, but what they don’t see is my battle with anxiety and what it’s like to grow up with a disabled sibling. I wanted to not only reveal what is behind my mask but also the truth behind social media."
One post showed Sanders attending a Harley Street clinic where she was undergoing therapy sessions for anxiety. She captioned it saying:
"Harley Street isn't just to fix your nose or your boobs - You can also fix your mind!
"I've just finished an intense two month psychotherapy session to sort out my anxiety issues. It's been over two weeks since my last panic attack. Depression and anxiety isn't something to hide away from. Get talking!"
Speaking about the reaction to this picture, Sanders told Stylist:
"I’ve had so many people reach out regarding the anxiety photo. So many suffer and I think it’s silly that as a society we’ve only just started raising awareness of mental health. People have thanked me for making them feel not alone. The best cure is to talk and I think if people start connecting over important issues like this, we can definitely make a difference."
Sanders took part in the experiment for The Daily Mail to gauge exactly how people would react to her capturing the more mundane and true-to-life screen shots of her life.
This came in response to fellow model Essena ONeill’s decision to cut ties with social media altogether after branding it “unhealthy” and “not real life.” O’Neill claimed trying to craft the perfect images just to get likes left her feeling empty, and that being defined by numbers suffocated her.
But after Sanders' experiment brought to light the shallowness of those people who unfollowed her (she still has a staggering 102K followers, however) she has received positive feedback from those commending her for being open about not only what real women look like, but what so many people go through day to day, such as anxiety issues.
One Instagram user said:
"Just following to send my respect! May we slowly move away from the fake to the real and give the young women in this world a positive uplifting image of femininity and strength."
"CONGRATULATIONS!!! Now you've gained a ton of followers who realize that the beauty you poses runs all the way to your core! Thanks for being a real life inspiration to so many who need it."
When asked if there was anything she did hold back on posting during the experiment, Sanders said:
"There was nothing that I didn’t post and if I’m honest, I didn’t hesitate with any of my images. I know what I look like and I know who I am. My attitude was if people didn’t like it, then they could just click the unfollow button. Which 5,000 people did!
"What I noticed was the amount of women commenting. Usually it is a split, but this time, women were commenting because I guess they could relate to my photos. For example the de-fuzz image, one woman said “My de-fuzz day is a Monday”. I think women liked that I was showing the real-side of me rather than the glammed up side, which takes hours to achieve. Believe me."
On her own website, Sander's states: “I love writing about things that people wish they could say in public, but don’t, because they’d probably be socially excluded!.”
"Social media is very clever at portraying someones life as something else. I’ve found it’s quite poisonous, especially for young girls, who aspire to be like their idol, yet their idol isn’t even as perfect as they claim. That’s a dangerous recipe to play with and I wanted to prove that," Sanders insights.
And when we asked her if she's now changed her attutude towards social media, she told us:
"It’s definitely changed my approach. Social media is a great communication tool, when used correctly. My blog is all about normalising taboo situations and I think before this experiment, my social media didn’t really connect with my blog. Now I know, that my realness should be extended to all platforms. I want to reach out to people and build a community, and tell people that they are not alone, whether that’s through writing or the images I share."
This is not the first time social media has got a bad rep of recent, as many have attempted to push it off its pedestal. From American Vogue fashion editor branding Instagram “pathetic” to one photographer brilliantly revealing the lies people tell online, it seems we are becoming more disillusioned by the social media world.