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The Instagram face and its implications

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Do you remember the Kylie Jenner lip challenge in 2015? The internet went under her spell as countless teens took to social media to share videos of themselves suctioning their lips inside a shot glass, hoping to recreate Kylie’s voluptuous (and artificial) lips. The results of the challenge were grotesque: Participants would end up with bloodshot, bruised and swollen lips, and some teens were sent to the ER for their injuries. Looking back on the challenge six years later, I have come to realize that a trend I initially found hilarious as a child was, is in fact, a symptom of a much larger issue: the mindless replication of the Instagram look.

What is the Instagram face? Go on the Instagram Explore Page, and you will soon find out. Most women able to garner fame and praise through their appearance on social media have very similar faces; it is as if their features follow a specific template. Based on my observations as an avid social media user, the “look” often includes:

  1. A youthful, heart-shaped face
  2. A small button nose with an upturned tip
  3. Full lips with a defined philtrum
  4. Full, but well-groomed brows
  5. Upturned, cat-like eyes
  6. A defined, forward-pointing chin and a chiseled jawline to match
  7. High cheekbones 
  8. Defined lashes sometimes achieved through extensions
  9. Tan, dewy skin
  10. The length of the nose perfectly trisects the rest of the face
  11. Distance between the eyes being equal the width of one eye 
  12. Natural-looking makeup
  13. Voluptuous bust and buttocks
  14. A tiny waist with defined abdominals 
  15. Long, shiny hair
  16. Never repeating an outfit and always trendy

The Instagram look is racially ambiguous, as it includes many features commonly found in Black women, Indigenous women and other women of color. However, BIPOC women who naturally have these features, compared to rich white and white-adjacent women who have gone through cosmetic procedures to achieve the same features for aesthetic’s sake, are rarely given the same level of acclaim or endorsements for their natural beauty. 

The Kardashians are known for going under the knife and appropriating ethnic styles to achieve a racially ambiguous look, all the while denying they have gotten cosmetic procedures, thus further raising beauty standards for women. Kylie Jenner underwent a lip-enhancing procedure in her teen years that broke the internet, making her the pioneer of the Instagram face. She has been able to market and create a lip product line so successful it elevated her to the status of a “self-made” multi-millionaire. Through excessive tanning, getting procedures to plump their lips and creating a more curvy figure, the Kardashians are effectively appropriating Black and brown features as their own. By becoming the trademarked beauty standard in the 2010s, the famous family did erase and is still actively erasing BIPOC beauty and encouraging more white and white-adjacent women to follow suit in appropriating these features.

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Consider how we take naturally full lips on Black girls for granted, but Kylie Jenner’s surgically altered ones are admired and emulated. White models routinely use fake or spray tan to appear darker and more exotic, while darker-skinned women are rarely praised for their natural skin tone. BIPOC women often face colorism and even sometimes pressure to become lighter. Also consider how East Asians have always been mocked through the racist gesture of pulling one’s eyes back, but when white models are doing said gesture in the name of fashion or a more “lifted” look, they are deemed as beautiful.

The appropriation doesn’t end at BIPOC features — Instagrammers and celebrities alike are also appropriating BIPOC styles and creativity. A lot of the styles popularized by social media, such as bandannas and streetwear, were worn almost exclusively by Black and brown people before the age of social media. Through appropriating Black and brown creativity, white influencers and celebrities have commodified styles that used to be more accessible to the general public. For instance, certain Nike sneakers used to be much cheaper when they were much more popular within minority groups. After the popularization of sneaker styles such as the Jordan Mids, resell prices then skyrocketed to maximize profit, thus excluding the communities that popularized the style in the first place.

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The majority of society are viewing these flawlessly posed and edited images of Instagram models. Upon being bombarded by these images of beautiful women online, people will subconsciously raise and isolate the standard for what it means to be feminine and attractive. While cis-gendered, heterosexual men are viewing these influencers for their own enjoyment, as they are likely attracted to the models’ physicality, women and female-presenting people are almost always viewing these models for inspiration, in pursuit of their beauty, which then turns into critical self-deprecation. We are socialized to view each other as competition. The patriarchy encourages us to center our physical attractiveness at the core of our identities, and as a result we often view ourselves critically and take actions, such as putting on makeup or getting cosmetic procedures, in hopes of becoming more “beautiful.” 

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Instagram models prey on other women’s insecurities. While following and viewing your favorite influencers can start out innocently, it almost always leads to some kind of comparative self-esteem issue. The majority of women and girls do not have the same access to makeup artists, trainers or nutritionists as these models. Therefore, women who do not have these resources may feel bad about themselves when compared to the highly manufactured images of Instagram models. Young women, and especially teens, without a fully developed identity and body image, can easily develop self-image issues and even eating disorders in pursuit of the elusive ideal. 

This beauty standard is so elusive that the small fraction of girls who do fit into it are getting brand endorsement deals, which used to be unthinkable before the age of social media. These opportunities naturally invoke some level of insecurity in other women. Like the name “influencer” entails, the influencers take advantage of their followers’ insecurities and influence them to purchase more makeup or trendy clothes that often come from unethical fast fashion brands. 

Some women have gotten multiple forms of cosmetic procedures to replicate the Instagram look. Procedures such as breast lifts and buttock lifts have increased exponentially since the beginning of the century, coinciding with the rise of social media.

At “best,” men dismiss women they find unattractive. At their worst, men abuse women they find unattractive, especially in romantic partnerships. Because of how society treats beauty as an integral part of a woman’s identity, and if their beauty does not meet a certain standard, they could face professional and societal limitations, in comparison to women who do fit that standard.  As beauty standards become more particular and less attainable, society as a whole becomes more accustomed to the aesthetic expectation of these women online, and in real life, there will be a larger bracket of women who they might deem unattractive. To some extent, this will lead to the mistreatment of women who are deemed as conventionally unattractive.  

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On most social media platforms, once you interact with influencers, the algorithm takes notice and pushes more posts of the same genre to you. Thus, Instagram models are gradually becoming omnipresent on most people’s timelines and explore pages. While viewing these carefully curated images can be exhausting and make us insecure, consider that nobody is perfect in the way these images are. The pictures you see on social media are posed and edited: Sometimes even with a team behind the model, helping her create the best image of herself. Knowing how harmful these beauty standards are to young girls, there are now influencers who are actively defying them by posting untouched images of their faces and bodies, showing their authentic selves.

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To whom this may concern: Please do take social media breaks if you need it! Unfollow the influencers and delete the apps if that helps, and always keep in mind that pictures posted by celebrities are often as manufactured as can be.

MiC Columnist Zoe Zhang can be contacted at zoezhang@umich.edu

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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