Is Instagram Dangerous For Our Wellbeing? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Is Instagram Dangerous For Our Wellbeing?

Phoebe Hughes-Broughton investigates Instagram's effects on our mental health and happiness

Scrolling through any Instagram feed, you will undoubtedly be bombarded with images of smiling, happy people on nights out, evenings in, or holidays abroad. Whether eating luxury food, posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, or just hanging out with immaculately dressed friends and family, the majority of photos posted to Instagram are ‘lifestyle porn’ through and through. They are posted not as memories from happy times, or even honest reflections on less happy experiences, but to boast to others about how great your life is with the ultimate goal of putting yourself on a pedestal that others can only dream of reaching.

Whether from celebrities or even your own friends, these posts can be seriously detrimental to one’s health. A survey of 14-24 year-olds earlier this year found that Instagram was rated the worst social media platform for its impact on mental health. Given that 90% of people in this age group use social media, and 71% of American teens use Instagram, this is a serious issue.

Few people post photos showing how they really feel on nights in alone, and even when they do they’re praised for it and still end up on a pedestal even if that wasn’t their initial intention

A large part of this issue is the loneliness that young people are experiencing more now than ever. One of the reasons that we often think of ourselves as being lonelier than our friends is because we only ever see our friends in social situations. It sounds simple, but unless you spy on them there’s no way to see your friends sitting alone in their house, experiencing the same solitude as you do. Whenever you see them, they are with at least one other person (you) and so they seem less lonely.

This same issue occurs on social media. Few people post photos showing how they really feel on nights in alone, and even when they do they’re praised for it and still end up on a pedestal even if that wasn’t their initial intention. Looking over my own Instagram photos, nearly every single one is from a night out with friends, or even just meeting up with one or two others for an impromptu gathering. The few photos I share publicly of myself alone are either selfies from times when I was really digging my look and felt that the world needed to see it, or celebrating things like results day and publication events. Even when I’m alone, I’m still boasting about something in my life.

Social media essentially exists purely to allow for narcissism to blossom, in a world that often feels so overstuffed that it’s hard to be heard (or seen) above others’ noise

We’re all guilty of it – social media essentially exists purely to allow for narcissism to blossom, in a world that often feels so overstuffed that it’s hard to be heard (or seen) above others’ noise. Instagram has perfected this to an art.

There’s little that can be done at this point, though the makers of Instagram for their part are trying. Perhaps the most important thing from the perspective of the consumer is simply to acknowledge that these problems exist, and take notice of them when scrolling through Instagram is actually fostering worse feelings than the boredom it alleviates.

Public health experts are advising Instagram to add pop-ups warning of overuse of social media

Public health experts are advising Instagram to add pop-ups warning of overuse of social media, features to identify and provide support for users that show symptoms of mental health issues, and highlighting the falsities and digital manipulation in many of the images that users see daily. While we wait for however long this may take, though, there are a few small things you can do for yourself.

Firstly, limit your social media use. Whether by installing an app on your phone or laptop that will prevent you from using particular networks for longer than a certain period, by asking friends and family to help you, or by knowing that you have strong enough willpower to stop yourself (but be realistic here, because I for one know that my willpower is not that strong), if you’re spending more than a couple of hours a day on social media you should really consider the effect that’s having on your mental health.

You can’t know exactly what is going on in someone else’s life, but you can be pretty damn sure that it’s not as perfect as Instagram makes it look

Secondly, be realistic. Look at these photos from a realistic perspective, and try to remember that the people you’re seeing are just as human as you. Maybe they ended that perfect-looking night by throwing up in someone else’s toilet; maybe they’re not as close to the people they’re hugging as they appear; maybe that image has been through Photoshop three separate times to make their body look perfectly toned. You can’t know exactly what is going on in someone else’s life, but you can be pretty damn sure that it’s not as perfect as Instagram makes it look.

Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are not perfect, but you don’t need to be. If you think Instagram, or any other social media, may be negatively affecting your perceptive of yourself and the world more than most, it’s okay to ask for help. Whether from a friend, a teacher, or a medical professional, talking about your problems is the best way to begin the process of solving them.

Aspiring author. (@PhoebePhairy)



Published

23rd November 2017 at 9:00 am



Images from

Pixabay



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