Instagram has been hitting the news this last week; for some disturbing reasons. Its characteristics, the way it is used (and encouraged to be used!) and unique features have handed it the title of, worst app for our mental health. And I’m not surprised. Many responded (ignorantly), “as if!”/”it’s just an app”, but while I adore Instagram and don’t feel a victim of most of its ways, I can completely understand. And boy do I know I almost strictly follow the unwritten Instagram-User Guidelines. This survey has got us chatting about how we use it; its definite flaws. And this IS a good thing; those who suffer with its relentless ways will feel less alone. Since many scroll and scroll, feeling left out or not “good enough”, it’s good to see us all agreeing that there is often a certain “way” of using Instagram and it can’t quite be labelled “harmless”, because evidently, it is.
The perfect snap is more than emphasised on this social media platform. Not everyone falls for it; some can’t be chastised for it (it IS a brilliant platform for photographers!). Hands up if you feel personally victimised by Instagram’s Perfection Expectations? *Kat’s hand shoots up.* Mostly it’s because I like having a neat and consistent theme (21st Century problems, ey?) but I think there is that weird social media “be our ‘best’ version of ourselves” element too. My friend voiced a very strong opinion on this kind of thing. He believes that confidence means posting photos on social media where you’re looking silly rather than photos of us all made up and ready for a night out. Alas, I don’t agree, but I am unlikely to post a photo I feel just a few sprinkles of “meh” about. I can take waaaay more than one snap just so that it is p-e-r-f-e-c-t. And, yeah, people are right to say that isn’t a legitimate representation of the moment, event or day. But it’s a case-by-case situation and it’s not clear cut to say whether this often false representation is okay or not.
However, in the last year or so I very much so got into photography. I am not very arty (unless you consider my love for eyeliner “arty”) and I don’t claim to be GOOD at taking photos, but I really love taking them- and sharing them at that! I like my Instagram feed (and I am very aware few people will check if my recently shared photo matches the theme) to look on fleek (I recently watched a more than convincing YouTube video where it explained how much of a waste of time an Instagram theme is which made me re-consider my ways). Mostly, I need to feel 100% about the photo – whether its of me or not – because I want my theme to be consistent. I have also been mildly aware that I do succumb to the Perfect Selfie Theory (this is… not… actually a theory) and I’m not sure I do actually want to think too deeply about that. But it raises other questions.
Instagram does provide a persistent feed of “perfect” lives and a lot of dishonesty (few photos on my camera roll would make the Kat Cut; sometimes I hate them all so much I don’t even post). While social media can seem like an uncontrollable force, a lot of us do control our online persona. We pick and choose what we want our followers to see. And we follow account upon account of online personalities who are ‘always’ have an amazing time; ‘always’ looking Instagram Ready. Naturally, this is not the case. But we fall for it. And of course this will be damaging, like this research suggests. I’ve seen young people on Twitter tweeting about their constant comparing to other people who are “more perfect” and it’s pretty soul-destroying. Although I think it affects those my age too, I am lucky to have just escaped this trend (for a lack of a much better word).
To be a successful Instagrammer (sarcasm), we have to boast. I know I do! We must be busy bees; we must Instagram us doing something, being somewhere or being ready for the greatest adventure ever. Anyone can predict the feelings that arise from this constant stream of kind of deceitful story-telling. It’s surely tiring for the user. It allows for the viewer to question their own day while they feel sad, left out and rubbish. Considering I can see so clearly how these anxieties and feelings are synonymous with Instagram, it freaks me out to think how it must feel (and I think I could definitely experience this) to feel really disheartened by the apps endless (literally!) flow of photos and fun.
Of course Instagram is not all bad. It is for sure my favourite app and I adore the control I have and the (to some level) arty expression I can portray on my account. This research has made me question it, and my own usage, though. I’m not sure how we can address the results. It’s not as simple – and it wouldn’t be right – as us to putting photos we don’t actually like or just not post at all. At the very least, I am glad this research has got us talking. Social media can be scary – sometimes terrifying – and there is a lot to talk about. Instagram (and other forms of social media) can cause intense anxiety and despair regarding missing out or thoughts that make us feel that our lives are “worse” than others; we suck compared to others. And we do need to keep addressing this. What do you think?
~ Kat ~
P.S. I have been blogging every day this month and you can check out yesterday’s post HERE!