From beachfront yoga at sunset to Champagne Boomerangs during 鈥済olden hour,鈥 the average Instagram feed delivers a lot of covetable moments. Beauty聽vloggers show off empty bottles and tubs once filled with skincare products worth more than your monthly grocery bill, while fitstagrammers in fluorescent spandex rock the latest workout trends without ever letting you see them break a sweat. If you had to pick one word to associate with social media, it would be perfection: the perfect angle, the perfect filter, the perfect hashtag. But in response to concerns over feelings of inadequacy among followers, influencers are increasingly offering glimpses of the not-so-perfect reality behind their photos. The question is, will it help?

Woman holding smartphone

The power of social media authenticity

鈥淎uthentic social media can really even the playing field in a lot of respects,鈥 says Desiree Wiercyski, a life coach for career-focused women. 鈥淪uddenly, everyone has a platform to speak their truth, with an audience that鈥檚 willing to hear it.鈥 Wiercyski points out that聽being authentic on social media can be empowering, and can normalize the quirks that make people feel strange or different. Online, one vulnerable post about a habit or a fear might bring together an entire community of like-minded individuals.

Dr. Sal Raichbach, chief of clinical compliance at Ambrosia Treatment Center, notes that presenting yourself more authentically can also benefit your mental health. 鈥淪pending time doctoring up a lifestyle that is not true to the one that you have can add unnecessary pressure and stress鈥 potentially leading to more serious complications, such as depression or poor self-confidence,鈥 he says. It鈥檚 this sort of stress that led many influencers to begin stripping away the veneer of perfection in the first place.

Choosing where to draw the line

But there鈥檚 a fine line between speaking openly and oversharing, and it falls somewhere different for every social media user. 鈥淭he key is deciding how much you want to share and being okay with whatever people are going to think and say about it,鈥 explains Briana Bogue, staff therapist at the Council for Relationships. In other words, if the thought of posting about how you got over that breakup sends you spiraling back to a negative place, that might not be the right thing for you to share 鈥 even if you found a similar post really empowering.

鈥淚 recently posted about my personal struggle with body image and self-injury for National Self-Injury Awareness Day,鈥 says Wiercyski. She explains that up until that point, she hadn鈥檛 talked about those things on social media. 鈥淸I] took back my power by using it to inspire others, versus leaving the topic up for hushed whispers amongst my followers as my scars can be visible in pictures,鈥 she says.

honesty and digital communities

Wiercyski isn鈥檛 the first to find power in speaking freely. In 2015, Sammy Nickalls created the hashtag #TalkingAboutIt on social media聽to encourage a more open conversation about mental health issues. Nickalls is one of many inspiring millennial women and femmes reinventing the conversation on mental health聽online. Engaging with a digital community like #TalkingAboutIt requires a leap of faith: You鈥檙e posting something honest and vulnerable that鈥檚 likely to be seen by people you know. But in return, you鈥檒l聽gain the opportunity to connect with social media users who understand what you鈥檙e going through and want to offer their support.聽This kind of support network can be聽incredibly valuable when your mental health is suffering.

Engaging in mental health or recovery discussions online does聽come with some risk, however: 鈥淚f someone else is posting about their struggles, there鈥檚 a higher likelihood of being triggered,鈥 says聽Wiercyski. Since you can鈥檛 always anticipate how others will react to your posts, there鈥檚 also a chance of being triggered by comments 鈥 or even by an absence of engagement. 鈥淭here is no need to put all of yourself out there to be judged by other social media users,鈥 says Raichbach. 鈥淒oing so can absolutely trigger personal issues, such as being rejected, bullied, or abused.鈥

And Bogue points out that it鈥檚 also possible for mental health advocates to unintentionally trigger others. 鈥淵ou may want to be prepared to engage with them in a conversation about how you offended them,鈥 she says. 鈥淵ou could learn something or change your views.鈥 This is especially important in the context of bigger conversations, like the ones going on around聽Instagram聽and body positivity.

Staying true to yourself

Although honest social media posts might聽seem more 鈥渞eal鈥 than, say, the aspirational breakfast bowls from far-flung wellness retreats, it鈥檚 still important not to compare yourself to others on your feed.

Wiercyski points out that when influencers open up about their struggles while still maintaining a highly curated page, it鈥檚 easy to feel like you don鈥檛 quite stack up. 鈥淭here may be the idea of, 鈥榃ell, they鈥檙e dealing with that and doing all these other great things, but I can barely manage this one thing,'鈥 she says.

Remember that even honest social media posts are crafted for public consumption. Online, everyone has a persona. There鈥檚 no pressure聽make yours more honest 鈥 or more perfect 鈥 than you want to be.

Have you felt empowered by social media honesty? Tell us about it @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)