Published in BuzzFeed News, 2018
Belle* is a high-profile 26-year-old Australian model with a following of over 300,000 on her Instagram account.
Operating under the pressures of the modelling industry, Belle knows firsthand the psychological distress that Instagram can cause, and how deceptive the portrayal of a person's lifestyle can be on the social media platform.
Starting her Instagram account in 2013, Belle began to cultivate an online persona that she knew did not honestly represent who she was offline, and found this had huge consequences for her mental health.
Her Instagram presence came to focus heavily on wellbeing and on posting healthy "clean eating" meals, excessive workout routines, and photographs of her thin figure.
Users commented beneath photos of her posing in lingerie with praise such as "Love your body!" and "Girl those aaaaabbbssss".
All the while, Belle was experiencing body dysmorphia, dangerously restricting her diet, and having panic attacks.
"When I was constructing a fake persona online, I used to really feel anxious and lonely. I was in a bad place mentally and found it hard to keep in mind the fact that everyone else's lives were just as curated as mine."
Belle recalls experiencing extreme anxiety about maintaining workout routines between demanding call times for shoots and becoming panicked whenever she was offered something "unplanned" to eat.
"The dissonance between my private and public life used to really chafe at me — and frankly I cringe to see the things I used to say publicly about food and nutrition."
Now that she understands her illness more wholly, Belle has since made an effort to more honestly depict herself and her life on her Instagram account, but she still finds it difficult to navigate the social media platform.
"I honestly avoid a lot of 'fitspo' accounts; I know what goes into them, I've lived it, and it is awful.
"I actually feel quite sorry for the bodies involved. There are a lot of fun evenings with friends passed up, amazing meals eschewed for steamed vegetables, and in general, life just passing them by."