Social media influencers Megan Ricks and Jordan McGee use photography to promote positive self-image and inspire others to try new things.
Ricks said she believes media affects self-image both positively and negatively, and she works hard to promote a positive image to her followers. After an internship with a fashion photographer in New York City, she recognized how important social media positivity could be.
“Working in the fashion world can be very hard because they promote extremes,” Ricks said. “I lost self-confidence in thinking if I wasn’t a 23-inch waist with perfect skin, hair and cheek bones, then I wasn’t beautiful.”
Health and beauty company Dove has researched self-esteem, body image and body confidence. Dove launched the Real Beauty campaign in 2004 to promote positive self-image and confidence.
Dove recognized the media portray women with unachievable, manipulated, flawless and perfect looks by using retouching tools. They conducted studies showing these retouched images are what other women compare themselves to, and they have a negative effect on self-esteem and self-image.
Dove has a policy of never using retouched photos of its models. The company uses models of all body types to portray how beauty is for everyone, according to its website.
Ricks said the media promote perfection, which sometimes can be motivating, but instead of promoting the image of perfection, she decided to promote the idea that happiness, being a good person, helping others, being healthy, working hard, loving and celebrating all life has to offer makes someone beautiful.
She said she recognizes adopting that mindset isn’t easy because she too catches herself comparing her traits to those of people in the media. It’s easy to look at someone’s Instagram feed and think they live perfect and carefree lives, according to Ricks.
“In reality, we all post only our best pictures, at the best angle and best lighting,” Ricks said. “At the end of the day, it’s so much easier to share the great things about our lives. If we can keep it real and recognize that everyone has problems and no one is perfect, I think we could really help rid ourselves of negative self-images through social media.”
Ricks said people find what they are looking for in social media. She said if people look for good they will find it, and if they look for the bad they will find that as well.
“There is always someone prettier with more followers, (who) has a better body, more expensive clothes, travels more, is smarter or has something better to offer,” Ricks said. “But that is life. I think when I choose to be grateful for what I have and don’t try to compare myself to others I am so much better off, and media can become positive. We cannot allow social media to influence how we feel about ourselves and our own lives.”
Jordan McGee is a Provo-based photographer and videographer who travels around the world working with social media influencers and other companies.
McGee said he is motivated by social media because it pushes him to get out of his comfort zone.
“For me, media pushes my self-image,” McGee said. “It makes me want to have the best content out there. It forces me to get outside and experience more raw moments that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.”
Sometimes social media likes and comments can become something that helps or hurts self-image, according to McGee. At times, he said he will work hard on a photo or video, and it doesn’t engage as well as he hoped. Instead of letting that get him down, McGee said it makes him want to do better.
McGee said media can either be a source for comparison or a source of motivation.
“I see many people constantly feeling like they aren’t worth much because they compare their photos, videos or stories to others,” McGee said. “I see this more prevalent with girls, but I think guys do the same thing in different ways. If a girl posts a picture and it gets 100 likes, but their best friend’s gets 200 likes, then in their minds, they (feel) half as beautiful.”
McGee said the best way to find the positive in media is by simply using it with the right mindset. He said scrolling through Instagram after a hard day will most likely promote feelings of jealousy, resentment or self-pity.
“However, if you were to change your mind a little bit and look at others and choose to let them motivate you to either get fit, explore more or just laugh and smile, then it is worth it,” McGee said.
McGee, like Ricks, said he catches himself comparing himself to others on social media, but has decided to approach those feelings differently. He said he feels blessed to have the ability to pull motivation from others rather than feel inadequate. He said he tries to encourage others to try it as well.
“I will see someone else make an amazing video or take the coolest picture, and I think about how I could have done that,” McGee said. “I think about how I can be better, and I try to constantly use others’ work as inspiration rather than discouragement.”
Through McGee’s work with social media influencers, he views social media through their eyes.
“In the end, I believe social media is a powerful resource to share ideas, experiences and art with others to compel them to go outside, smile more and ultimately get more out of life. That’s at least what it does for me,” McGee said. “I see photos on Instagram, and a few months later, I am driving or flying across the country to see them for myself.”