Instagram is a hit. According to their website, the Instagram community has 200 million members and counting. The mobile app has grown into one of the most prevalent social networks we have.
But although the site markets itself as a “fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures,” it might not be as spectacular as it appears. Instead of being a fun way to connect with others, the obsession over Instagram has become the sole motive behind an individual’s actions and lifestyles.
In his article, “#Me: Instagram Narcissism And The Scourge Of The Selfie,” John Paul Titlow states, “Instagram is a breeding ground for many people’s most narcissistic tendencies.” As direct and initially offensive as this statement may be, I think Titlow makes a valid point. The lives that many people portray on Instagram are a façade they want their followers to believe is reality. When scrolling through someone’s page, all of the pictures are perfect and idyllic: a sunset over some distant mountains, a photo of expertly executed latte art, and most importantly, selfies. The truth is that most Instagram users only post pictures when they believe they will get likes or comments on them. Where Instagram should be a tool used when you do something exciting, it has become the sole reason people do something.
In an article published by The New York Times titled, “The Agony Of Instagram,” reporter Alex Williams interviewed Jessica Faryar, a stay-at-home mother who finds her friends posting adorable snapshots of their children every chance they get. “[She] remembers seeing one photo featuring a family that had ‘leaves shipped in from out of state, just so the kids could jump in them,’” Williams writes. The issue at hand is not that people shouldn’t post about their lives. That is, after all, the purpose of social media. The problem is that people go to extremes to enhance their image, which creates a culture of envy and competition on the site as a whole.
This envy is the same sort that women have towards super models. Though they know the model’s perfection is not real, that does not mean they will ever stop striving for it.
In her article titled, “My Niece Is a Teenage Instagram Celebrity,” Stephanie Kalem writes that the relationship between her niece, Arianna, and her 45,000 followers, is not a meaningful one. “My niece isn’t real to them,” she initially says, and later adds that “the elementary school fangirls and grammatically challenged fanboys are, for the most part, no realer to my niece than she is to them.” This attitude is what transcends the simplicity that Instagram tries to brand itself with. Nothing on Instagram is real.
Yes, it can be argued that Instagram is real because it is made up of pictures and the images are proof, but what is the depth of those images? And while I am sure people’s friends and family do enjoy their pictures on Instagram, who has 47,000 friends and family? Ultimately, what it comes down to is the authenticity of the images posted. When someone posts a picture of themselves standing atop a cliff overlooking a valley that has been expertly edited with a color enhancing filter, one is led to ask the question, do you really enjoy hiking or did you brave the wilderness solely for that one shot and its subsequent likes? I am as guilty of this behavior as anyone. It feels good to be popular. It feels good to think that others are impressed and possibly somewhat in awe of your life, but it is not healthy.
While Instagram has its purposes and can teach its users about the world around them, for the most part I am disappointed in the culture that Instagram has created.
It is time for people to get back to living a genuine life rather than strategizing and agonizing over how to create the next best post. Life is something that should be lived for yourself, not for a few hundred followers.
This article was published in print on Dec. 3. Due to technical difficulties, it was published online on Dec. 5.
Hannah Leto is a freshman with an undeclared major.