Instagram is a social media entertainment application founded in 2010 that focuses on user’s ability to share photos and videos. However, the premise of Instagram has shifted from a media sharing service to world where influencers promote products, and regular people upload edited and distorted perceptions of reality. In this day and age, Instagram creates unrealistic expectations for society.
A main feature of Instagram is the home page, in which users are able to scroll through to see pictures and videos that people they “follow.” The home page is a good way to keep up with your loved ones activities, however images people post are typically of the highlights of their life. Photos can be uploaded in groups of 1 through 10, and videos can only be shared up to a minute long. By restricting users, Instagram forces picking and choosing, giving people an even further reason to only post their very best. Being bombarded by constant positivity and images of people who seem to be having the “time of their lives” can have negative effects on people viewing these images day after day. Because it does not capture all events, after consistent exposure viewers believe that other people are truly always happy, and can be concerned that they are not as well off as the rest of the world. University of Pennsylvania researcher Melissa Hunt proved this effect in her 2018 study on “Social Media, Depression and Loneliness.” She wrote, When viewing someone else’s curated life online, it’s easy to see their perfect pictures and think their lives are better than yours.”
In addition to the home page, Instagram users can go to the “explore page” (a term coined by Instagram itself) in order to look for certain people, hashtags, or brands. Instagram’s algorithm puts popular posts at the top, many of which are of models or fitness accounts. These models are often paid by companies to promote products or events, and their posts are heavily edited using tools such as Facetune, a face editing app, or VSCO, a filter app that changes lighting to appeal to the eye. In an article about Instagram models by Cosmopolitan from January 2017, author Olivia Fleming wrote, “Everyone I spoke to for this story admitted to retouching photos of themselves in some way—even if a filter was all they added.” Although this could be seen as promoting confidence, the model (literally) of perfection can lead to unsuspecting viewers questioning their own looks. The relevance of image translates to simple things such as looking in the mirror, going out with friends and feeling confident as you perform daily tasks. A healthy life begins with a positive body image, and the viewing of Instagram’s edited models makes beauty standards unattainable and wildly unrealistic.
A common argument is that social media makes the world more open and provides a connection to the world. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, social media leads to the “the empowerment of people.” This may be true, but at what cost? Instagram has positive aspects, such as exposure and community, but it also builds an unrealistic expectation for day-to-day life that slowly deteriorates the mindset of youth and adults alike. Is the benefit of connection worth the insecurities, loneliness and societal norms that become prevalent and destructive?