The Misconception of Media Perception
Instagram has become the new "popular" social media for the young generation. It is a media sphere where few adults show interest, and thus, it is becoming an outlet for young social expression. Food, bodies, and traveling are most commonly photographed. Instagrammer's lives are appearing increasingly perfect, yet the reality is, the effort users have to put into filtering their images is creating a higher standard for beauty. Teens and young adults are using Instagram to depict attractive parts of their lives which is contributing to a false persona.
Instagram's "plastic" identities are creating a fake perception of who users are in comparison to others.
Popular pages are praised for their shallow photographs. The sites main goal is to market products to users that will make them more attractive. But the attractive stems further then your own personal looks. These days, objects are more beautiful than ever: anything from the food you eat to the coffee cup you buy, and even your computer can be photographed in a way that makes it appear flawless. The problem is, users are wasting their time putting on an "image" that will gain likes and spending less time focusing on what really matters, who they truly are. Before Instagram's presence, people ate healthy and exercised, but this has been taken to a whole new level. Users are constantly photographing themselves at the gym.
A decade ago, if one was capturing repetitive photos of themselves, it would have been considered not only vein, but an obsession and a concern with body image. Today, it appears to be the norm. Furthermore, users are photographing their post work out snacks. Can you imagine how hungry you are after a workout? Now imagine having to make an appealing healthy snack, and waiting to eat it just so you can get the perfect shot. Pictures are being incorporated into our lives like we've never seen before, and all of our new found patience is just for the self gratification we gain from "likes."
Emma Lindley responds to the topic of "hyper connectivity" in "Is Social Networking Redefining Identity?" Lindley discusses social media's influence on users constant need for new information "Comparing ourselves to others is an inevitable side effect of online social networking, and this can have hugely negative consequences for self-esteem and assumptions about what is ‘normal’(Lindley)." A competition through who has the most witty or intellectual comments and statuses as well as who displays the most flawless images. Instagram is a network that appears to be based only on the popularity of photos. Instagrammers' who receive the most gratification are often the ones with the most money.
These are the girls who eat an unrealistic amount of fruit and who are constantly taking picturesque selfies in their ever so trendy clothing. However, Instagram praises materialistic people for more than just the products they consume. In fact, like other forms of social media, loves good bodies. In "Tweet, Tag Pin to be Thin" Alaina Butler examines the medias lack of success in censoring negative body images. Butler found #Thinspiration, #pro-ana (anorexia), pro-buli (bulimia) are among the many hashtags used to promote unhealthy eating habits. Her research suggests users create anonymous accounts and use these hashtags as a way to share their disorder and relate to others.
Furthermore, users who participate in the gym selfies follow the norm by drinking the latest healthy protein shakes and of course, wearing the Calvin Klein sports bra or latest Nike Athletic Gear. That's right, Instagram likes bodies that market products.
Social Media is exploiting users identities. It is taking away uniqueness and focusing on acceptable images. The instagram revolution is playing a huge role in creating narrow identities.
Instagram praises a life of luxury thus leading popular users to gain "likes" through photos of adventure, attractive food, perfect bodies and designer clothing. What were once useful items in everyday lives have now become outlets for media, and have pressure to appear flawless. In "What I Instragrammed vs. What Was Really Happening, Or My Entire Life is a Lie" Olivia Muenter discusses the effort put into creating the perfect Instagram. Muenter reveals every good instagram users secret, and the fact that it's staged. People are not perfect, yet with enough patience and dedication they can appear that way. Muenter breaks down her routine of staging items, pretending to eat food, pretending to study hard, and the reality that these portrayals are unhealthy and not realistic.
The root of the identity problems comes down to what users find "like" worthy. By filtering images according to our "likes," Instagram is creating a narrow perception of our interests. No longer will that bruised apple ever be bought, or that zit on your face ever forgotten.In "A Defining Time: Health, Physical Education, Sport & Recreation" Dr. John Quay and Amanda Mooney study the effects of social media on Australian adolescents perception of body image. "The ‘ideals’ attained by participants were often related back to SM and SNSs, such as, Tumblr and Instagram. These specific sites more so than others, appeared to be able to dictate what is ‘popular’ and what is seemingly ‘cool’. It was these sites in particular that enabled young and arguably less experienced users to gain an understanding of the type of pictures that are expected and respected by social network users. Problematically, inexperienced users are therefore merely reproducing and maintaining the culturally endorsed norms associated with these photographic images. They are creating a SNS persona not based on individuality and individual expression apparently for fear of reprisal in the event of straying too far from these socially constructed norm (Quay-Mooney, 77)."
One could argue that social media is strengthening the reflection of identity, and giving credit where due. In "Teens, Social Media, and Privacy" by Mary Madden, researchers examined the how youth are using sharing settings on social media sites. The focus group expressed many negative feelings about Facebook. The group referred to Facebook as drama and emphasized the growing number of adult users. "the focus group participants who used Instagram expressed particular excitement about this social media site...they find Instagram a place that ties more directly into creative self-expression and sharing one’s perspective. The site may have less social interaction overall, and fewer interactions with known friends, but the interactions for many are generally supportive and encouraging. The internet presence or absence of high social stakes seems to be less about the specific features of the site, and more about the way in which people use it. (Madden, 26). However, social media has created many forms of copying. The consequence is that many artists are actually straying away from social media in order to maintain their originality for fear that their art may be "shared" so many times that it is untraceable to the creator.
Social media is changing users outlook on life. It is consuming individuals minds with the lives of others and creating a competition, often between false identities. Then again, it is a reflection of our society, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. And as a reflection, our only hope for society is that that someday, Instagram neglects consumerism and projects a society for the greater good.