From Our Community Spaces to Our Self-Image, Instagram is Taking a Toll
Instagram is a photographer’s social media paradise, full of beautiful, evocative and artistic imagery. But, with one billion active global users (only 12 million of them within the US), the platform is having an out-sized effect on the way we live our lives.
Designing “Instagram-worthy” and “Instagrammable” spaces is taking priority, as seen in this list of “10 Most Instagram-Worthy Wall Art in Los Angeles.”
PBS asks a valid question, “Is Instagram killing our museum culture or reinventing it?” What can’t be denied is that the social platform is changing the experience we all have at museums and other public spaces:
“While museums have learned to capitalize on social media to promote exhibits, the way they curate and plan shows may be changing with social media — and especially Instagram — in mind. A 2017 report by marketing firm LaPlaca Cohen called ‘Culture Track’ suggests that the definition of culture is changing. Participants in the study said they would much rather be entertained than educated, and preferred social interactions, as opposed to quiet reflection, when attending cultural events like exhibitions. The study also found that 81 percent of responders wanted digital experiences when visiting museums.”
While the benefits of cultural shift can be debated, an individual’s self-image is demonstrably diminished by comparisons with the lives portrayed by Instagram influencers.
In a British study by the Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram ranked as the worst social media platform for teen and young adult mental health. The 1500 participants associated the platform with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO (fear of missing out).
With articles like “9 Things on the Internet that make Moms Stressed AF,” some of the more outlandish parenting activities become running joke among moms, like bento box lunches or extravagant baby birthday parties. But being regularly confronted with these unrealistic expectations still has a negative effect on moms, with almost half of moms reporting feeling stressed by social media.
The Effects Are Real, but They Are Based on Fantasy
What we see on Instagram is not real. It’s not even a snapshot of one happy moment in a regular, hectic life. Instagram influencers basically create fake lives for the benefit of their followers. The Atlantic recently took a look behind the curtain:
“Matt Klein, a cultural strategist at the consultancy Sparks & Honey says, ‘We all know the jig is up. We’ve all participated in those staged photos. We all know the stress and anxiety it takes.’”
Recently, one mom’s Facebook post went viral. Jen Flint reveals how much preparation, staging and acting goes into one “Instagrammable” pool session with a child:
This year’s newest crop of influencers claim to achieve a more raw and realistic aesthetic. When you read about what they’re trying to do, it sounds convincing:
“‘Avocado toast and posts on the beach. It’s so generic and played out at this point. You can photoshop any girl into that background and it will be the same post,’ said Claire, a 15-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym because of her age. ‘It’s not cool anymore to be manufactured.’”
It may not be cool to look manufactured, but a random screenshot of rising star Emma Chamberlain’s feed shows carefully planned (even manufactured) photography.
I predict that this new “authentic” approach will cause even more disruption as people compare their actual lives to what influencers are promoting as their own messy, complicated lives. We know that life is not perfect, but we seem willing to believe that life could be perfect for someone else.