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Skinnify, Beautify, Sexify

A quick scan on the toilet as my eyes barely manage to peel open, a scan as I walk to Willoughby’s to grab my morning peanut butter bar and medium hot coffee with a shot of hazelnut syrup and 2% milk, a scan during the awkward 2 minutes of sitting alone in lecture waiting for my friend to grab the seat next to me, and a scan during the lecture itself. It is only 11 AM and I have liked, commented, and analyzed more images of other people's seemingly perfect lives faster than my brain could ever process or understand them.

I am and have always been a happy person. Instagram and Snapchat, to me, were always just tools to display how much I treasure social connections here at Yale and methods of staying updated on faraway friends’ lives. However, since entering the college atmosphere, I have become a friend to the Explore button, and I have grown increasingly aware of how the expectations created by social media manifest themselves through my friend's posts as well as my own.

The most overwhelming repercussion to this constant "scanning" of Instagram is the self-doubt, social comparison, and lack of confidence in my body. I am hyper-aware of the bulge of my shoulders and muscular arms, my curly brown hair that seems to poof with any exposure to the outdoors, my size 11 feet, and my hyper-extended knees that I need to perform even a lap of breaststroke in the pool. As I robotically enter the Explore page of my Instagram, I encounter girls my age in bikinis with pronounced hips, double D boobs, an effortless thigh gap, perfectly white teeth and straightened hair, all the while posing with a piece of pizza. As I sit in my room, in Willoughby’s, and in lecture with my 150-pound, athletic body, I question: how can they be real?

Since arriving at college, I have encountered peers as well as friends who have used apps to alter various features on their bodies in order to appear a certain way on social media. Girls have "skinnified," "beautified," and "sexified" their already beautiful arms, altering their appearance in order to create a certain presence on Instagram. And I get it. With all of the pressures we feel as young girls, there is a significant push to alter different aspects of your body to please the public or even your friends.

In fact, no matter who you ask, we all know the unspoken rules of Instagram. We must pose with different friends to show we socialize in a number of different circles. We must find our angle and utilize it to our best advantage. We must show that we are fun but that we can also take things seriously. We must filter out pictures that may not fit our "grid aesthetic." We must not post too often as to not disturb our followers and to keep them on their toes for our next post. We must show that we are liked and we are appreciated but we cannot appear too cocky. We must show that we don't care when all we do is care.

This is my stand against the expectations of Instagram. Let's document the people who make us happy, regardless of how often they appear on our profile. Let's love our bodies and post pictures may not display us at our "skinniest" but rather our happiest. Let's post twice in a day, how scandalous! I will continue to be happy and I will use Instagram to display the happiest things in my life, no matter what they are.

By Cha O'Leary.

Interview: Dr. Marney White on the Intersection of Public Health and Mental Health

(and possibly away?)