Instagram Game: How 'Likes' Hurt

Ever wake up to the sound of your phone buzzing? Or get instantly side tracked by a new notification or like? What about spending all day ruminating about the perfect caption for your post that’s creative, puny, and grabs new likes and follows.

There’s no doubt; Instagram is trending. It has over a quarter of U.S. young adults citing it as their favorite platform to engage family, friends, news, products, and more. Reality is, Instagram appeals to all of us offering products, shopping tips, news updates, inspiration, and most importantly, instant connection to networks of family and friends. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like being ‘liked’… right?

If you’re thinking, yes, that’s me… you’re not alone. In fact, over 70% of Americans use Instagram daily, spending at least 15 solid minutes engaging with the app per day. Instagram see’s at least 90 million new photos each day, tallying nearly 4 billion ‘likes’.

The growth of this platform, and the time, effort, cognitive and emotional resources poured into it by American users—it’s shocking and incites question: Why? What’s driving this obsession? What’s the personal gain?

When you take a step back and critically examine the act of ‘liking’ and ‘posting pictures’ you gain humbling perspective. You start to see what’s missing. Instagram markets as an avenue to connect, grow networks and stay informed on the real-time happenings within social circles. It’s branded as a source of friendship, happiness and connection. Yet, ask yourself: 1) How many followers are your actual friends? 2) Does ‘liking’ suffice as human connection? 3) Do the pictures make you feel happy and proud?

It seems like instead of boosting human connection and happiness, we are engaging with technology that’s readily blocking it. While Instagram, like other media platforms, succeeds in providing instant gratification, happiness, and sense of belonging, this gain is fleeting. What’s left are distanced relationships, strained self-esteem, and fewer minutes in the day.

Insta acts to consider

Do you ever follow someone just to feel better about yourself? Not an account that offers advice on wellness or career growth, but a person who you feel a sense of superiority over; someone who boosts your own self-confidence at their expense. While it may seem trivial, this repetitive act reinforces a cycle of false validation. We are all desperate to be liked, followed and appreciated; it’s human nature. What becomes problematic is letting external sources of validation (i.e Instagram followers) define us. The fear of rejection is strong. It urges us to take what we can get and even settle for less then what’s best for us. It’s important to recognize this cycle of false validation to prevent it from affecting real life relationships beyond Instagram.

What about the old like-unlike routine. Done that? As the fight for a strong follower base intensifies, real, meaningful engagement begins to plummet. Instead of following to engage with others, the act of following today is frequently used as a technique to gain followers. It goes like this: 1) you follow someone, 2) you like their images in an effort to get them to follow you, 3) once you gain their followership, you quickly un-follow them to preserve an image of ‘being liked more than you like others’ (i.e. having more followers than followed). When you stop and think about this routine, you become aware of how hurtful this is to one’s self-image and self-confidence. This routine is driven by low self-esteem and perpetuates low-self esteem, keeping people stagnant in feelings of inadequacy.

Pictures to be proud of? Why do we see so many swimsuit pictures, mirror pictures, workout bods, puppies, and products? These images aren’t screaming connection and relationship building, but rather materialism, sex, normed beauty, and commodities. It is important to recognize the impact of the pictures you see daily. How do they make you feel? How does what you see change your thoughts and actions? Reality is, what we are exposed to largely impacts our thoughts, emotions, and actions. It’s important to recognize the ways in which we absorb these messages and how they impact our own personal wellbeing.

Truth is, we can all better our habits on social media. And— it’s worth it to preserve healthy relationships, self-image, confidence, and wellbeing. The first step towards healthier engagement is recognizing the ways in which we negatively engage with media platforms like Instagram. The second step is action; actively monitoring, reducing, or best case, stoping, these hurtful acts in their tracks.

Here at Wellman Psychology and Associates, we work hard to educate our team and our clients on healthy uses of social media. We strive to treat ourselves and others respectfully on all media platforms. Join us in this goal today!

Use Media to boost you up, not weigh you down