Manifesto: Instagram offers only a filtered reality for men
OPINION: When we talk about the damage social media – particularly Instagram– is doing, it's easy to think that those affected are primarily women.
You see fitness bloggers promoting dangerous diets, girls augmenting their bodies to look like Kardashians and anxiety from trying to perfect an ideal lifestyle because of what the internet has told them is possible.
It does pay to know that more women are on visual forms of social media than men. 2016 data suggests that only 42 per cent of Instagram subscribers are male.
Why are women so drawn to the social network? I'd say it's because it provides the ability to look flawless in a way that's perhaps more powerful than any makeup or beauty trick.
However, I'd argue that the same reason makes Instagram appealing to men – perhaps even more so.
See, as a man, I don't wear makeup. My face is my face: I don't gussy it up when I go out. I don't cover up my imperfections and my wrinkles, even out my skin tone, or make my eyes, lips, cheekbones, or other attributes more defined and appealing.
But with just a couple of clicks, Instagram gives me – well, all men – these opportunities. For the first time in human existence, unless you count the days of the powdered wig.
A quick filter can make a hardy, weathered man look fresh and 10 years younger. You can angle yourself so you have an enviably strong and masculine jawline. You can even make a pot belly disappear.
This, of course, creates offline pressure. New standards that we must meet In Real Life (and, naturally, feel like we're failing because we can't live up to them).
Athleticism and power are men's strongest currencies on Instagram. I could, for example, promote myself online as a Cristiano Ronaldo or a wolf of Wall Street. Nobody needs to know I can't bench press my body weight and only own one suit that I bought discounted.
As men, we are "disproportionately engaged in upward social comparisons", says San Diego State University psychologist Aaron Blashill.
This means, if you become obsessed with looking like a professional soccer player or a baller in a Savile Row suit, you'll only "follow" those who conform to your ideals. And you'll filter out average joes.
When the only images I see online are those of athleticism and power, I start to view myself as unacceptable. I forget I'm looking at the top one per cent when I'm in the 99.
This is why I don't do Instagram. It's too hard judge other men's Insta-lives for what they are – manufactured.
I can't live up to Instagram standards. And if I used it to make my life (and my face and body) look better than it is, the only person I'd be cheating is me.
- Sunday Magazine