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Activist Adam Eli on addressing the troll who photoshopped him thin

TextDominic Cadogan

After posting a topless selfie on Instagram, the New York-based creative was digitally ‘fixed’ by a hater

For anyone who uses Instagram, you’ll know the process for uploading a selfie. Step one: feel cute. Step two: take a picture (or 100) of yourself feeling cute. Step three: post to IG, probably with the caption, ‘felt cute, might delete later’. 

For New York-based activist Adam Eli, the process was no different for him when he posted a topless selfie last week. Despite the positive comments – including compliments from the likes of photographer Ryan McGinley and filmmaker Xavier Dolan – one individual took it upon themselves to DM Adam with the message “fixed it 4 u” along with an altered version of him photoshopped thinner. 

Instead of clapping back, or, more appropriately, telling them where they could shove their opinion, Adam posted the retouched image and opened up about losing 300 followers after celebrating his body with the initial selfie. “It is reasonable to think this would make me feel bad and spiral because I am already so insecure about my body but it didn't!” he says in the caption, that included the hashtag #EveryGayHasAnInstaBody, encouraging others who don’t fit society’s mould – i.e. white, muscular, hairless – to post their own pictures celebrating their bodies. 

“It's not like I chose Instagram specifically,” he says, on why he decided to open up on the social media platform. “I feel like Instagram is a proper battleground for this conversation because I often feel badly about my body while scrolling on Instagram. The platform is populated with so many images of similar body types. I wanted to even the playing field a little. Also I use Instagram to talk about a lot of different types of social issues and how they pertain to queer people. Recently, I’ve been talking on and off about my body and my issues with my body.” 

Naturally, the response to the failed attempt at trolling was overwhelmingly supportive, with many followers commenting about their own issues with their bodies. “Learning that I was not the only person suffering with their body issues was helpful,” Adam explains. “It made me feel less alone. There’s this baseline assumption that people are comfortable with their bodies when they’re not.” 

If like Adam, you’re struggling with body image issues and don’t know how best to navigate using Instagram, his advice is simple: “There’s no pressure to post anything you don’t want to or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, the best time to post about something is when you feel ready.”

His advice to people with more Instagram-friendly bodies is not to stop posting or celebrating their bodies, but instead to support those who struggle with their body image. “If you have a conventionally attractive body, when you post it would be useful to put in a caption every now and then explaining you didn’t just wake up one day with your body looking like that. That traditional ‘Insta bodies’ take a lot of hard work. Or talk about the struggles you have with your own body image. We all know that Instagram feeds are highly curated. However the nature of the platform makes us feel the opposite. An Instagram profile presents itself as a glance into the totality of someone’s life. More often than not our profiles are a stylised highlight reel that give the even best fashion editorials a run for their money. I think it’s okay and natural to show the best of yourself on line – but only if you are being honest about it. Presenting your ‘filtered’ self as everyday you is irresponsible and frankly dangerous.”

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