By Olivia Greaves, October 31 2019—
It’s no secret that Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps. Everyone from Kim Kardashian to my friend’s dog has an account and seems to be using it for their own personal gain. While I personally love using the app, lately I’ve been thinking about the implications for society. What is scrolling through Instagram doing to our mental health? To our time management skills? How can we be leveraging Instagram in general to promote our own personal well-being?
In all honesty, I’m late to the Instagram game. I created an account in 2017 after I conceded that it couldn’t be all that bad. I only followed people I knew, with a few exceptions. Fast forward to today and I’m happy to say that this still rings true, because when it comes to most people, I don’t care about your Instagram. Unless we go to school together, work together or have mutual friends, why would I want to know about your trip to Bali? Or your coffee date with “the girls?” More importantly, I don’t have time to, and it doesn’t make sense to keep tabs on people that I barely know.
Instagram has created a culture where it is completely normal to compare our lives to thousands of other people simultaneously, many of whom live in extraordinarily different circumstances and have access to financial resources that we’ll never see. Large corporations benefit from this. When we buy the vacation that we can’t afford and the shoes that are all over social media, we are buying into the hype and participating in the same process that has existed for decades — consumerism. The only difference is the packaging.
It just doesn’t seem helpful to spend so much time poring over the “happiness” of others when we could spend that time bettering ourselves and pursuing our passions instead. Unless we are using the app to promote our own businesses or artistic talents, the gains to be had from using it are relatively small compared to the costs to our well-being and valuable time as consumers. Additionally, the constant barrage of fabricated and face-tuned photos tends to leave a person feeling out of touch with reality. It’s a kind of overexposure to beauty, success, achievement and happiness. Since so much content is produced for marketing purposes, it can be incredibly difficult to discern who is being genuine and who is being fake.
Now please hear me out, Instagram is not all bad. There are many incredible people out there with phenomenal accounts and business platforms that are killing the game. What I am saying, is that we need to be more critical of what we are seeing, and the ways that we are using this app. For example, we can try unfollowing the accounts of certain individuals and celebrities that live ridiculously unattainable lives. Consuming this kind of content doesn’t add much value — it tends to detract from our sense of well-being. Additionally, by following the accounts of individuals and businesses that are relatable, attainable, local and inspiring, we are actively choosing to spend our time and energy on ideas that matter to us personally. Following accounts that discuss mental health strategies, cooking, psychology, books, music, technology and things that push us to live more full and exciting lives can only be good for us as individuals. I am excited to witness the transformation of this app into a platform where people connect in a more genuine and human way, express their creativity and find new ways to make a living in this ever-changing digital age. Here’s to the future of Instagram.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet‘s editorial board.