There is little doubt that the Instagram hype, rife in our generation, has created a digital environment of competition and comparison. The Gryphon discusses the detrimental effects that powerful social media applications like Instagram can have.
We are constantly surrounded by the anxieties of: How many followers do I have? How many likes will my photo get? What filter would look the best? Unfortunately, reality does not quite live up to that Instagram perfect shot, as we only see what people allow us see.
The craze of social media allows us to be the artists of our own lives, only exposing what we choose, and then flaunting this for the purpose of building our own social image. Therefore, it is no wonder that this Instagram anxiety has erupted from a frenzy of 60 million uploads per day. People are able to edit, improve, and transform their images, using photography applications, in order to boost their ‘Insta-fame’. The number of likes and followers seem to be at the very forefront of people’s concerns when it comes to Instagram, but when surrounded by news of Kendall Jenner’s record breaking amount of likes, it is all too easy for this obsession to grow.
Only recently have Insta-famous people begun to move away from the Instagram fixation by revealing to followers what their real world looks like. Model, Stina Sanders, began uploading photos of herself in real life, depicting unglamorous situations such as removing facial hair, her feet after the gym, and her colonic irrigation machine. It did not take long until she suddenly lost 3,000 followers, due to the lack of beauty and glamour of such posts. So, when all we do is cause ourselves frustration and anxiety over these perfect Instagram lives, why is this is all we seem to want to see? We like the idea of being able to reinvent ourselves and, for those followers who do not know us personally, control their perception of us and design an idyllic life for our own self-assurance. There is a strong desire for people to know that, by what they upload, their followers see that they are happy and always having a good time. This can create anxiety as some may feel that they have been left out of social situations and should be having an equally fun time, rather than tucked up in bed at 10pm on a Saturday night.
Essena O’Neill’s story went viral after she restructured her Instagram account with new and improved captions of the truth behind the photograph. She revealed the efforts that went into each snapshot, including the hundreds of shots it took get the perfect one, how she would not eat before to make herself appear thinner, and the money she earned from brands to model clothes. She admitted that she would get dressed and made up purely to get that Instagram worthy shot. Not only is there an avid desperation and sense of emptiness created by this, but the conflict between publishing the perfect versus the real also goes to show how applications such as Instagram really feed artificiality.
Ironically, there is something antisocial about social media. Some people would rather be sat around the dinner table, checking on their most recent Instagram post to see if it has enough likes, rather than have a conversation. Others do not let their phones leave their hands, anxious to see whom their next follower is. This compulsion withdraws people somewhat from the real world and lures them into this digital fantasy. People become more concerned about their Internet image than that of real life, whilst they ponder over what hashtags to use, the best time of day to post, and the most attractive filter to use. This, in turn, creates a sense of disillusionment and leads people to believe that their self-worth is only decided by their Instagram reputation. Mark Zuckerberg said that social media will be ‘the empowerment of people’, but surely this can only go so far– perhaps it could be more detrimental that people think.
In extreme cases, people such as Kerry Hooton have spoken out about their troubles that were triggered by the flawless lives of Instagrammers. Swayed by the illusion of these images, her anxiety developed to the point of an eating disorder, seeing her weight drop to just 5st 7lbs. She believes that Instagram was the main prompt for this plummet as the purely image-based social media left her feeling inadequate. Instagram have since banned the use of hashtags such as ‘proanorexia’, ‘probulimia’ and ‘thinspiration’. Despite this, the trend remains. Social media inherently provides the platform for such issues to multiply.
As Instagram and other medias continue to put on a show, they condition us on the basis of appearance, picking ourselves apart bit-by-bit, and give way to lack of privacy in people’s lives. There seems to be an unnatural sense of publicity created by social media – everyone always seems to know who is where, who is doing what, who is with who. Because of this, we become vulnerable to all of the glamorous portrayals of so-called perfect lives and some are left hypnotised when they see the daily celebrations of Insta-perfection. As a generation born into and living alongside this viral disease, our susceptibility continues to grow.
Images: @essenaoneill, @stinasanders