Instagram is one of the most used social media applications in the world. It launched in 2010 and within two months it already had one million registered users. As of 2019, they reached one billion users. I got Instagram at the young age of twelve-years-old but at that time it was just images of your food and random things with awful filters. Now, it has transitioned into a billion-dollar industry with people craving for likes. You get users being paid to promote everything from diet teas, waist trainers and beauty products. The promotion of these products promotes a false reality fed to users. They show all the good parts of their lives but miss out the more human parts. It provides a sense of a perfect life. This can be detrimental to young impressible minds causing mental health issues.
Personally, I have tried my hardest to not let Instagram get to me. Endlessly scrolling through images of perfect poses and luxurious lifestyles left my mind wondering, why can’t this be me? Why don’t I have a tiny waist? I fell into the trap of buying the waist trainers the Kardashians promoted and BooTea the 14-day teatox. Those were my feelings at the age of seventeen. However, I have grown up a lot and realised that it doesn’t affect me as much as it once did. But I was reminded recently of how it still very much affects others. A close friend of mind hid her phone in her wardrobe for two days due to a photo she did not like being posted. It got me thinking, how would young girls feel like?
Are instagram likes necessary ?
One of Instagram’s main feature is ‘liking’ a photo by double tapping on it – a little red heart appears in the middle. Celebrities get billions of likes and I feel people try to gain these likes to receive a sort of celebrity status. Users try their best to create a ‘perfect photo’ for likes. Many strategies include editing images, posting photos at specific times (when users are most active) and posting on your story when you have posted a new photo. People become obsessed with these little bits and forget to focus on real life. The obsession with likes creates an obsession with needing people to like them. And, when users don’t get as many likes as they think they should, it can lead to mental health issues such as negative effects on body image, depression, social comparison, and disordered eating.
A study by Pixie G. Turner and Cameron E. Lefevere found that “Higher Instagram use can be associated with a greater tendency towards orthorexia nervosa, with no other social media channel having this effect.” Orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves being unhealthily obsessed with healthy eating. This leads to an unhealthy mindset of the need to be “perfect.”
Some say we should just delete Instagram as a whole to move forward but despite all the negatives effects, it can be a tool used for good. For example, raising awareness for important issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Syrian refugee crisis.
How Can We Move Forward?
One way of moving forward is for celebrities and Insta famous females to portray a less fake lifestyle. Switch the glitz and the glam for more real posts. Some celebs such as Chrissy Teigen have already started to do this. She clapped back at body shamers who said she looked as “square as SpongeBob” after posting a bikini video. Teigen responded by declaring her body is real and that she hadn’t had surgery – that’s why her body isn’t “perfect”.
Another way to move forward is removing the ability to see likes on a person’s post. By removing this feature, many young girls and boys won’t be fixated on drastically changing themselves to fit the status quo. Instagram has already dabbled in this by testing it on a few user’s accounts. Accounts were picked at random to see the effect it will have. However, you can still see your own likes, but it allows users to focus on the creative aspect of Instagram rather than comparing likes. Instagram has yet to make this a permeant thing, but it is a step in the right direction.
Instagram plays a big part in many people’s mental health. It makes people feel unwanted if they don’t receive enough likes or not as beautiful as the next famous Instagram model therefore, it can be detrimental. But, as mentioned before, it can be used as a tool for good. As a society, I think we need to come together and make changes so we can appreciate the good things and minimalise the bad.