Reasons Why Everyone Is in a Love/Hate Relationship with Instagram

If you don’t have an Instagram account, no worries — everyone hates it (but will still use it despite your absence).
May 10, 2018
10 mins read

Social media has come to dominate your presence both on and off the screen. In my media, culture and communications class, we were asked to interview classmates on their interests, some of which pertained to Internet use and engagement of social media.

In a class whose coursework concentrates heavily on the societal implications of technology, I was surprised at the reluctance my classmates held towards engaging in social media, specifically Instagram. This quantification of popularity is something unparalleled in experience and an aspect of people’s lives in which everyone is wary to comprehend.

Each peer I interviewed reiterated the thought that social media was a chore, however, it is necessary to their lives as students and future professionals. Here are some of the reasons people seem to hate Instagram, but just can’t seem to call it quits.

Why Everyone Hates it…

A Manipulated First Impression

Instagram provides a first impression. For people who don’t personally know the user, all they have to go by is their Instagram feed. When asking someone if they know a person, I am inclined to pull up their Instagram feed rather than describe them myself. Instagram provides us random knowledge and a seemingly complete description of people that others simply do not know.

Bombarded by these tidbits of information, I feel as though I am provided a false sense of community. For those who are acquaintances, this form of social media may be all everyone has as a window into their lives.

Instagram pictures usually represents only part of a story (Image via WordPress)

Instagram further serves as a method of continuing a friendship — keeping tabs on old friends or people from high school, commenting on their posts and seeing where they’ve been. If I think a couple has broken up, or someone transferred schools, I immediately check their Instagram bio or deleted posts. I mean I don’t really know what happened, but through this medium, I’m allowed to speculate.

Fake “Perfect” Pictures

The app serves as a foundation for false idolization as the life people project on the platform is not always truthful. With every click on Instagram, people are bombarded with vacation pictures, edited selfies, filters, which everyone is inclined to worship but only reflects one side of the story — the side that the owners want others to see.

Editing pictures and making them seemingly perfect may be “therapeutic” in the short term, but severely detrimental to the ways you see yourself. The many pictures you post on Instagram are, after all, only a small window as to the person you truly are.

Pop-Ups “For the ‘Gram”

There are countless places that have popped up that serve a singular purpose of providing an ideal location for Instagram pictures. The Museum of Ice Cream, The Color Factory, that random pink wall in LA, you name it.

The Museum of Ice Cream in Los Angeles serves the sole purpose of providing a picture-perfect background for photos (Image via SFGate)

There is an abundance of places that solely make their revenue through the snapping of photographs and gain their fame through the Instagram location tag. The photogenic nature of these places and the inclination of our population to post any activity on social media allows for their popularity.

Rather than enjoying what they are doing, people are more dedicated to providing interesting content on their feeds, a pursuit that kills the sensation of experiences.

Existential Doubt

When I find that a person doesn’t have an Instagram account, I instantly wonder why. What are they into? Who are they friends with? What do they look like? Are they hiding something? When someone doesn’t post in a while, I wonder what else they have been doing.

After a while, I realized that the absence of an online presence might suggest good things. Maybe they are taking a break, maybe they have more important things going on in their actual lives to have time to document their days via social platforms. Although it is impossible to find the answer to these questions, I find it hard to remember that social media presence does not prove existence.

So. Much. Time.

Time is spent going down the feed, planning posts, editing pictures, composing Instagram stories, watching the lives of others and seeing how they compare with your own. It’s utterly exhausting. People document their outings, who they run into, their breakfast, lunch and dinner. We could spend our entire lifetimes simply watching.

But Everyone Seems to Need it…

Customization of Feed

Creating social media profiles is a unique experience. Your individuality is outlined through the use and implementation of specific posts and stylistic choices. Many users develop the concept of a “theme,” or similar posts running the entirety of their account, to create a good flow of content.

With this aesthetically pleasing effect, their profiles are not simply a compilation of different pictures, but as an entity that represents their personality. The customization of feeds allows for individualized expression and intimate communication to a larger audience.

Total Marketing Technique

Despite the seemingly hollow nature of Instagram, you are entirely able to use it to your advantage. People make money by being an “influencer” on Instagram, providing product-featuring content that satisfies both the audiences and the sponsors: Instagram users look forward to the content, and the sponsors get their products across to the public.

By doing that, influencers become a brand of themselves as their name comes hand-in-hand with the image of the featured products. Their credentials, therefore, come from posted photographs on social media.

How they choose to represent themselves outweighs interpersonal interaction; their resumes are detailed through their skills and overall composition of their lives, the pictures on your feed and engagement with others online. Influencers have created a network of social media users that are inquired and drawn into the dialogue of their lives.

Cultivation of Similar Interests

Through Instagram, and specifically Instagram stories, I am able to view what people are doing in their daily lives, what music they are listening to, causes they support and things they believe in. Instagram users are able to call attention to the important aspects of their lives through this platform.

Instagram is undeniably one of the most convenient ways to keep up with other people’s lives (Image via Tech.co)

For example, when I find a song I enjoy, I post a screenshot of the title and artist on my Instagram story. Or, I post memes. Either way, I receive messages from people who identify with the content, those whom I would never have the chance of coming into contact with had it not been for these similar interests projected onto social media. Instagram shows people a window into the lives of others, of which they are commonly able to identify with.

The Flow

Capitalism has delved deeper into individual boundaries; people are in competition with each other in terms of the content they produce and that surrounds their brand. People brand themselves and as an entity, people are all artists, creators, marketers and analysts, among others. The flow of social accounts is prized by individuals and those who take part in viewing those accounts, which remain the main drive behind the digital market.

Elise Bortz, New York University

Writer Profile

Elise Bortz

New York University
Liberal Studies Program

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