How “Real” is What We See on Instagram?

When I purchased my first iPhone in 2012 (yes, I was behind in my technology), one of my first actions was to create an Instagram account. Not living near many of my college friends at the time, it was a way to show them my life as a teacher at a boarding school – the campus, the events, my dog (my other latest acquisition). Instagram gave me a chance to display my life as art.

What I quickly discovered, as I became more familiar with the platform and as the platform evolved, was that Instagram was more than just a quick post of your photo – it was a chance to sell your own brand. Celebrities were quick to the bandwagon and not long after, actual brands were advertising as well.

Instagram has been a part of the growing trend of using real people in advertisements and a call from many for less photoshopping and more “realness.” Both celebs and non-celebs use the social media app to post photos of themselves with no makeup, or after a workout, or weight loss results, etc. Ads for trainers or weight lost programs also use Instagram as a visual marketing tool.

Unfortunately, the adage “looks can be deceiving” has caught up to Instagram as people are discovering that the so called “real” photos are often photoshopped or semi-real. Users have perfected tricks that allow for better photos to be posted. These tricks include the correct body positioning, lighting, colors of and certain types of clothing, etc. There are even apps that allow you to alter your photo before posting (Business Insider Article).

And as more and more “real” people discover the fakeness of these posts the backlash comes quickly and harshly (as is often the case with most social media platforms). Yet what is so baffling to me, is that so many of the celebrities caught using photoshop for their “every day, real” photos are women who sell their image as being role models to young girls around the world. Women like Beyoncé (yes! Gasp!), Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and even supermodel Miranda Kerr have been caught altering their photos.

mirandakerrphotoshop_opt Photo:

(Pretty easy to tell that the one on the right has been altered, right?)

But the biggest offenders are often reality stars who don’t have much more to sell to the public other than their images (for example, members of the Kardashian family are notorious for photoshopping their posts). While female celebrities want to be “real” with their fans, the actualization is that they have an image to uphold for their brand and unfortunately, it depends on their looks.

Even physical trainers who use Instagram to gain clients, have used tricks like tights under their outfits or positioning their body a certain way to gain that image they want. No true photoshopping has occurred, but the photo isn’t real – its false advertising. (Don’t believe me? Check out how one trainer did it at
And so, while women and men (yes, men do it too) continue to
use Instagram to promote their “real” images, I will stick to what I originally intended – sharing photos of trips I go on, events I attend, and my adorable dog (Photo: Mine).


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