Rewind

The Week in Women: Perfect selfies, a disgruntled Instagram star, and the dark side of juice cleanses

Ah, social media. It’s become the source of some of the best things in modern-day life (unprecedented global connectivity, photos of hedgehogs) — and some of the worst (rampant online bullying, Jaden Smith’s Twitter account). Hashtags and trends are always cropping up in the news, but this week, social media brought some particularly fascinating stories into the spotlight. Let’s take a look back.

An Iranian actress has been forced to go on the run after posting photos of herself without a hijab on social media. Sadaf Taherian started sharing the controversial photos on Facebook and Instagram two weeks ago, and the Iranian government swiftly denounced her as an “offender.” A popular TV show starring Taherian was then pulled from the state television network schedule. The actress made the wise decision to high-tail it to the United Arab Emirates, but has not stopped posting hijab-free selfies. What a boss, as the kids these days say.

Instagram star Essena O’Neill caused quite the stir when she rewrote the captions on her photos to reveal how she had pursued the perfect picture to the point of obsession, sometimes taking more than 100 shots to “look hot for Instagram.” The Australian teenager has since shuttered her account and launched a website in its stead. Letsbegamechangers.org purports to advocate for such lofty causes as “gender equality,” “environmental awareness,” and, erm, “plant-based nutrition.” In a video posted to the site, O’Neill also requested donations to her new venture, noting that since she stopped promoting brands on Instagram, she “can’t afford [her] own real life.” In that regard, we have some good news: Starbucks is probably hiring. 

A type of eating disorder called “orthorexia”—which is defined as “righteous fixation on healthy eating”—has been tied to the incessant flood of juice-cleansing, clean-eating foodisms on social media. Though it has not been officially classified as a disease, orthorexia has been studied extensively by one Dr. Steven Bratman, who spoke to Broadly about the fetishization of healthy food on social media. “The endless kale smoothies are very pretty,” he said. “A lot of it is wonderful food photography. I think this type of media is definitely causing orthorexia to reach a larger audience and a younger audience.”

A new study has provided insight into one of the most probing existential questions of our time: How does one take the perfect selfie? The answer, it seems, is to be a woman. Andrej Karpathy, a Stanford University grad student, developed a type of data-mining software that analyzed millions of selfies found on social media, and discovered common trends shared by the photos with the highest tallies of likes. The data showed that there was not a single male among the top-ranking selfies. Whether or not women accrue more likes than the adorable, costume-wearing dogs of social media remains to be seen (probably not, though).

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