Since elementary school, adults have been drilling into my brain that no one on social media is as perfect as they may seem. Various school speakers have emphasized that people on social media edit their posts to make them look their best. I joined Instagram in the fall of my sophomore year, not having any social media prior. While scrolling through posts, I’ve realized that social media constantly promotes mixed messages about body image, some of them being extremely negative.

If you go on Instagram or any other social media platform, chances are that at some point you will encounter a post telling you that all bodies are beautiful and that you are enough. But if you keep scrolling, you are bound to see someone trying a new diet or workout in an attempt to lose weight.

One person sends the message that skinny is the ideal, and the other tells us that we shouldn’t change ourselves for others. Someone else may say that trying to lose weight is unhealthy or unsafe. I’ve seen videos of people that spend their whole day intuitively eating and telling the viewer that calories don’t matter, while another one of their posts is about sticking to the serving size when eating, hyper-focused on the calories. They assure us that we shouldn’t feel guilty about eating, but then post recipes for ways to avoid guilty pleasures. A guilty pleasure can be anything from a whole cake to a single cookie, nevertheless people find a way to make it have fewer calories and more protein. In my experience, these mixed messages have caused a lot of confusion about what is healthy. The social media influencer who’s telling me not to worry about what others think is competing with the Instagram celebrity who explained in a video five ways to avoid sugar.

Nicola Morgan, author of Body Brilliant: A Teenage Guide to a Positive Body Image, wrote in an email that “it’s​ a common aspect of social media” to find “opposite messages being the loudest.” She continued, “It’s easier to sell a story, or get people to follow it, that says ‘THIS is definitely the best way to be’ [rather] than one that says ‘well, on the one hand, this but on the other hand that.’ The best way usually is something in the middle, a more balanced view.” When I look at Instagram, I see two sides: the side that is promoting body acceptance and the side that is following all the newest fitness and diet trends. As Morgan emphasized, the ideal social media would be a platform where people are told that they deserve to feel beautiful and healthy in their own bodies. But until that can happen, it’s important to remember that everything we see is meant to gain popularity and, perhaps more than often, money. We shouldn’t take everything to heart, because then we are left with confusion and questions over these mixed messages.