Social media platforms such as Instagram have become extremely popular for young teenagers, and specifically females. Instagram is a platform that allows people to express themselves through pictures that can be edited and filtered. Instagram was built in order for people to show others who they “truly” are, but more frequently now people use the platform as a tool to compare themselves to others. Instagram does more harm than good to women’s self- esteem levels because it represents an alternative reality right in front of your face. Women who choose to follow celebrities, or Instagram famous people are constantly seeing posts that represent unrealistic appearances and lives. Women strive to make their Instagram newsfeeds perfect so that they can feel better about themselves after seeing the popularity that many celebrities and others receive in terms of followers and likes on their pictures. This is detrimental, and leaves so many people feeling extremely insecure and worthless. Instagram is also deceiving because people only choose to post things that they want others to see. It is easy to be “fake” on Instagram, and only selectively post something that you want people to see. For example, people actively post images of themselves that have been completely photoshopped and edited, when in reality those people look nothing like their photos. Instagram gives people the opportunity to completely take away what makes them human, which is the fact that we all have flaws and no one is perfect. For these reasons and more, Instagram negatively impacts our self-esteem levels (Instagram and How Social Media is Ruining Our Self-Esteem).
A study done by The University of Wisconsin-Madison found that scrolling through Instagram could be “more damaging to your psyche than you think” (How Instagram Is Affecting The Way We Perceive Ourselves And The World Around Us). When we scroll through Instagram, we see images that people perfectionize and we start to believe that people’s lives are way more perfect than our own. This creates a sense of envy and jealousy, and ultimately crushes our self-esteem levels because we want those perfect lives that we can never have. By stalking other people’s photos on Instagram, we begin to loathe ourselves when we see photos of someone living a better life than our own. To fill this gap, we try and compete with these incredible photos by posting photos that people will be equally envious about. Even if these photos are not a true depiction of someone’s life, we will post it anyways because if we get enough likes on a picture we feel a sense of validation of ourselves (How Instagram Is Affecting The Way We Perceive Ourselves And The World Around Us). To go along with this, females feel like the more likes they receive and the more followers they have, the more popular and worthy they are. If people get enough likes, it boosts their confidence level, but if they don’t get enough likes on a photo, it kills their self-esteem (Are Likes and Filters Affecting Your Self-Esteem). When people don’t get as many likes or followers as they would like to, they begin to think something is wrong with them, or that they are ugly, which ultimately crushes their self-esteem. With that being said, females will go to an extreme to feel envied by others. With all of the Instagram accounts of models in bikinis with flawless bodies, females begin to feel like they need to look like that for people to accept them. The perfection that females strive to get with their Instagram can be damaging to their confidence and can turn into an eating disorder and mental illness. The University of Buffalo found that “women who base their self-worth on their appearance are likely to post more pictures of themselves on social media seeking validation. In turn, they are also more likely to have a larger number of followers” (Why Don’t I Look Like Her).
An article in the Guardian interviewed college aged females about Instagram and how it makes them feel, and many of their answers were negative. Many of the women talk about how Instagram makes them feel extremely insecure and worthless. One woman said, “I feel anxiety over how many likes I get after I post a picture. If I get two likes, I feel like, what’s wrong with me? Some people judge Instagram by deleting photos that don’t get enough likes. I wouldn’t do that, but I would definitely second-guess my intentions with posting them” (Young Women On Instagram and Self-Esteem). Social media such as Instagram increases people’s insecurities to an extreme extent because it allows them to critique themselves, along with comparing themselves to those who they follow. An article in Elle Magazine looks at research done by David G. Schlundt, an associate professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. In the article, Schlundt explains “that because people tend to be hypercritical when it comes to their own (Google-able) images, social media can lead to heightened insecurities. ‘What other people see as unique or interesting features, we see as flaws in our appearance’” (Why Don’t I Look Like Her). If we are not satisfied by the likes and comments we receive on a particular photo that we posted, we automatically jump to the conclusion that we are not valued and that we don’t look good. We are our own worst critics because we let ourselves believe the worst and assume the worst. Lastly, an article in The Huffington Post discusses how social media platforms like Instagram have become teenage girls and adult women’s “North Star” for finding meaning and a purpose in life. Females believe that Instagram will give them validation because it will give them attention and recognition from their peers. It is powerful that “receiving attention by way of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ on Facebook or Instagram, can light up the brain’s reward centers triggering a hit of dopamine that, for some, is euphoric and addictive” (4 Ways Social Media Can Undermine Girls and Women). People on Instagram constantly compare themselves to others in a negative way, which leads them to believe that they will never be good enough in real life. Women are comparing their lives, their looks, their bodies, which increases the likelihood they will suffer from an eating disorder, depression, and more.
Author: Rebecca Olsen- Junior at the University of Vermont majoring in Public Communication.
Advisor: Rob Williams, Ph.D. (University of Vermont); Professor of Media/Communications.
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