When Instagram Starts to Hurt

In high school, I was an avid Instagram user. Outings with friends were feverishly documented to present the image of a large and happy friend group. Obliging friends went on 'photo shoots' so we’d each have at least one photo staring seductively into the camera followed by long discussions about the correct captions. After the post was made, the likes were carefully tracked to see whose picture got the most attention. It was exhausting. Not only was the process exhausting, but it was not an accurate representation of reality. Only the good stuff makes the cut to get uploaded online. But seeming perfect is not the same as being perfect; the former is easily achieved yet the latter is impossible. Instagram cultivates an obsession with the appearance of perfection. This obsession is unhealthy because it leads to insecurity and unfair self-comparisons to others.An app called FaceTune has taken over Instagram. FaceTune is an easy alternative to Photoshop for users who want to edit their photos without extensive knowledge in editing. FaceTune ups the ante on what is considered attractive by allowing everyone to reach a level of perfection previously reserved for professional models or photographers. When perfection is the norm, it is even harder to accept your imperfections. Even if you acknowledge that most photos on your Instagram feed are either edited on Instagram or with technology like FaceTune, it is nearly impossible not to compare yourself to the beautiful women on your feed. Images that have the upper hand of technology-enhanced beauty make it even harder to embrace your own natural beauty. Additionally, once people edit posts using FaceTune and receive positive feedback in the form of increased likes and comments, it is often too addictive to go back to posting unedited photos. People who use FaceTune regularly are insecure also; they know it’s not their natural beauty that is getting all the attention, creating a feeling of reliance on editing to feel beautiful. It is all too easy to assume that what is seen on a screen is the truth; but most of what comes up on your Instagram feed is doctored in some way.

Instagram is the one place where everyone seems prettier, happier, thinner, and more successful than in reality. Instagram allows users to only share the good parts of life. Seeing everyone’s best moments by scrolling through Instagram while living in your worst moments feels unbelievably lonely. While social media apps like Instagram connects humans in ways unheard of 10 years ago, social media can also make people, especially teenagers, feel very alone by broadcasting what everyone is up to.

Instagram promotes FOMO aka “fear of missing out”. Even if you were perfectly content watching a Netflix series on a Friday night, seeing a post about how much fun a party was is sure to make you wish you had gone out. Loyal users of Instagram who scroll miles on their phone daily will most likely vouch for the fact that they often see a post they wish they had missed. Seeing other people’s fun hangouts, big friend groups, lit parties, and exotic vacations everyday induce feelings of inadequacy and missing out.

If your emotions are controlled by Instagram, it might be time to quit it. Though Instagram can be a fun way to blog about your life, when it starts being more stressful than fun it might be time to slow down. After all, what you can’t see can’t hurt you.