"Wow, great pic! No wonder it got so many likes”. Subconsciously, this thought often pops up when we scroll through instagram. Not only that, but we also wonder how it got so many likes: “where was this taken?”, “the lighting is perfect”, and countless other lingering questions or comments. Seeing this trend, it’s unsurprising that Instagram is now used more for the purpose of self-representation and promotion as opposed to building genuine relationships.
Indonesia ranks fourth in the list of countries with the most Instagram users. According to the data released by Napoleon Cat, there are 69,2 million Instagram users in Indonesia, and Instagram is one of the most popular social media outlets among the public. Despite this, it seems that Instagram could be one of the worst social media apps in regards to mental health.
One of Instagram’s features that is most likely to produce negative effects on mental health is the“like” feature. The amount of likes and comments on one’s posts could be considered as quantifiable social endorsement, which is a measurable form of social support (Sherman, Payton, Hernandez, Greenfield & Dapretto, 2016). Because this aspect is measurable, numerous Instagram users make it their mission to get as many likes as possible; when one receives a large number of likes, they will feel accepted, recognized, and popular. On the other hand, those who receive smaller amounts of likes will feel anxious, restless, or unrecognized; these feelings are symptoms of social media anxiety disorder, which is a phenomenon of someone feeling anxious when the number of followers they gain or the number of likes and comments on their posts don’t measure up to their expectations, leading to an obsession of social media in general.
Excessive preoccupation with getting a large amount of likes can also lead to addiction, leading someone to obsessively check their social media accounts constantly and regularly post content to gain approval. Unfortunately, not everyone who does this even recognizes that they’re doing this. Even worse, Instagram is often used as an escape or an outlet for boredom, and this continues to occur until one becomes addicted to the app and develops other symptoms of social media-induced mental illness. This addiction is marked by the gratuitous amount of time one spends scrolling on Instagram, the inability to control usage of social media or using social media in moderation, anxiety, moodiness, and mental pressure or depression.
Often, for the sake of gaining more likes, people manipulate their posts from their original state; a notable example is using filters to improve one’s physical appearance. Not only that, but the pressure of manipulating one’s life story on social media creates obsession, namely the pressure to curate one’s social media life to appear picture-perfect; this could easily lead to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). On the other hand, people often make up tragic backstories to their lives to elicit other people’s sympathy; this is a symptom of Munchausen Syndrome, where such behavior is meant to gain more likes stemming from people’s sympathy towards their misfortune.
The number of teenage users of Instagram dominates the population of Instagram users in Indonesia. Teenagers, in a cognitive and emotional sense, are not able to fully process information on social comparison and the social feedback they receive; as a result, inevitably, they will start to excessively compare themselves to others through means such as their like counts and evaluate themselves negatively, leading to a plunge in self-esteem and self worth. Nowadays, teenagers are spending more and more time on Instagram, which further opens up the probability that they will increasingly compare themselves to others and receive an excessive amount of social feedback that they may not even be able to process completely.
However, if we look at it on its own, Instagram is not inherently a harmful app and should not cause mental health disturbances if used wisely; it all depends on ourselves and how we choose to use it. According to a Forbes.com article entitled How To Use Your Instagram Account To Develop A Positive Mindset, there are two important sentiments we need to remember in order to prevent mental harm when using social media:It’s nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice, and Keep your album of great personal moments. Consider your Instagram account as a tool to advocate for the importance of genuine human connections, and voila, you’ve just turned your Instagram account into a way to help other people feel appreciated and supported. This way, we would no longer use our like counts as a measure of how recognized and appreciated we are in the eyes of others. The other important idea to keep in mind isKeep your album of great personal moments. There’s a significant difference between an Instagram account that is purposely manipulated to depict a picture-perfect life and a genuinely positive account that depicts life’s perfect moments. When every social media user follows these mindsets, we would no longer feel such a tremendous pressure to get as many likes as possible, and we would see social media as a better reflection of reality.
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