Social media models perpetuate unattainable body standards but do little to atone for the damage they cause.

By Magdalena Glotzer

Alexis Ren and I are pretty much complete opposites. There’s the obvious difference that she is a prominent Instagram model with almost 9 million followers, while I am not a model and only have a few hundred followers. Then there are some smaller differences: she’s blonde, I’m brunette. She’s perfect, I’m far from it. She dates hot guys, I consistently get dumped after two or three dates. But there is one thing we do have in common. We’re the same height, so inevitably, I should strive to be the same weight as her as well…right?

I never thought that I would publicly admit to having an eating disorder, but over the last week, I have come to the decision to out myself, because I am really frustrated with Alexis Ren. Recently, I woke up and did my usual routine checkup on all my social media platforms, eyes half closed, wishing I didn’t have to get up. I hadn’t seen photos or news about Alexis in a while, because I unfollowed her a few months ago when I realized I was comparing myself to her an unhealthy amount. But this particular morning was different. The Cosmopolitan Snapchat story featured an article about Alexis’s struggles. It turns out that she had some issues that I can actually relate to. She says she used to work out to “punish herself” and had a “toxic mindset” about food and “overworked [herself] to the point of malnourishment (as you can tell from images from last year).”

While I’m glad this incredibly beautiful woman is coming clean about her issues with food, I think it’s a little too late. All of those posts from last year, and the weight which she so freely claimed on her Tumblr, are already ingrained in my mind, and in the minds of many other women who are convinced that happiness is attainable only if you look the way society deems beautiful. 

I’m not blaming Alexis for my eating disorder (I call him Ed). But Ed has this nice characteristic called latching onto every fucking little thing possible. When I saw what her weight was back in August, I believed that I had to get down to that weight too. And I did, but I still wasn’t happy. I wasn’t any more beautiful. I wasn’t more well-liked. In fact, I was completely isolated and depressed. In my malnourished state, I couldn’t understand why my life didn’t look as happy and glamorous as Alexis made hers out to be. Why did people seem to avoid me? Why did I avoid them? 

I’ve been in treatment for the last few months and now have a few dozen pounds over Alexis, and I’m not much happier, but at least I am capable of doing things. I can run, paint, read, and party. I have a semblance of a social life. But life is still pretty crummy. The external behaviors Ed expected of me may be more regulated—I’m not calorie counting, I’m eating all the food groups, I don’t weigh myself every morning—but internally, Ed yells at me constantly. I’m being told to avoid that pizza, that pasta. I’m being told to check the label on that delicious-looking sandwich. I’m being told that I’m not good enough, pretty enough, worth anything, because there is no way I can be. I still don’t compare to Alexis. 

I know it sounds ridiculous. Logically, I am completely aware that I should not compare myself to 1) a model, 2) photographs, and 3) to anyone, really. Reasonability isn’t in Ed’s vocabulary, though. I still wish I looked like her, or at least weighed as little as her, because I am convinced that such qualities would bring me marginally closer to perfection. 

In all honesty, I laughed when I read the Cosmo article on Snapchat about Alexis having issues with eating and exercise. This laughter has since evolved into a new battle brewing in my head. Ed is trying to convince me that the reason Alexis beat me once again is that I just didn’t do his biddings last time. If I had, I’d be getting the same validation and attention that she is getting. In other words, he’s showing me that I’m not enough because I’m not like her. 

I am angry for two reasons.

First, Alexis makes it seem like her problems magically flew away like birds. She didn’t have to go to 24-hour residential care like I did. Instead, she got to keep living her life and portraying it as perfect. Not to mention, it does not seem like she was forced to restore her weight like I was. 

Second, after I spent months trying to minimize myself to be a little bit closer to the perfection she had presented, Alexis can continue to feed her fame in opening up about struggles similar to mine, in which she played a role. Alexis doesn’t have to take responsibility for how she affected me and many others. She can’t take those photos back, she can’t erase the way she has affected the minds of impressionable girls and women, yet she still comes out on top.

Alexis Ren gets to be the hero. She will become an inspiration to young women affected by the stresses of social media and body image issues. She’ll get the attention when she shares the demons hiding behind the perfect photographs we are all jealous of. But what about all of us who aren’t famous or deemed ideal? What about all of us who feel pressure from social media and society to strive to be like her? What about all of us who were influenced by the picture of perfection she had painted for us? 

Some may say that I can finally let go of that goal weight and expectation. In a way, that is true. It does emphasize the absurdity of my obsessive comparison. Though, in all honestly, I just feel cheated. 

I feel cheated because she can become this angelic role model against social pressures and beauty ideals, when she fed my demons for so long. Alexis will get the attention and fame, while I can only strive to become the hero of my own story. 

So, this is me, telling anyone who has read this far: I am living with an eating disorder. My eating disorder loves comparing me to Alexis Ren. She has recently stated that she wants to come clean about her own demons. And I am incredibly mad that I was deceived into believing that she was happy and healthy at 115 pounds. 

Magdalena Glotzer is a third-year in the College majoring in art history.