The Misuse of Instagram and its Effect on Millennials. Part 1
There has been a rise in cases of suicide, bullying, depression, self-harm, incident exposure, and anxiety on social media. This four-part series focuses on the social media Application known as Instagram to establish that the negative effects of Instagram are a result of the millennials who use the Application and not the Application itself. Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook. Instagram was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October 2010. Instagram gives its users the freedom to upload photos and videos. Users can choose to protect their privacy by pre-approving their potential followers. Contents can be viewed via location and the use of tags, style, fashion, latest trends, news, and explore pages.
Instagram is the 6th most popular social network worldwide. It has features that enhance a user’s ability to post better quality pictures and videos. It also has a feature called an Instagram Story. Insta-story as it is commonly called is a feature within the Instagram App. Users can capture and post related images and video content in a slideshow format. According to Instagram, stories are made for friends and family to share more of their lives with when they are close. The stories last for up to 24 hours with an Instagram logo circle showing that the user has a story uploaded. After 24 hours, the story vanishes. A user can add that story to their highlights that will stay on their page for as long as they want it to. Another recent feature is the IGTV video and Reels, which are Apps that can be used alone or in tandem with Instagram. It is an Instagram way of creating somewhat of a YouTube video sharing feature. On Instagram stories, videos can be posted which cannot be longer than two minutes but on IGTV users can set up their own channel and share video content that’s up to an hour-long. Reels is a 30-second video sharing platform on Instagram that is fun and exciting for creatives to use. Instagram also creates diverse filters which users take advantage of when editing or customizing their pictures, videos, or post, for it to appear appealing to their viewers or audience.
Millennials have used social media, especially Instagram to create a very lucrative life. Having a huge following on Instagram can translate into endorsement deals, brand sponsorships, and press trips. There are account users who are paid up to $1,000 – $20,000 to post on Instagram. Instagram has in more ways than one opened the doors for immense creativity, talent, and diversity to take place. It is a platform that educates its users and delves into very sensitive issues. Millennials have become confident in their skin, in who they are, and their sexual orientation. Every day, thousands of people are sharing positive quotes, amazing pictures, stories, news, and entertainment. Individuals are harnessing their talents, learning a skill, and living their truth. This the beauty of social media. Several studies and expert opinions suggest that the use of social media, in general, might have a beneficial effect on children and adolescents by enhancing communication, social connection, and even technical skills. Social networking sites offer multiple daily opportunities to connect with friends and share common interests. Social media was shown to stimulate online socialization, thus supporting self-esteem and various forms of social capital. Social media can also enhance social self-esteem, measured as a perception of one’s body image, close relationships, and romantic appeal, especially when users receive positive feedback from social media friends. These endings are supported by a later study showing that individuals with low self-esteem can improve their condition through the social opportunities provided by social media. Generation Z that begins from the mid-1990s and ends in the early 2000s, therefore, is the generation with the most fragile and impressionable minds. There is a certain level of freedom that comes with running a social media account. Children as young as 13 have the freedom to post, comment, delete, like, and share content on social media at will. While these social media creators monitor the type of content shared on their platform and the impact it has on the community, they can only do so much.
The Stanford Prison project conducted on August 14th to 20th in 1971, was carried out in an attempt to understand the psychological effects of perceived power. It focused on the struggle between prisoners and prison guards/officers. The study used volunteers who were randomly assigned to be either guards or prisoners in a mock prison, with Zimbardo serving as the superintendent. Although the experiment was supposed to last for two weeks, it only lasted six days after several volunteers who were acting as prisoners decided to leave the experiment halfway. Although the results and the message behind the experiment were unclear, in no uncertain terms it showed how serious the roles of guards and prisoners were taken, with the guard’s exacting force and torture on the prisoners both physically and psychologically. The experiment showed that anybody has the potential to exhibit ugly behaviors when they anonymously take on roles without fear of being accountable. The fact remains that ordinary people harbor ugly potentialities.
According to news outlets, on July 14, 2019, the body of a seventeen-year-old Instagram influencer by the name Bianca Devins was posted on Instagram, her throat had been slit. The suspected killer, Brandon Clark age 21, shared some incriminating posts before he uploaded the pictures on his page which could be viewed by his followers for several hours. This was enough time for social media users to share the picture of a deceased girl on their timeline with some making jest and leaving rude remarks. It was then reported by some concerned account holders which led to it being taken down by Instagram. Those pictures were also shared on discord and are still being shared on the internet. Brandon Clark after leaving what seemed to be a goodbye post on his Facebook page attempted to kill himself. He was apprehended by the Utica police department the morning after the murder. According to her family, Brandon was a person she knew, not a random stranger. They had gone to a concert together and were on their way home before the killing occurred. When I read this disheartening news, I did what 80% of Instagram users do, I searched for her name in the Instagram search engine, I perused her pictures and the comments left by some of her social media followers. It turns out that before her death, she had under a thousand people following her. On May 15th, 2019, it was reported that an unnamed teenage girl committed suicide after receiving the results of her Instagram poll. She asked her followers if she should kill herself or not. 31% stated that she shouldn’t and 69% stated that she should. The majority of this poll prompted the girl who resides in Malaysia to take her own life. The unnamed girl jumped to her death in a mall in Malaysia.
There are so many other examples of such cases rampant on social media. While social media is doing its best to curb the rate of bullying, self-harm, suicide, indecent exposure, and explicit languages, it cannot control or contain all of its users. According to Instagram, the minimum age for an account to be created is 13 years. Each day a child is coming of age and has the freedom to own an account on Instagram. There seems to be a lack of self-awareness in today’s generation. There is little to no knowledge about oneself, character, feelings, motives, and desires. People have taken the concept of freedom of opinion and freedom of speech as a means to harass, taunt, mentally, and psychologically hurt others. Mark Dunbar in his article about social media and how it makes its users worse, stated that perpetual outrage is exactly what social media platforms want because perpetual outrage brings about perpetual engagement. According to G’D’ Amato in his research paper, the impact of social media on psychological health, he stated that Social networking sites enable individuals to manage their own image. By providing multiple opportunities for selective self-presentation through photos, personal details, and comments, these sites force health care specialists to reconsider psychological processes. Instagram offers millennials access to other worlds that they would not necessarily afford to go through the eyes and posts of others who have been able to go. While that is great, it has become a constant battle between perception and reality. It has become about viewing inauthenticity as the only authentic way to live.
Join for the second part of this series next time, as we explore the story of Dorathea.
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Pictures retrieved from Pinterest