Lies on Instagram

MELINDA / CHEN

Instagram users often glorify their lives to attract more “likes,” attention

In many ways Instagram has surpassed Facebook in terms of social engagement levels. And as far as Snapchat is concerned, it still doesn’t hold a candle to Instagram.

There’s no question that Instagram has perks like community building, self-identity and self-expression, but, it has contributed to increasing levels of depression, anxiety and bullying. Instagram is the worst social media platform for mental health and well-being when compared to five other major platforms, according to a recent survey. What was once a niche for aspiring photographers has now turned into a rat race, where the majority of users get trapped in the cheese bait of comparison.

This comparison trap has resulted in the popularization of an acronym “FOMO,” or fear of missing out, which may be the primary reason for why Instagram is even more addictive than a cigarette. We experience FOMO every time we log into our accounts, and it’s no surprise that we like to peek into our friends’ lives each time we’re online. Going through all the recent stories (which is more like a library of unlimited beer and morning coffee) and posts of our friends while designing a blueprint to step up our own Insta appeal, culminates to projecting ourselves differently. This leads to the inception of a virtual identity that strives to get as much attention as possible from followers.

This phenomenon results in a new generation of pretenders constructing their virtual images based on lies, which keep stacking up until we lose our true essences. It may seem somewhat hard to digest, but showcasing our day-to-day lives based on whether our Instagram community will approve or posting something that our followers might admire yet which we don’t admire in the same way is problematic. Haven’t we all been guilty of throwing away that unfinished morning coffee whose picture we just posted or documenting a workout in a gym we probably won’t show up at again for another month? What about posting some throwback photo (featuring some cute quotes or captions) with a school friend whom you haven’t actually talked on the phone with in years, let alone met up with?

Instagram is kind of like an arena of turf wars among people who wrestle with each other, showing off their lavish lifestyles in order to gain as many likes and followers as possible. I call this a virtual hierarchical system, where people are ranked based on the number of likes and followers they possess. Young people are more likely to be drawn into this system that measures a person’s worth by these superficial factors. And recently, there have been developments like Sarahah, an anonymous messaging service, through which anyone can ask or write anything while remaining anonymous. Various youth have put their Sarahah app’s link on their Instagram bios, which is visible even if we keep our profile private. Young men and women are more sensitive to verbal abuse or cyber bullying, and this feature has made them even more vulnerable.

Instagram is the go-to app for business and promotion as well as for aspiring photographers, models, illustrators, comedians and other artists. It is by far a better platform than all other social media platforms in existence, and in no way do I deem Instagram fully responsible for all of the pretending we observe on it. We are mainly responsible for this as we are the ones who have formed virtual images so far from reality.

So rather than portraying our life as different pages of a lifestyle magazine on Instagram or taking that perfect selfie (which doesn’t exist), we need to embrace new experiences — not because they’ll look cool on Instagram, but because they’re something that we want to cherish alone, without the pressure of comparison. Just because some of our friends are doing something or putting their completed bucket lists on Instagram, doesn’t mean that we have to do the same. Doing so could make us miss out on the present, where there are countless real world friends (not just virtual) with whom you can take a break from this rat race of comparison with. Friends with whom you can savor the experiences of a lifetime. Experiences that are kept in your personal vault of memories, rather than shared with the whole world.

 

Written by: Kanwaljit Singh — kjssingh@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

 

            

 

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