I met Dorothea in August 2018. She stood at 5’6, with brown eyes that had a lot of dark edges. When she smiled, I could tell the sparkle was hidden behind layers of sadness. We both attended the listening party of a mutual friend and we were seated at the same table. I struck up a conversation with Dorothea, but she was a bit taciturn. Intrigued by her demeanor, I persisted, and in no time, Dorothea began to open to me. At the time of our meeting, her relationship of six months with a man named Mark had disintegrated. Mark was a cinematographer and Dorothea was a model. Mark and Dorothea met on Instagram when she reached out to him, hoping for a collaboration on a project she was working on at the time. A month later, Mark and Dorothea began dating. It was an unlikely match, but they loved each other and shared common interests.
Shortly after they began dating, Mark began to change. Mark started making snarky comments about Dorothea’s pictures on Instagram, comparing Dorothea to other women who used the App. According to Mark, Dorothea’s pictures were not a realistic representation of what a model should look like. Like a fly, Mark constantly buzzed in Dorothea’s ear, badgering her to delete her pictures on the App. This bothered Dorothea because she loved Mark and she wanted to please him. But all she ever wanted was to model. To be compared to a blogger, model and content creator who had been posting on Instagram for a lot longer than she had was a huge blow to her self-esteem. Dorothea loved Instagram, it was a safe place to share her passion with the world. To please Mark, she began to create contents that were out of her character, solely for the comments, likes, and followers. Dorothea began to buy likes and followers to gain validation from Mark and her followers. Dorothea found herself getting sucked into a hole of constant comparison which eventually led her into severe depression. Dorothea talked about a particular Thursday after she had fought with Mark, she came home and thought she could not quiet the voices in her head any longer. When she realized how severely this affected her life, she ended the relationship and deactivated her Instagram account.
As I listened to Dorothea tell her story, it bothered me that Dorothea was driven off Instagram by another human being who compared her worth to little boxes that only showed a snippet of moments and not the whole story. I had various questions running through my mind, such as:
- Why did Dorothea have to mentally and emotionally prepare herself to handle an App that was created for the sole purpose of sharing what she loved?
- When did it come about how people perceived moments that did not necessarily encompass Dorothea’s whole life?
- How many people felt this way? When did it go from non-pathological to completely pathological?
I interviewed two people in an attempt to delve into the minds of individuals who use Instagram. The goal of this interview was to look into the disruption of normal social practices by Millenials. The participants were both females. Participant A was 23 years old with a total number of 591 followers on Instagram. The second female participant, known as participant B was 26-year-old with about 4,144 Instagram followers. I asked Participant A how she felt about Instagram. Participant A stated that Instagram is different from the real world. She wanted a huge platform for so many good reasons, but regardless of how hard she tried, Instagram did not work out for her. It got worse because each time she opened the App, she would see other people’s lives and perceived them to be perfect. She would compare herself with others and this comparison made her mental health decline. She stated that the effects of Instagram are caused by people who use the App. According to her, Instagram is a great App and it allows for amazing opportunities. It all depends on the mindset of whoever is using the App and what they hope to achieve from it. For her, Instagram is already perfect with its technology, but she wishes people would apply wisdom when using Instagram.
Following the same pattern of questioning, Participant B stated that she wished Instagram could be enjoyed the way it was eight years ago. It was less attention-seeking and more about getting to meet new online friends. People were considerate when commenting on sensitive matters. Participant B stated that the millennials who use Instagram are not mindful of how their interactions affect others. She stated that there were times when she became anxious about posting pictures on the App. That anxiety forced her to reevaluate how she got into the trappings of Instagram. Right now, all Participant B’s posts are still archived but she shares what she loves on her stories and interacts with her followers as often as she can.
From the responses of the participants, it was evident that they both believed Millennials who use Instagram have been misusing it. Participant A had a decline in her mental health and self-esteem just like Dorothea. Participant B no longer felt safe enough to post on Instagram because of the lack of privacy. I spoke with a Doctor of Psychology, Dr. Brian Hearnsberger, needing to know more about the psychology behind the use of social media. During our 18-minute conversation, we focused on the pathological side of Instagram. From our conversation, it was deduced that a lady like Dorothea and participant A who have been affected by Instagram would have to practice mindfulness, and may have to go through counseling to fully recover. Participant B would have to take extra measures to make sure she felt safe enough to keep sharing what she loved on Instagram.
Join us next time for part 3 of this series as we observe an Instagram engagement group and conduct a survey.
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Pictures retrieved from Pinterest.