What a Kim Kardashian Selfie Teaches Us About Social Media and Beauty Standards

The other day, while scrolling through Instagram, I came across a photo of Kim Kardashian.


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Beautiful, right?  That’s pretty undeniable. However, if you ask me, it seems a bit unrealistic. There’s not ONE flaw to be found in this picture. The easiest thing to believe is that Kim Kardashian is an anomaly and that she’s the ONE person on earth that is literally perfect. I was starting to believe that until I scrolled down a little further and came across a selfie of Kylie Jenner (Yes, I follow the entire clan #NoJudging).

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Her picture is JUST as flawless as Kim Kardashian’s picture! At this point, I became a little dubious and I began wondering what the heck was going on. Is it something in their blood? Is this a level of beauty that I and anyone else can reach?  I had so many questions!


This morning, as I was scrolling down Instagram (Yes. I spend an inordinate amount of time on the ‘gram. Again #NoJudging), I came across a photo of my friend. Her picture looked similar to the photos of Kim and Kylie that I saw earlier in the week. Flawless. That’s when I knew that this was more than genetics and that there was something being used to edit these images. After a quick search on Google (my trusty friend), I found the answer.


Apparently, there’s an app (it shall remain nameless) that allows users to edit EVERYTHING about their photo. Want rounder eyes? You got it! Lighter complexion? No problem! Change of eye color? Done! I must admit that I played around in the app for a bit and started editing EVERY photo in my phone. I was addicted. Once I pried my phone out of my hand and stepped away from the app, I started thinking about what this all meant about current beauty standards and the role that social media plays in setting them.


Think about the number of impressionable young girls who follow the Kardashians, the Jenner sisters and the countless other “Instagram celebs” that flood our timelines with unrealistic images. These young girls see these “perfect” images and they begin to develop an idea of beauty that is completely unrealistic. They  say things like,  “Why can’t I look like that?” or “I wish I was that pretty.” Little do they know that those photos have been altered and changed before being made public. To some, this is a nonissue. However, I see this becoming a major problem as social media platforms become more and more popular. If these types of images continue to be put out (with no disclaimer), you have to wonder about how they are impacting the young, impressionable youth.  If something doesn’t change, we’ll begin to see a rise in plastic surgery operations and a drastic decline in self-esteem.


I don’t know if there’s a fix to this problem, however, I think that campaigns like Dove’s Real Beauty and Always’ #LikeAGirl can help to counteract the negative affect that these unrealistic images have on the minds of young and old people around the world.
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8 Responses to What a Kim Kardashian Selfie Teaches Us About Social Media and Beauty Standards

  1. Rebecca says:

    Hi Cynthia,
    I LOVE THIS POST! #NoJudging and in all honesty, you’ve hit a fundamental challenge in society. The standards of beauty have been distorted for many years and more recently, things have begun to get worst. The celebrity selfies and images found in tabloids or pop-culture media distort the way women (and men) see themselves in the real world. What was once considered beautiful in the early 40’s, 50’s, 60’s…. 90’s… is no longer the same. Beauty standards are constantly evolving, constantly changing. I’m personally not a fan of the Kardashian household and have not held their looks as my personal standards of beauty, but I am one outside of the norm. HOWEVERRRRR…… I have recognized that as this particular image is considered beautiful, I have spent more time and money at my local Sephora than ever before. Flawless eyebrows, chiseled cheekbones, perfectly plumed lips… it is all necessary when standing in front of a room of adults, walking down the street in San Francisco or simply going out to dinner on a Thursday evening. You might find this interesting that InStyle Magazine did a study and found that women spend, on average, $15,000 on makeup during their lifetime (Mychaskiw, 2013). This is nuts! but accurate considering I became a VIP Rouge status consumer at Sephora in less than 6 months!

    Just recently, Vagianos (2015) wrote that “American beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages and colors.” Sadly, this has seemed to stray far from truth in present day definitions of standard beauty. With celebrities such as the Kardashian defining what beauty is in pop-culture and media today, it is tough to be a women who feels good about themselves.

    Last thing I wanted to share that again, you might find interesting; I did a google image search for “Beautiful Celebrities in America Today” and “What is beautiful” and the results were INCREDIBLE! By incredible, I mean, comforting and reassuring that beauty has not gone too far astray. Check out some of the imagry that came up on the search results. Not many of them were perfectly flawless, drop dead gorgeous, unrealistically beautiful people. Contrary, they were normal, average, everyday beautiful.





    I agree that the Dove campaign for Real Beauty and Always’ Like a Girl are great responses to counter the unrealistic expectations of beauty standards today. They may not fully do the trick, but significantly contribute to the idea that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and comes in many different shapes, sizes, colors and more!

  2. Kelly says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    I agree, Dove’s “Real Beauty” and Always’ “Like a Girl” campaigns are a good way to start counteracting the negative affects that unrealistic images have on our perception of beauty. However, I wonder, are these campaigns enough to change the way that we define “true beauty?”

    Unfortunately, the number of ‘perfect’ photos and videos that flood social media, TV, and print-ads far out number the campaigns designed to change our definition of what “true beauty” is. For this reason, many people are left striving to become the image of perfection that they see in the media without realizing the true beauty within themselves. Also, what’s worse, is that many do not realize the images they are seeing are altered/enhanced/or purchased with plastic surgery. I don’t know how to fix the problem either, and like you, I scroll through my Instagram feed looking at celebs and models thinking it must be nice to not have a blemish. I do have to say, although the Kardashian clan undoubtedly adds to this unrealistic image of beauty, at least they have helped drive the idea of loving your curves instead of maintaining a waifish model figure.

    I’m sure idealized images of beauty existed when our parents were young, but it seems that social media is perpetuating this imagery faster and to a wider audience than ever before. This bring me back to your comment, what would it take to fix this problem?


  3. Kelli says:

    Hey Cynthia,
    I’m a bit taken back that you were surprised about apps being used on selfies. Heck, Photoshop has been around for years and before that magic with filters happened in dark rooms. When a person is a brand, they have to protect themselves..goodness knows that Brittney Spears should have used that filter more than once. I don’t think there has been a celebrity since Princess Grace that would always look immaculate and act appropriately if not for a PR team.
    On a personal note, I did do a PR event with LL Cool J (seriously one of the nicest guys I have ever met) his PR person so sooo crazy about approving but also seeing every photo that was used for the event before it got posted. Of course, they were all adorable (I’m biased) but she wanted everything. This is before dropbox, so I had the photographer give me a flashdrive that I loaded to a Shutterfly account so she had complete access–it was also 3am in Las Vegas. Needless to say, she was happy and chose a couple of great images that we were given approval to use.
    On a philosophical level, it’s horrible….there is a perception of perfection that has seeped into our lives and not just our social media world. No one is perfect but perfection sells…..the best thing to do is remember marketing and celeb culture is not real. At the end of the day we are all selling something, the best thing is to be responsible while you are doing it–too bad the Kardashian’s skipped that class.

  4. Christin says:

    Such an interesting post! I have spent the last few years digging deep into the photo editing phenomeneon and what it means for our beauty standards! While everyone would like to look great in a photo, it is often obvious when a photo has been retouched. Perfection can never be achieved and there will always be something we aren’t too fond of about ourselves, but that’s the way we are.

    In my own personal social media use, specifically Instagram, I do not use any version of photo editing, I 99% of the time do not even use a filter!

  5. Marnae says:

    Hi Cynthia:

    I initially thought Kim and Kylie had a their glam squad doll them up and they just so happened to post a picture on Instagram. I think these glam pictures contributed to the development of apps to filter selfies. But this seems like a trend on Instagram the days, makeup selfies. I would assume that the majority of people would know Kim and Kylie are wearing tons of makeup or have used several filters to get one “flawless” photo.

  6. Marjon says:


    Great topic! I was all in! I have to admit…I would like to know the name of that app! I have so many pictures I want to change. I guess the only difference is that the Kardashians do look attractive in photos and in person. So even though there is some altering…I do not think it is that drastic. I think more people would live a double life (especially on some of those dating and escort sites) if they could vicariously through an altered photo. But I totally get your point of how being so concern with being picture perfect could cause further damage with women struggling with low self-esteem.

  7. Anastasia says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    I will agree with everyone else who commented, Great Topic!!

    I too am an Instagram junkie, and I like to follow a few celebs to get a few tricks of the trade including makeup (hate to admit it that) AND I too am a lover of a good filter to fix those not so precious moments that my camera may take. BUT…I am careful not overuse my filters because I still want to look like myself and not a lie. The main issue I have with celebs and “wanna be INTERNET celebs” is that young girls are watching and taking notes. See, I am old enough to know better but kids as young as my daughter are looking up to these celebs and wanting to be them. The celebs are displaying a false sense of beauty when in fact, after they chisel off the ten layers of make-up, contour, lashes and a few hairpieces, they look like any regular joe-schmo walking down the street. I think these images send a “i’m not good enough unless i look like them” message to these young and impressionable girls and its dangerous. It messes with their self esteem when they look in the mirror and think I hate me because I’m not the right color, or my hair isn’t straight enough or my lips and nose are too big. We need celebs like Trace Ellis Ross, who is not afraid to show herself make-up free, tells the young, and not so young, to love themselves in the skin God gave them.

  8. Jessica says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    I think this is a great point. Girls today live in a confusing environment. On the one hand you have people telling them not to care about what they look like. As Kelly pointed out the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign embarrasses all shapes and sizes. On the other hand with social media there is so much “one upping” taking place. Girls want to show off and portray the perfect images of their perfect life.

    Also, in the spirit of #nojudgement, I actually went to a makeup lesson with Kim K’s make up artist that did her look in the picture you sent. Kim was there as the model. It took them 4 hours from start to finish just to do her makeup. She said normally she does 1 and a half to 2 hours of hair and make up a day. Granted she is naturally a pretty girl but most of us do not have that kind of time!