The phenomenal rise of Insta-pageants

Last updated 12:52 25/04/2013
VICTORIOUS IN BEAUTY: Girls are sharing their self-taken snaps with the public to compete in pop-up beauty contests on photo-sharing site Instagram.

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In this day and age, the 'selfie' is pretty common practice. 

Westfield investigated the selfie phenomenon in a recent study of 1000 women aged 18-35. They found that the majority of women, 62 per cent, have taken a selfie and 69 per cent feel that selfies are a way to showcase one's fashion, style or looks.

With smartphone ownership on the rise and the increase in social media, selfies have become a growing trend in the last few years.

While Westfield encourages selfies from women to express style, there is a negative aspect to selfies by young girls. 

The latest trend on Instagram is for girls to share their self-taken snaps with the public to compete in pop-up beauty contests on the photo-sharing site. 

Adolescent girls - some as young as 10 years old - upload their headshots with hashtags like #instabeautypageantawards or #instabeautypageant and are ready and willing to be judged on their picture.

An inspection of how many pageants appear to be running at this time is rendered useless - there are simply too many to keep track of with fresh competitions popping up daily. 

As soon as one pageant ends, another hashtag and account is set up to award young girls who accrue the most "likes" as the winner. 

The prize? Validation in being victorious in their beauty, in the form of a "shout out" from the creator, earning them extra followers.

"Girls are receiving a message that is it only their looks that count and they are acting out this script on social media," warns media commentator and author of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls Melinda Tankard Reist. 

"This practice risks significant harm from online judgment and cruelty. Vulnerable teens are actively inviting in scrutiny from a cyber world renowned for bullying and virtual pack attacks."

One contestant, who by the look and pose of her image couldn't be more than 15  years old, is subjected to these very acts of scrutiny and intense taunting.  

"Haha! Loser ... you only got 25 votes," writes one girl. 

According to Gretchen Martins, communications advisor for Cybersmart, the Australian government's cyber safety education website, there needs to be a stronger differentiation for young people between the online and offline worlds.

"There is a type of pressure and acceptance for young people online - how many 'likes' or 'followers' they have that validates their popularity, beauty and acceptance," she explains. 

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"This is a bigger, community-wide social issue about the self confidence of young people, and how we can all contribute to a healthier way of reinforcing positive self-image messages, both online and offline."

Instagram have recently issued a statement on the practice, advising parents to monitor their kids' online behaviour.

"We are aware this is a trend taking place on virtually every media platform that teens engage with. We work hard to make Instagram a safe, interesting and vibrant place for teens to spend time and express their creativity through photos. 

"As with other social products, we encourage parents to take an active role in understanding what their kids are posting and who they are sharing with."

- Sydney Morning Herald


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