In this study, I discovered that there are rules that govern the way any system is run. The creators of Instagram assume that before a user starts using the App, he/she should already be familiar with the rules. Compliance with the social rules of engagement should be enough to make users enjoy what Instagram has to offer equally. But Instagram influencers who sometimes exhibit flashy lifestyles debunk the claim that social media can be enjoyed equally. Equality as a descriptive concept is an adjectival relation between entities that are identical in some specific respect. No two entities can be identical in all respects, for then they would not be two entities but the same entity (Nicholas Capaldi, 2018). Human beings are not all of the same status or in the same social hierarchy. To expect everyone to live in fear that another person might be oppressed or mentally affected by their show of luxury or creativity would be to put constraints on people’s lifestyles. It would be another form of oppression. The issue is that social media has given people too much freedom at the cost of one’s consciousness. While some people visit Instagram to escape the pressures of real life, others have made Instagram their real lives.
Instagram has stated that the App can be ended without warning its users. When that happens, there will be a huge loss of identity. From the interview, it was evident that they are people out there suffering mentally because of what others have chosen to post. Instagram can not prohibit its users from sharing what they love if it does not go against the rules of engagement. What causes these explicit behaviors is not a lack of rules but the fact that some people do not care about the social rules of engagement. If care is not taken, what may be left of millennials are mirror images of themselves; taking the same pictures, traveling to the same destinations, and constantly trying to outdo each other. Also, finding new ways to hurt and harass each other. We will become detached individuals with no substance and no depth.
After my encounter with Dorothea, I fell into a form of cognitive dissonance. This research was a way of giving me an answer to the question I had for over a year. While working towards an answer, I had to understand that my research was not about the apportioning of blame, but using the patterns I had observed about Instagram users to explain their behaviors. From Dorothea’s story, I learned that people can be pressured into doing or being something they are not. And they are people like Mark out there whose sense of identity is warped and wrapped in social media. Millennials have to learn to understand that what matters most is how they see themselves and how they project that to the world, regardless of external pressures.
The interview validated Dorothea’s story more intimately. The honesty exuded by the participants fueled my hunger to find out how these experiences existed at the level of the population. The mental health of participant A was greatly affected by Instagram and participant B did not feel safe on Instagram because of the lack of privacy. It was from these responses that the idea about the survey was born. Both participants stated that the Millenials using Instagram were the problem and not the App itself. To find out how this existed at the level of the population, I created a survey via Instagram poll. In the survey, the results showed that they are millennials out there who are not affected by the behaviors of others on Instagram. They have developed positive coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures of being a millennial in this digital age. Those who have been affected are being open and honest about the effects the behaviors of others on social media have had on their mental health and self-esteem. It was interesting to see that 204% of the survey stated that the minimum age to open an Instagram account should be more than 13 years. This is because the minds of these kids are highly impressionable and behaviors that impact their lives can easily be learned on social media, especially without any adult supervision.
To observe the bloggers, I had to be actively involved in the engagement group. It was arduous but taught me a lot about patience. It gave me valid insight into public vs. private behavior. Seeing who the bloggers were and how they acted in the confines of a group that was governed by rules was gripping. The rules humans produce to guide the behaviors of others toward a common goal is perceived in different ways and can be reacted to in different ways. Rules are not stagnant, they can always be reformed. If rules were constantly adjusted to meet the needs of everyone, it would no longer be considered rules, and consequences for breaking those rules would be invalid. Social media has rules and regulations that govern how it is supposed to run to bring about safety and entertainment for its users. But some of these users have sought out their own devices and in the process of doing so, have left trails of maladaptive behaviors that does not only affect them but others as well. Dorothea’s story and the three studies conducted proved that people control social media, social media does not control people. There are a lot of people going through external pressures and internal turmoil as a result of what others post and do on social media. Most of them suffer in silence until it is too late as seen in the story of the unnamed Malaysian girl who committed suicide at the beginning of this study. Encouraging people to speak out more about how the behavior of others affect their mental health and safety on social media will be a step in the right direction. When a person is reported on Instagram, Instagram bans the person for a week or deletes their accounts indefinitely. It does not fix the overall problem but it provides a solution with the hope that people can learn from their mistakes.
The paramount example in this paper was the Stanford prison project. The result of that project suggested that humans are capable of anything and everything when there is no fear of accountability. As Instagram has stated before, a time will come when the number of likes, comments, and followers may no longer appear on Instagram. This is in an attempt to encourage people to share what they love without anxiety. When that will happen, we are yet to know. How the world will receive it remains to be seen. Until then, constantly spreading positivity and making sure that people understand that their actions can go a long way to make or break others on social media would be a step in the right direction.
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Pictures retrieved from Google.