Change Instagram Policy to protect users mental health and restore positive body image.


Welcome to the Edited Campaign Blog which is the home of all the information you need to know about our mission! We want to change Instagram policy to ensure that we protect the mental health of all of its users. You are so important in this campaign because you can help spread the word, sign our petition and start generating change yourself by marking your own edited photos as "edited".

Below is a written copy of our proposed policy, it's benefits, our own personal stories and a load of research we have done to show just how important this Policy is!

Lots of love, support and encouragement.

Abbie and Rachaei
The Edited Campaign

Here's some pictures of us :D
Rachael Devine (17) - The Edited Campaign
Abbie Maclaughlan (18) - The Edit Campaign

The Policy
Any photo posted by a verified account on Instagram containing a photo of a person/persons whose
body or face has been edited, must have stated in the first line of the caption the word “edited” to clearly
and unquestionably state that the photo has been retouched.

This includes reposts, advertisements, campaigns, any other content on the verified users account.
This covers photos edited for any reason. 

Concerning any photo where a person/persons face or body has been edited in any manner including
the use of filters. 

This will be a worldwide Instagram standard. 

If a verified account fails to meet this standard they will be contacted by Instagram and asked to change
the post so it complies with this policy. Failing to do so the post will be removed from the sight. 

The Policy will be widely advertised so that all those on the platform are aware of the changes.

The only exception to what is previously stated is if the verified user has used editing to cover a scar from self harm or some other traumatic event.

Benefits of the Policy

Ensures all those who have seen an edited photo are aware that editing has taken place. This
reinforces the existing policy that content should not “confuse, deceive, defraud, mislead or harass

The Policy will show that the edited photos are not fully realistic in their depiction of the contents of
the photos and are misleading. This will benefit those influenced by the content by changing their
expectations of their own bodies, faces and Instagram content. 

By clearly identifying photos containing edited bodies and/or faces others can draw more realistic
conclusions about what the human body looks like naturally. This will help those whose mental health
is negatively triggered by edited posts to rationalise what they see. 

The Policy will ensure those who are verified on Instagram will reflect more carefully about the impact
that editing their photos has on their audience.

The Policy will not prohibit editing photos as editing can be used as an art form. 

The Policy will promote honesty and transparency online.

The Policy will promote healthy balanced views of what we see online and how we see ourselves. 

The Policy will empower everyone to challenge our own online comparative behaviours. 

The Policy will prevent false advertising using edited photos.

The Policy will ensure anyone online can follow their favourite influencers or celebrities to keep
up with their careers and/or activities, whilst being clearly shown any photos that have been edited.
Meaning we do not have to drastically alter our Instagram feed in order to distinguish the line
between reality and fiction.

The Policy will help make Instagram a welcoming, honest and comfortable place to be. 

Why do we want to instate this policy?

Abbie Maclaughlan 

From the age of 8 I have compared myself to others. Throughout my secondary school experience
this developed into some mental health issues. From the age of 15 until the age of 18 I struggled
with my body image. This ended up manifesting itself in disordered eating behaviours and bulimia. 

I did not realise how much social media, specifically Instagram, was impacting my condition until I
began to recover. Edited content online led me to have unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of
how my body should look. Edited photos showed me tiny waists, thigh gaps, big breasts, rib cages
and abs that you can constantly see.

The captions of these posts would do one of two things. Some would talk about all the ways you can
achieve a body like this but failed to mention the photo has been edited. This caused me to try all the
techniques the influencers spoke of. When I didn’t achieve those results I went to new extremes to try
and obtain them including starving myself for long periods, orthorexia and bulimia. Because the
captions failed to mention that the photos were edited, my mental condition was significantly
worsened, as the photos would be used against me by my own mind. 

Some captions on edited photos would not mention anything about the person's body at all.
This is equally as harmful as these posts normalise unrealistic bodies. These posts changed my
perspective on what a natural and healthy body looks like. This caused me to hate my own body
as I could never be “like everyone else online”. Even though the people I was looking at online
weren’t entirely real. 

As a part of recovering from these issues I unfollowed every verified account on Instagram. This
meant that the amount of edited content I was exposed to dropped significantly. Due to the fact I
was no longer looking at edited content and only saw realistic pictures of people, I began to
understand what the human body actually looks like. I began to understand that healthy and happy
bodies are completely different for everybody. Because I was less exposed to the standards set by
edited photos, my expectation of myself and others became far more realistic.

I cannot help but long for Instagram to be a place of total transparency. I want Instagram to be a
place that doesn’t promote unrealistic standards. I want Instagram to be expressive and a place to
have loads of tiny little bubbles of people and all the incredible things we do. That is why Instagram
is my favourite social media site, because it can be used for so many creative and exciting purposes.
Yet, it has become so easy to edit photos and it is so common that something has to be done to
protect vulnerable people from the damage that can be caused by them. 

People need to say when they edit their photos to protect people. People need to say when they
edit their photos to stop the spread of unrealistic, unhealthy standards for bodies and faces. People
need to say when they edit their photos because when you have an eating disorder, low self esteem
or any other issues, you cannot rationalise what you see. These images are used against you. They
attack you from all sides. 

I am in the very fortunate position now where I have learnt to be far more discerning online. However,
too many people are in the position where they don’t have that capacity. This includes all of the
young people who are being brought up online. They are being brought up to take edited unrealistic
photos as reality. I know that if I was born just a few years later my mental health would have
suffered ten fold. By stating that photos are edited we will help people with these issues understand
that these are not realistic expectations. Bodies are not to be justified through photos. Bodies and
faces are how we express ourselves, how we achieve and are an expression of our lifestyle and
personality. That is how everyone needs to see their bodies. By instating this policy we will be one
step closer to everyone having healthy relationships with themselves.

Rachael Devine

I have had a slightly different experience to Abbie, but I did watch her struggle. I noticed little things,
like her going on a sugar fast, or only eating 3 cherry tomatoes, an oatcake and a few lettuce leaves
for lunch because there apparently wasn’t any food in the house. There was food in the house, just
not the kind of food that she thought she was allowed to put in her body in order to achieve what she
believed was a healthy body. She got help, and became aware. I am so proud of her, and look up to
her every day. There are a lot more people like her, with the ability to recover but not all people
manage how she did, or get access to help quickly enough. Being surrounded by touched up images
does not help recovery, when your brain is telling you that these images are what you should look
like. It’s also not just about those vulnerable - it’s about the people around them too. It’s hard to
watch someone you love struggle, and wishing you had done more.

I too have always compared myself to others, in one way or another, and I have observed that 
no matter who you are, or how confident you may be in yourself, you will probably compare yourself
to others at some point in your life. I have been lucky to have been surrounded by people who teach
that your image does not define you or your worth in any way, that everyone is different, and that
perfect doesn’t exist. I also live by the fact that your body must be healthy, but that is because it is
the accessory to your brain, which is essentially all of you- personality, thoughts, feelings. It is
important they are both healthy, but that you can’t judge yourself purely on what your body looks like.
Therefore, I have quite a strong mindset in this way. This came from a young age, and that was
how I learned to view the world. However, there was always part of me comparing myself to others,
and yes, part of that was still image despite what I had been taught. I became more aware as I grew
up, which I partly put down to human nature, just like comparative thinking in general, but there was
definitely a shift when I became more aware of social media and celebrity. I would- and still do
sometimes- look at an image of a stunning girl and just think “Wow, she is so pretty, I wonder how
that is possible. I don't look like that.” Thankfully, what I was taught as a child comes back, and I
gather some perspective, but as I look at the environment and culture around me, it strikes me how
much people care about their image. This was not all born by social media itself, but by media in
general, we are surrounded by it. People are constantly worrying about how they look, how many
likes they will get on a post, and if they are pretty or fit enough to be liked. 
I firmly believe that we all fall into a trap of assuming that social media platforms aren’t as deceptive
as traditional media. I know myself, I look at a post and don’t assume it is retouched, mainly because
I don’t see it selling anything. We want to believe that the platform we love wouldn’t be like that. I
now know that a lot is edited, but not everyone will. The younger generations have grown up with
social media their entire life, unlike me, this is all they know. As humans,we look to others around
us to learn how to act, what to say, and now how to look. Social media is a main source for young
people now. It is important it is right and safe for them, with all the information they need to navigate
this part of their world.

I use Instagram to be inspired. I use Instagram to keep up with people I love, people I appreciate,
people I think are talented or doing amazing things. I don’t want to have to change the content on
my feed for the sake of my mental health, when there is such a little change that could be made, that
could make a huge difference. I don’t want others to have to do this either, not when there is so much
to learn and take from these people.

Social media is a new world we are still trying to navigate, It is essentially a huge advertising
platform for life. We have to understand the power and influence it holds. Verified accounts in
particular, hold a great deal of this power as they reach such a large number of people. Introducing
this policy to accounts like this can just help educate people what is real and what is not. We
appreciate the art form, and that there are multiple reasons some people may want to retouch
photos, so we have no wish to stop people doing so- Instagram is a place in which you express
yourself safely as you wish, after all. There are regulations on disclaiming advertising content which
has been welcomed, so why not for this, to protect mental health? This policy will ensure people
have all the facts, that they can learn that this isn’t how they need to look, and that every body is
different, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhealthy or not beautiful. It will teach from a young
age, and protect them slightly from the comparative thinking we all fall victim to at some point, and
help people recover from the mental ill-health they may be experiencing linked to body image. It
allows transparency and safety, which is the goal you work so hard to achieve, while letting everyone
continue to express as they choose.

Further Research

In order to provide additional information to help back the policy we would like to put in place we
would like to share some information with you taken from articles online. This is by no means the
full extent of the research that has been done on the matter. 

The following information has been taken from the Instagram Community Guidelines, Platform Policy and the Terms of Use.

In the Instagram Community Guidelines it states,
“The Instagram community cares for each other, and is often a place where people facing
difficult issues such as eating disorders, cutting, or other kinds of self-injury come together
to create awareness or find support.”
Instagram is clearly aware that vulnerable people suffering from mental health concerns are using
the site. It states in this guideline that the Instagram community cares for one another. By placing
this policy we can care for everyone on the site by raising awareness of edited photos.

Within the Instagram Platform Policies it states
“Don’t confuse, deceive, defraud, mislead or harass anyone.”
I can speak from my own personal experiences as well as speak for countless people I have
personally spoken to that there is a huge amount of confusion concerning editing photos. What
photos are edited? How many of the photos on that account are edited? Is this advertisement
edited? Does this product really give these results? Is this what this person really looks like? These
are just a few of the many confusions that come with edited photos being unidentified. By leaving
edited photos unidentified, users are not following this term within the Platform Policy. Additionally
edited photos are used to deceive and mislead those following the account. They are showing
misleading pictures of how a person looks and possibly how a product they are advertising may
perform. The simple solution to this problem is for those posting edited pictures to state they have
been edited. This ensures influencers still have the freedom to post about products, themselves or
their business in any way they like, while still promoting honesty.

Within the Instagram Terms of Use it states,
“We also have teams and systems that work to combat abuse and violations of our Terms
and policies, as well as harmful and deceptive behaviour.”
Instagram cares for its users and wants to help tackle problems within the site. This new policy
will be an excellent way to protect us online which can be used by the Instagram team. 

The information in the following section has been taken from the King's University article “The Link Between Social Media and Body Image” which can be found with this URL:

A survey conducted by the King's University on 1000 men and women shows that 
“87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to images they consume on social and
traditional media”. 
Thus, confirming that the use of social media causes a high percentage of people to compare
themselves to others. The National Eating Disorder Collaborations posted an article to their site
recommending we,Educate young people on appropriate social media use and to increase
awareness that social media may not always reflect reality.” What better way is there to educate
young people than from the source of the content itself? By passing our policy you will be furthering
the awareness of over 1 billion people by telling them that what we are comparing ourselves to isn’t
always real. The National Eating Disorder Collaboration says that
“A negative body image and low self-esteem can lead to other mental health issues such as
anxiety and depression.”
This is of extraordinary importance as the King’s study showed that,
“50% of women and 37% of men compare their bodies unfavourably” due to negative body
image provoked by online content. If we take those statistics and apply them to the 1 billion users
of Instagram… the figures are staggering.

Edited content posted on social and mainstream media triggers and worsens the mental health of
those who access it. This is a huge crisis as edited content is feeding into the worsening mental
health of our society.
“Project Know, a nonprofit organization designed to help people with addictive behaviors,
explored how social media can exacerbate eating disorders and may trigger or worsen
“certain genetic or psychological predispositions.” While social media hasn’t been definitively
proven to cause psychological disorders, it can intensify pre-existing mental health”
Those who have psychological disorders should be protected and cared for the same way in which
we care for those with poor physical health. Edited photos make up a huge percentage of the content
that those with mental health conditions are triggered by. By inputting the policy we have described
previously we can help care for those with mental health conditions and be a part of their recovery. 

Deanna Puglia (a specialist in media and journalism) stated,
“social media is a new avenue for individuals to engage in maladaptive body comparison
processes, creating a need for health communication and behavior change interventions that
address this issue, especially among vulnerable populations.”
Almost anyone with access to the internet can access Instagram. With over 1 billion users Instagram
most certainly has vulnerable people using the site. By communicating clearly about what content is
edited, those with mental health problems will have an aid to help them rationalise the content posted
and understand clearly that what is seen is not real. This behavioural change will impact everyone on
Instagram and is exactly the type of forward moving change needed to help decrease the number of
those who are negatively impacted by edited content. 

Our policy is a practical solution to the problem that takes into account the interests of everyone.
We understand that editing photos can be a form of art not just a way to change one's appearance.
We also understand that some people do not want to unfollow, block or mute certain accounts as
they enjoy some of their content. The King’s article states, 
“The BBC recently offered some pretty relatable advice: “Put down your phone.” 
At the same time, though, they suggested that abandoning social media platforms and
accounts altogether might prove too difficult for most.
By changing this policy, those using Instagram to follow accounts will not have to make huge sacrifices.
It is a small change that is as easy as typing a six letter word at the beginning of a caption. However
this small change in policy will accumulate huge results. 

All of the following information is from the Mental Health Foundation Website. The article can be accessed with this URL:

“New online surveys were conducted by the Mental Health Foundation with YouGov in
March 2019 of 4,505 UK adults 18+ and 1,118 GB teenagers (aged 13-19). The results
highlighted that: 

One in five adults (20%) felt shame, just over one third (34%) felt down or low,
and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year.

Among teenagers, 37% felt upset, and 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image.
Just over one third of adults said they had ever felt anxious (34%) or depressed (35%)
because of their body image.

One in eight (13%) adults experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns
about their body image.

Just over one in five adults (21%) said images used in advertising caused them to worry
about their body image.

Just over one in five adults (22%) and 40% of teenagers said images on social media
caused them to worry about their body image.”

Body image is a massive issue that is affecting our mental health. Posts are affecting adults, but
particularly young people. As teens, there is a lot going on- school, friendships, developmental
changes and hormones- this is a lot to contend with. It can make us more sensitive and vulnerable
to external stimuli. We are also notorious for being glued to phones and social media, showing a clear
link. A constant stream of edited pictures makes a bigger difference than anyone realises. The
Mental Health Foundation is also calling for “commitment from social media companies to play
a key role in promoting body kindness.” The Online Harms White Paper and the Be Real Campaign
’s Body Image Pledge are asking for the same thing.This policy will enable Instagram to give people
perspective early so they don’t have unrealistic expectations of their appearance, while still enjoying
content. The information and disclaimer about edited content will give us every opportunity to be
informed about what we are seeing online.

All of the following information was taken from the National Eating Disorders Association

Within the article, NEDA interviewed young women, and below are . We believe that this shows young
people agree that edited photos portray an inaccurate of people and that it contributes to negative
comparative behaviour. Therefore, this displays that this policy is likely to be widely accepted and
“When it comes to social media such as Facebook, most believe that they are looking at raw
pictures, or ‘real girls.’ Whether this is true or not, they are ultimately used as a standard of
comparison. --Mary 
"People create a fake self." --Daniela 
"When I look at other people's photo albums, the comparing is automatic. I end up feeling like
crap. I went to Photoshop a picture of myself on Facebook. I was changing a lot of things,
then I saw the picture and I stopped myself, thinking, 'this is not who I am.  I want to be who
I am.' "  --Kirby 
“I think that social media platforms hurt because young people are now having their bodies
judged online in addition to being judged in person, which causes them to feel trapped.” --Jen,17