The Age of Instagram: A Self-Conscious Teenager

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I remember listening to my two classmates discuss a recent photo that one of them had shared on Instagram. One classmate said to the other. “How many likes did you get?” The other explained, “I did pretty well, I got about 100.” From that point on my whole perspective on social media changed. I realised that among teenagers, social media displays the social hierarchy. A simple concept, that most are able to comprehend. Whoever had the most “like’s” is the most popular. To someone who doesn’t use social media, this sounds so irrelevant and stupid, it makes something so simple so hard to comprehend.This concept has been playing on the self-consciousness of teenagers since Instagram’s first release on October 6, 2010. Teenagers (and I am guilty myself) are falling for the trap of believing this. After I heard that conversation I became extremely self-conscious about how I appeared online, and in the social circle at my school. It led to a rise in social anxiety for myself, and took me a while to become happy with my self-image in my school. If this was happening to me I can only wonder what is going on with the other millions of Instagram users. This begs the question. Is Instagram ruining people’s lives?

It doesn’t feel like long ago when I first created my first Instagram account (I’ll explain the creation of my second Instagram account later). I was 13 years old. A young self-conscious teenager who just wanted to fit in like everyone else. I had no reason to make an account. Everyone else had one so it only seemed reasonable that I should have one too. Right? I look at my social media accounts now days and think. “What is the point?” Why do people feel the need to constantly update the world on how seemingly perfect their lives are?” That seems to be the way it is at least. To fabricate material so that they can hide the fact that their lives are not so perfect. The statistics on teenager’s mental health have become damaging to us as a society, and it questions the correlation between mental health and social media. It seems so obvious that if all the research has been done, why are people not stemming away from the use of these sites? It seems that our everyday lives seemed to be wrapped up in a phone now. If you want to check your calendar, your phone is now your calendar. If you want to listen to some music your phone is now your iPod. If you want to get a quick release of pleasure, you no longer need to go socialise with your friends, your phone is your source of pleasure. It really makes me glad my parents were advocates for playing outside when I was a child.

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 5.09.34 pmThe idea of receiving “likes” stimulates the brains release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is the chemical for pleasure; this is why people become addicted to using Instagram and other social media platforms.  And companies aren’t afraid to make a profit off this insecurity. There has recently been an emerge in company’s that will get random profiles to “like” photos so that it boosts the amount of likes you get. One website even quotes on their page, “Having no likes makes you look lonely and desperate… Buy Facebook likes today and instantly look like a pro!”Seeing a quote like this reinforces the values and attitudes displayed in society towards the issue of social media.

There is a recent trend in the use of “private grams” or “priv.” (this is my second account). This is the expression used to describe a person’s very personal account where many people share mindless content and jokes. This has added the potential for additional online bullying. From my experience I have seen people post sexist, racist, and other offensive posts about other people on their private grams. This makes me curious as how these people will react. Maybe they brush the post aside, maybe they become hurt by it, or maybe that post was enough to push to the edge of suicide. It raises many questions on how we perceive mental health as a society, especially with the amount of resources that have gone into the education of bullying on social media. I suppose many of the people who share this type of content aren’t aware of the repercussions because they believe that the content is private so that only their friends can see it, but they fail to remember that once is goes up on the net it will never come down.

“Keeping up with the Jones’” is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbour as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods. This idea has been redefined with the creation of Instagram because now you have hundreds of neighbours to compare your life to. People are feeling the pressure to keep up to standards in fitness, and health and wellbeing. This can be seen as a massive complication for people of all ages, who compare themselves to everyone else. This ties in with the recently cultivated term “Instafamous”. The term implies that average people are considered famous purely for the fact they have a large fan base on their social media accounts. We could relate this idea to a celebrity like Kim Karadashian, for the fact that besides her massive touché there is nothing special about her and no reason for her to be famous. The thing is, these “Instafamous” people are moulding perceptions of how young teenagers feel they need to look, to be perceived as being beautiful. This is an aspect of the self-image problem. For the followers of these accounts they are constantly reminded to wear a push up bra to show off your breasts, or have rock have hard abs to prove your masculinity. These things are adding to the self-conscious nature of many teenagers in our society, which is adding to the emotional stress and anxiety for many people now days.

There are cases coming out now where experts are beginning to caution against extended smartphone use during breastfeeding or bottle feeding, pointing to studies which have found that feeding time is critical to mother-child bonding. It is said that a mother distracted by her phone could be ignoring important messages from her baby, says Dr. Kateyune Kaeni, a psychologist specialising in maternal mental health who works with new moms at Pomona Valley. “If baby is trying to make contact with you by noises or smiles and they can’t and they learn over time that they can’t rely on you to respond, it runs the risk of them becoming either anxiously attached to you or insecurely attached to you and they will ramp up their behaviour until you pay attention,” Kaeni says. This case is considerably concerning for the new generations, as phones have already caused an increase in anti-social behaviours, this new case study may prove that phones are having even more of an anti-social effect on our society than we had thought.

So how do I deal with my social media addiction? Here are 5 easy ways to manage your addiction.

  1. Focus – Limit the number of social networking applications you use, and restrict them to ones deemed most important to your work and personal life.
  2. Cull your Network – If you don’t really know a person, or feel like your newsfeed is being flooded with funny animal videos, un-follow that friend or page so that not inundated with mindless feed.
  3. Use Lists and Filters – Both Twitter and Facebook offer friend list features that, if implemented properly, let you quickly view the status updates of a specific group of people. This way, you can view just the updates that are most relevant to you at any given moment.
  4. Use a Schedule – Schedule your use of social media. Unless there’s an overwhelming reason otherwise, don’t leave Facebook or other social media sites open in a web browser tab all the time.
  5. Set a Timer – For a very extreme method, you can use your smartphone or an alarm clock, but if you can have the timer/ alarm sound as annoying as possible (and out of reach of your arm), you’ll possibly start to associate using social networking with having to get out of your chair and turn off the annoyance.

 

 

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