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People are not for sale: How Instagram normalizes objectification

Kristi Ardiana
Kristi Ardiana

Final year law student at the University of Indonesia

Jakarta | Fri, March 17, 2017 | 11:54 am
People are not for sale: How Instagram normalizes objectification

Just like any other millennial college student, I spend a lot of time scrolling up and down Instagram. (Shutterstock, Inc./Jakraphong Photography)

Just like any other millennial college student, I spend a lot of time scrolling up and down Instagram. Approximately one week ago, I stumbled upon an account specifically designed to showcase pictures of people who fall into the category of “beautiful” or “attractive” based on the general societal standard of beauty. 

The account has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram only, almost as high as that of celebrities. 

After doing a little research, my finding shows hundreds of accounts doing exactly that: showcasing attractive people starting from college students @ui.cantik to military and police members @tentarapolisigantengcantik. 

The trend might not seem like a big deal, but I think we need to start examining how we perceive these accounts. I have a feeling that the majority of people would disagree with me, or think that I am too serious, arguing, “So what? It’s just an Instagram account, it’s for fun.” 

No. It’s not just a mere Instagram account. It’s an Instagram account that influences the way our young generation perceives “beauty” and has a direct impact on the culture of objectification. It’s also an Instagram account that allows an avenue of strangers to objectify you without your consent. These accounts, showcasing perceived attractive people, only exacerbates our obsession with physical beauty.

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The reason they put “cantik (pretty)” or “ganteng (handsome)” as part of the username is clear. It emphasizes the individual's’ physical beauty. How you look from the outside, what you want to show to people, and the superficial temporary appearance. 

We live in a society where looks sadly matter so much to most people. Our obsession with physical beauty gets more frightening by the day. We have enough external pressure for us to look as “perfect” as possible. The last thing we want is to have hundreds of Instagram accounts that judge us based on our outer layer only. Not only do these accounts put more emphasis on beauty, they also normalize objectification.

When you look through the comment section of each photo in these accounts, I guarantee you will find impolite sexual, flirty and degrading comments. With all of them indicating one thing: the viewers see the people whose pictures are featured as objects. When no one speaks out about it, it creates a sense of normality. The “everybody else does that so it’s OK” mentality is extremely strong as everyone comments on a picture in a degrading manner but no one makes a fuss about it.  

Read also: Dangers of vicarious travel

The problem about objectification doesn’t stop there. Nowadays, some people even see being objectified as a compliment. I discussed this with some of my friends at college and their take on the issue was “Well, don’t you think it’s a positive thing? Strangers compliment you and say that you’re pretty? You’ll have more fans as a bonus!”

That shows how objectification is considered normal among youngsters and even considered beneficial. It’s very saddening to see people succumb to an image-centric world where social status is judged by likes and followers. 

It’s time for us to realize that media like Instagram play a crucial role in shaping opinion among the young generation. If we remain silent about matters like this and let it emerge as part of “modern culture,” I’m afraid to say that our young generation will be a lost generation. (dev/kes)

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Kristi Ardiana is a final year law student at the University of Indonesia majoring in international law. She is passionate about human rights issues, is an avid reader, music enthusiast and someone who's always excited to hear new ideas or perspectives.

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