If you’re a girl (or a guy) who has an Instagram, you know what it’s like to compare yourself to others. You’ve probably looked at the explore page and seen endless pictures of tan girls in bikinis with thousands of likes. You’ve seen celebrities, Instagram models, and girls you go to school with posing in perfect lighting, with just the right amount of filters (probably 5, all on different editing apps), posing over and over again until they have the perfect shot of their body. Their stomachs are flat, their arms are toned, and you’re laying in bed with your double chin comparing yourself to somebody else’s “perfect” snapshot. You probably follow a few “fitspo” accounts in a half-assed attempt to motivate yourself to look like one of those girls. You read these accounts and their captions captions about restricting your caloric intake, lifting weights to burn fat, going to spin class at 6 AM, and running on a treadmill for hours on end. If you’ve ever stumbled across the hundreds of Instagram accounts like this, you’re not alone.
Maybe you’ve been scrolling through Instagram’s explore page and stumbled across a few beauty influencers. Maybe you’ve even seen Dani Mansutti’s. If you look at Dani’s Instagram from an outsider’s perspective, you’d see what she wants you to see: a beautiful, successful “YouTuber” (beauty influencer), with half a million Instagram followers, 1,491,182 YouTube subscribers, and 84,303,535 views on her public content. You’d see someone who looks like this:
Dani is beautiful, but she also has expensive cameras, ring lights, and the talent and experience to know how to take a good picture of herself. At least, that’s what I saw when I first found Dani on YouTube and Instagram two summers ago. I was just discovering my passion for all things makeup, and Dani was the first influencer I started following. I, like many others, would compare myself to her and the other girls I saw online. Her teeth are perfectly straight and white, her hair is long and beautiful, and she’s skinny. I wanted to look like her, which, let’s be honest, is part of the reason why I followed her in the first place.
In the two years since I started watching Dani’s videos and liking her photos, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in the online beauty community: maintaining a social media presence. At the beginning, I saw of her what she wants her followers to see. What I wouldn’t see is the actual person behind those posts. The person who reads every single hate comment about her smile, her eyes, her weight, her lifestyle, her voice, her…you get the point. What so many people fail to realize is that there is an actual human being behind these accounts…a human being with thoughts, emotions, struggles.
While Dani was the first YouTuber I started watching, I soon found many others. They all were the “same”; they fit the mold of a perfect social media influencer. Since I started following her, her content has shifted from only makeup and clothing videos, to more serious videos, including: You’re Ugly, Hating Your Body & Unhealthy Relationship with Food, and We Need to Talk About Depression. Dani’s been a lot more up front about what it’s like to be a “social media star.” In recent months, she has started speaking up about issues that she has had since starting her YouTube channel: depression, cyber bullying, and an especially negative relationship with her appearance and her body. She’s given us a glimpse into the not so beautiful side of the beauty industry, and she began posting photos with captions like this one:
In this caption, she says that, “things just feel fake. Scrolling through instagram, twitter, youtube for hours on end, I have to ask myself – why? I scroll and scroll, comparing myself, doubting myself, feeling inadequate. That’s not only appearance based – I compare myself to others who do my job, look at how incredible they’re performing, and then it makes me feel like a failure…When you start to look at social media from an outside perspective, and you see how addicted we truly are to it, I really hope it doesn’t damage us all in the long run.”
Social media is her job, yet it’s also driven her to get lip injections, fly across the country to get dental reconstruction surgery, and go on extreme fad diets that created an unhealthy relationship with food and working out. If social media is that damaging to the people who literally get paid to do it, then the negative effects it has on the rest of us have to be just as bad, if not worse. Dani’s job is my dream job, but there comes a point when one’s mental health has to come first. People should never feel like they’re less than what they are based on a picture on an app…it’s ludicrous. But this issue is a very real one, and it’s prominent in all of society today. Dani is my favorite influencer because of her honesty–she doesn’t try to hide her struggles from her followers anymore, portraying a perfect life with no issues whatsoever.
Social media is not real life. Even the people who get paid to do it are aware of that fact, and it’s increasingly important for people, regardless of age, gender, or race, to remember that. It’s not real. It doesn’t matter. In an article in the New York Post, Mackenzie Dawson writes in more detail about how social media is destroying the lives on young teen girls, and I highly encourage you to read it.
Before you screenshot someone’s Instagram to send to the group text with you and your friends, or when you think something negative about what someone else posted, just remember that it actually does hurt the other person behind the screen. It’s not real life, and if you don’t like it, unfollow them or ignore it. Let people live their lives, because it’s an ugly industry. We don’t need to make it uglier. And if I want to start my own YouTube channel one day, I have to remember to have thick skin, take a step back, and always remember what’s important. Living in the moment and understanding the difference between what is reality and what is fake is increasingly important, and I’ve learned that from a beauty YouTuber herself. So thank you to Dani Mansutti for putting my insecurities into words, and showing me a different side of the industry I am so enamored with. And, honestly, if you see something online that hurts your feelings, try to deal with it like Dwight: