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Instagram is one of the most recent social media platforms; established in 2010, it is a multi-channel platform available on both a mobile application and a desktop site.
Instagram was created by Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom and launched on the 6th of October 2010, however, in April 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for approximately US $1 billion.
This photo sharing application allows its users to have their own individual profile: which is available to be either public or private, depending on the user’s preference. The users are able to post their photographs and videos on their profile, follow other users and gain followers in return.
Following Instagram’s launch in 2010, the application grew largely and became extremely popular, gaining one million registered users by December 2010. According to Omni core statistics, Instagram has 800 million active monthly users (statistic from 24/12/17) with 500 million daily active users.
Instagram has made several changes throughout the years to their application; digital filters have adapted since the original launch, along with a range of editing tools to allow their users to perfect their ‘selfie’, along with the use of hashtags to allow users to involve themselves in online trending topics.
Geotags was introduced to allow users to tag themselves at their current location. Other social media platform profiles can be connected to users Instagram profiles; allowing them to share photos of each platform. An explore tab was launched in 2012 which allowed Instagram’s users to discover a variation of Instagram’s most-liked photos and trending topics. The latest feature, introduced in August 2016, the Instagram ‘stories’ allows users to post live/camera roll photographs/videos/boomerangs to their profile to share with their followers; this feature removes stories after 24 hours.
This social media application is clearly enormously popular with a variety of users; according to Instagram’s demographics, women make up 68% of the overall user, with the other 32% of male users, 90% of Instagram users are under 35, according to the statistic provided by Instagram.
Although many users enjoy Instagram, there are many who admit they struggle with both mental health and self-perception due to its use. This case study will focus on the ways in which Instagram users are affected mentally through the use of this application, through the use of both textual and photo analysis; analysis of related content text and both relevant photographs posted on Instagram and the comments left on these photos by the users themselves, in the hope to explore the research question thoroughly.
This case study aims to fully research the adverse effects that the social media application Instagram can have on its users’ mental health. This section will analyze several texts effectively to allow a conclusion to be reached at the end of this case study after the research question has been answered in full effect.
Social media has made an impact on its users’ lives in one way or another; many active users do not go a day without checking their various social media profiles, uploading content and exploring other user’s content, regardless of whether they know them (or follow them.)
It can be argued that social media does, in fact, have a positive effect on its user’s lives; Instagram in particular, allows users to stay up to date with everything their friends/family members and mutual friends through their photo/story updates. Furthering this, Instagram enables users to interact fully with one another; through comments, private messages and the report option on the app. This idea is explained further in Djafarova and Trofimenko 2017 text as they highlight;
“Instagram is a platform where users share photographs of their lifestyles and communicate via textual commentary under the images. The advantage of this media type is instant communication of visual information. More than half of Instagram users are females who prefer to follow positive content displayed in profiles.”
This shows a positive outlook on the use of Instagram as this text supports the idea that the majority of both contents and Instagram users are positive. Along with this, almost every celebrity has an Instagram account, thus users are able to follow their favorite celebrities and keep up to date with what they are doing/wearing/where they are, allowing users to feel a sense of closeness to these celebrities. Furthering this idea of celebrity contact, users are able to follow ‘social media celebrities’ – Instagram famous bloggers who post daily updates regarding clothing/footwear/haircare/fitness/recipes to their followers. This type of ‘celebrity’ is much more relatable to many Instagram users, they promote affordable clothing/footwear brands and often share discount codes to allow users to save money, in turn gaining these celebrities more ‘Instagram fame’ and self-promotion, and again, in turn, gaining more followers for the ‘celebrity’.
However, there are several arguments raised that point towards the use of Instagram having a negative impact on its users’ mental health and their own self-image. Instagram is regarded as the worst social media platform with regards to mental health, according to a mental health poll posted online by the BBC. This poll asked 1,500 people with ages ranging from 14-24 to score social media apps on concerns regarding body image, anxiety and depression. The poll concluded that over 65% of users felt that social media applications; Instagram and Facebook, in particular, had a negative effect on their self-confidence and self-image. This idea is furthered in a newspaper article published in the Asia News Monitor highlights;
“At the 2011 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA), Rosen warned that frequent overuse of social media could cause mental illnesses in young people – for example, bipolar disorder, which was an alternate emotional state between mania and depression, a symptom related to delusions and hallucinations.”
World: Researcher says children’s overuse of social media could affect physical and mental health (2013), Bangkok.
This article explains further the negative impact that social media can have on young people, highlighting the various mental illnesses that can be induced through the use of social media platforms.
This idea is furthered through another article broadening how Instagram can have a negative effect on its users;
“Instagram, a social networking site (SNS) with an emphasis on photo-sharing, is popular among young adults. Past research revealed positive and negative consequences of SNS use. We investigated how individuals emotionally respond to imagined positive and negative Instagram feedback depending on personality and self-presentation on Instagram, using a sample of Instagram users 18–30.”
This text explores the results of a questionnaire produced by the authors, originally for Facebook, but adapted for Instagram. The “Depressive Experiences Questionnaire” aimed to measure, “personality; the Self-Presentation on Facebook Questionnaire (adapted for Instagram) measured self-presentation on Instagram; positive and negative Instagram feedback scenarios were created to simulate situations experienced on Instagram; positive and negative affect clusters measured emotional reaction to the Instagram scenarios. False self-presentation mediated the relationship between Self-criticism and effective response to negative Instagram scenarios, highlighting the negative impact of intent to deceive on social media.”
The results of the questionnaire highlighted that those who scored highly regarding unstable personality measures, self-criticism and dependency answered with a negative effect to negative Instagram situations. However, those who scored highly in both dependency, showing signs of an adaptive personality answered with a positive effect on the positive Instagram situation.
The idea of different personalities being affected in different ways through Instagram is continued as the author states;
“Individuals motivated by interpersonal relatedness are more vulnerable to interpersonal feedback (e.g. being liked, rejected) (Besser & Priel, 2011) and low self-esteem (Leary, Terdal, Tambor, & Downs, 1995), while self-critical individuals use SNSs to fulfill the need for self-presentation (Mongrain & Zuroff, 1995).”
This explains further the way in which social media sites, focussing on Instagram in particular, can affect vulnerable users in a negative manner, thus having an effect on their mental health as the statement highlights some users do feel negative about themselves if they do not feel ‘liked.’
Throughout Sheldon and Bryant’s article, motives for the use of Instagram and its relationship to narcissism, it discusses how some users may be fuelled by their own narcissistic ways, posting to their ‘imagined audience,’ meaning an audience users have whom they think to hold them as a priority when it comes to viewing profiles on Instagram, the authors’ explain;
“Another factor that might be related to Instagram use is narcissism. Buffardi and Campbell (2008) argued that narcissists use social network sites because they function well in the context of shallow relationships and highly controlled environments, where they have complete power over self-presentation.”
Highlighting that Instagram can have a negative effect on mental health with users being overly cautious and concerned about who might be judging them for what they are posting.
This idea is continued throughout this article; “In one of the few Instagram studies, Marcus (2015) found that, compared to other SNS sites, Instagram is based more on one’s personal identity rather than relational identity. Marcus analyzed the images that five individuals, ages 22–25, posted on Instagram, and concluded that Instagram exists for people to self-promote”
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