Op-Ed: The Problem With Instagram

Recently, a study published by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK found that Instagram is the most damaging app for young people’s mental health, as its users are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Before I began writing this, I pulled up Instagram on my phone. The pictures on my explore page largely consisted of Brandy Melville models, sorority girls and frat boys partying, beauty gurus with perfectly applied makeup, and rich people posing poolside at extravagant resorts.

Instagram allows us to put forth the best versions of ourselves. We have the ability to choose what aspects of our lives we want our followers to see. Now, this isn’t news to you. You know this, and you, too, are probably tired of it. But are you part of the problem? Because I am.

I’m guilty of cultivating an image of myself on Instagram. Over winter break, I travelled to Japan. I posted a few scenic pictures with (what I thought were) funny captions. On Instagram, it looked like I was having a perfect vacation. In real life, I found out that my dog had rapidly developed cancer and died during my trip. Back in high school, I would put on my cutest clothes and make my friends take pictures of me, “for the ‘gram”.  Every concert I went to, I made sure to take an aesthetically pleasing photo, planning the geotag ahead of time.  

I don’t mind admitting this because I know that everyone has done the same, at least to an extent. What’s prime posting hour? Which filter looks best? Is this caption okay? There is nothing simple about Instagram -- no matter how carefree and chill Kendall Jenner’s beachside post may seem, it’s not.

Last month’s disastrous Fyre Festival showcases it best. The music festival was promoted relentlessly on Instagram, specifically by models like Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski. People ate it up. They bought festival tickets, booked airfare, put their Instagram-worthy outfits together, and then…arrived. The “luxury tents” were actually disaster relief tents. The catered food festival-goers were promised turned out to be cheese sandwiches. The main takeaway? Instagram is not an accurate representation of reality. Posts on Instagram are meticulously cultivated to promote specific lifestyles: this is how you should want to live.

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There are two steps to take in combating the evils of Instagram’s alternate reality. The first is to stop caring about what you post. Don’t worry about how many like you are going to get. Post a photo at 1pm. Don’t ask your friends for caption approval.

The second is harder: stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t waste your time scrolling through the Instagrams of “social media influencers” (which I refuse to believe is a real occupation, by the way). Remind yourself that every person on Instagram -- seriously, every person -- deals with insecurities, regardless of what’s on their profiles. And try to remember this anonymous quote: “Another woman’s beauty is not the absence of your own.”

On that note, here is a short list of wicked cool, fun, or empowering Instagrams you should fill your feed with!

@historyphotographed: “Sharing the most powerful and entertaining historical images ever taken.”

@stylelikeu: “A mother daughter duo. A self-acceptance revolution through style.”

@allthingspups: “Passion, Positivity, & Rescue.”

@earthpix

@drakeoncake

@cashcats: “bout dat lyfe since 2011.”