Why Instagram is an Intense Trigger for Mental Health

February 24, 2019

As teenagers and young adults, it is undeniable that we spend more time than we probably should unintentionally scrolling on our phones. Social media- Instagram in particular- is truly a double-edged sword. While it allows us to connect with people from multiple backgrounds all around the world, it can severely decrease the great mood we had prior to opening the app. Here are a few triggers that are common to those inquisitive individuals who independently surf Instagram’s popular platform.

 

 Photo: NeONBRAND on Unsplash

 

#1: I am not attractive enough

 

Let’s face it, there are certain users on Instagram’s platform that utilize it as a full-time job. These users are constantly posting only the highest quality of pictures which are most likely staged or taken simply to “post” with their followers. Oftentimes, the thought that one is not attractive enough is immediately triggered when scrolling through the “popular page,” or select posts which are chosen by Instagram’s algorithm based on other photos you have liked and users you have followed.

 

The Social Comparison Orientation (SCO) theory, described in a research paper by Chia-chen Yang, refers to an “inclination to compare one’s accomplishments, one’s situation, and one’s experiences with those of others.” Applying this theory may be especially helpful when observing the world of Instagram, which allows for constant and continual social comparison.

 

In her SCO research, Yang goes on to describe both upward and downward social comparison, which have a lot to do with how we compare our physical appearances. Upward social comparison is comparing oneself with “superior” others, triggering negative intrapersonal emotions. On the other hand, downward social comparison is comparing oneself with “inferior” others, enhancing one’s “subjective well-being.” While downward social comparison may seem egoistical and slightly positive, the act of comparison is a rocky boat to sail on when it comes to mental health.

 

#2: I do not have enough followers and likes

 

When you come to think of it, there is little chance that you actually talk to your hundreds of social media followers. Even if you do, there is a quite slim chance that you would actually mention to them in person, “Hey, I like your new dog that you just posted!” Social media can easily allow for disingenuous social interaction, which may also be harmful to your mental well-being.

 

That being said, it is likely wise to view others’ profiles and interactions with a grain of salt. Although these individuals may have more of a “following” than you, it does not necessarily mean that they have the ideal life everyone yearns for. Some people even purchase their Instagram followers just for the sake of increasing their numbers.

 

According to a University of Pennsylvania research study, social media use increases both depression and loneliness. While this study generalizes social media as one entity, Instagram is a major player within this category of research, being the second most used social media platform with roughly 117 million users, right behind Facebook.

 

#3: My feed is not “aesthetically pleasing”

 

You have heard it before- the famous gatherings of people to take an “artsy” Instagram photo to perhaps “blend in with their feed.” In other words, photos are oftentimes staged to fit in with the color palette or style of previous photos posted.

 

Some users get insanely into this concept- they want to prove to the world that their profile is a flawless representation of their lifestyles. They want to show off that they have a great time with friends, have the coolest summer vacations, and provide the best content.

 

However, these seemingly amazing posts are actually dangerous. The Telegraph even associates a disease with the picture-posting process- “selfitis”- the obsessive need to post selfies.

 

Instagram users desperately desire a high number of likes and the most complimentary of comments. They want to prove to other users that they have it all together on social media, but in reality, those particular individuals may be the farthest from that- perhaps with their mental health on the line.

 

“In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life,” advised Melissa Hunt, psychologist leading the aforementioned Penn Research Team.

 

Although Instagram is proven to be a trigger for mental health, there have been positive responses to the negative effects of social media. Platforms such as YouTube highlight certain lifestyle channels like Jaclyn Denton, Annie Jaffrey, Brooke Miccio and Michelle Reed, who get real with their viewers and say that life simply is not perfect, even though the media may make it seem that way.

 

The popular “Assumptions About Me Tag,” a trending questionnaire video on YouTube where content creators ask their viewers to send them assumptions about themselves, is visibly demonstrating to viewers that even those with thousands of subscribers do not have the impeccable “Insta-worthy” life. So, there are positive influencers who address the pressing topic of mental health in a “sister-advice-like” fashion.

 

All in all, Instagram is advised to be a supplementary communication tool. The more you live your life in the present, the happier and more fulfilled you will be. All that comparison, all that pressure posting, and all that unnecessary negativity that floods your mind can be turned off, simply with a closure of an app.

 

Victoria Giardina is an 18 student at The College of New Jersey pursuing a Major in Journalism and Professional Writing with a  Minor in Communication Studies. Victoria's favorite movie is The Greatest Showman and you can never find her without her planner! As the founder of Kick It Cancer (www.kickitcancer.org) and a news anchor for her campus-wide news station- LTV News, Victoria steps up for community outreach, leadership, and creative storytelling. In the future, Victoria hopes to work in the broadcasting industry in New York City.

 

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