When MySpace was first launched in 2003, most people thought it was just going to be a fun place for young people to connect with each other. Few people thought similar social media sites would have such a profound impact on our lives.
Social media has changed our lives in remarkable ways. Over the past few years, experts have discussed its role on our everyday lives, from our social relationships to our sleeping habits. However, few people have discussed the way social media tools have influenced our personalities.
Instagram is one of the newest major social networking sites. What makes Instagram different from Facebook and other social networks is the focus on visual presentations. Since people are so focused on their appearances on the image sharing site, it has affected our personality in odd ways.
Here are some ways that Instagram is changing the way we view the world and behave.
Creates Self-Conscious Body Images
Social media has undoubtedly changed the way people view their bodies. Young women particularly are more self-conscious about their physical appearances.
In her post “How Social Media Is a Toxic Mirror,” Rachel Simmons argues that it is a leading cause of body dysmorphia.
“Visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat deliver the tools that allow teens to earn approval for their appearance and compare themselves to others. The most vulnerable users, researchers say, are the ones who spend most of their time posting, commenting on and comparing themselves to photos. One study found that female college students who did this on Facebook were more likely to link their self-worth to their looks.”
Body dysmorphia problems appear to be on the rise since Instagram became popular. It’s arguably a bigger contributor than Facebook, because the entire focus of the site is visual content. While Facebook users frequently have discussions about their daily lives, politics, scholastic achievements and other factors, Instagram users merely share pictures.
Younger users tend to share many pictures of themselves.
If people aren’t happy with their physical appearance, they can find new ways to alter it on Instagram. There are a lot of Instagram editing tools like Photolemur, which can make them look thinner or remove unsightly blemishes.
The flip side of body dysmorphia is somatic narcissism. Instagram users that feel pleased with their physical appearance are more likely to share pictures of themselves. While they feel good about their physical appearance, they often have other insecurities that they need to make up for. The positive feedback they receive can further bolster their confidence.
The problem is that this newfound vanity often changes Instagram users in negative ways. Essena O’Neil said it made her very unhappy, despite the great feedback she received from her Instagram followers.
The problem is that narcissism is often built on a foundation of shaky self-esteem. People turn to Instagram as a way to deal with their insecurities. Some of them buy Instagram followers to make up for deficits in their self-esteem.
The problem is often exacerbated, because they are very selective about what they share. They only share selfies that show the best side of themselves. They don’t share information about the problems in their lives, such as failing marriages or recent unemployment. They focus solely on the positives.
Over the long-term, validation on Instagram does little to boost people’s feelings of self-worth.
How Much Does Instagram Change Our Personalities?
According to a study from Swinburne University, the average person probably isn’t heavily affected by Instagram. However, the feedback we receive can subconsciously change us in subtle ways. It will affect the types of content we share with our followers, which reinforces the cycle.
While some people have developed negative problems after using the social networking site, the average user can use the site in a healthy way.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.