Tuesday, 18 June 2019

The role of Instagram on well-being: Perfection, identity and belonging

Closeup of a phone with instagram on the screen
Photo by Omkar Patyane on Pexels
When we find ourselves scrolling endlessly through feeds filled with gorgeous individuals and their picture perfect lives, our headspace gets filled with either inspiration or self-deprecation. Instagram has been taken the world by storm. For some, it’s a hobby or a place to express themselves and their identity and for others Instagram is full time job.

There are plenty of posts discussing the impact of Instagram on mental health. Nevertheless, most of these posts focus on the negatives. Nothing in life is black or white. The role of social media is far more complex than simply stating that something is bad for well-being.

In this post I will be discussing the good and the bad of Instagram. Is there a positive effect of Instagram on well-being? Or is it all doom and gloom? Read on the psychology of Instagram effects ... let's jam! 

The harmful effects of Instagram on well-being

Social comparisons on Instagram

The first thing that I think about when it comes to well-being and Instagram is social comparisons. You know, comparing your own life achievements, appearance with other individuals. Comparisons can have harmful and beneficial effects on your mental health. First of all, there are two types of social comparisons:

Downward social comparisons (Buunk et al, 2011) - refer to comparing yourself to others that are worse off or less competent than you. It sounds horrible, but we all do it.  This type of social comparison helps to boost your well-being. It helps to put your achievements in perspective.

Upward social comparisons – This type of social comparison is probably the one that you think about when you hear the world ‘social comparison’. It’s thinking about yourself negatively in relation to others and thinking that you are not good enough. Assuming that others lead more fulfilling lives can harm your self-worth.

It’s difficult to avoid social comparisons because it is part of human nature. Nevertheless, in order to avoid the detrimental effects of Instagram on your self-worth, try to put your achievements in perspective and remember not everything that you see on your feed is a realistic representation of life. 

Instagram and the illusion of perfection

On the other end of the spectrum, we are faced with the harsh lies of perfection on Instagram. You know the perfectly smooth beautiful faces, the perfectly shaped women in swimming costumes.

When you browse Instagram, you are bombarded with perfection. This can make you feel like you are not doing something right with your life. It can make you question yourself: ‘Am I doing something wrong?’
Looking at people who have facetuned themselves to look like something that they are not, can also make you feel more self-conscious.

I think the key to overcoming this negative effect of Instagram is based on being mindful that the perfection is an illusion. Take everything you see with a pinch of salt. People may seem like they are filled with bliss but, you can never know what actually happens beyond the camera lens.

The positive effects of Instagram on well-being

Self – enhancement and social media

According to research, self-enhancement is a strategy in which a person is motivated to maintain a positive self-image. Instagram can offer the means of receiving interaction and support from other people, boosting this type of behaviour.

Self-enhancement differs from self-improvement as it encompasses the perception of worth rather than the actions that you take to maintain your worth.

Even though this overly positive perception of worth can seem fake and, in some ways, presenting your best self on social media may seem like a game of pretending. People often say, ‘fake it till you make it’.

The role of Instagram on identity construction

‘Social media enables identity expression, exploration, and experimentation; something natural for the human experience’ (Gündüz, 2017)

Instagram is the perfect place for self-expression, changing your personality and identity, experimenting with different looks and ideas. Having a platform that can be used for this purpose is extremely beneficial. After all your identity is not fixed, expressing yourself as an individual is important.  

The motivating force of Instagram

In the 21st century, we are privileged to have instant access to knowledge, Instagram can also be your source of rational knowledge and motivation. Instagram can motivate you to change and better your life routine and even learn new skills.

Learning about other peoples’ habits can motivate you to work on your own habits. You can definitely use the motivating force of Instagram as a tool to boost your self-improvement.

Instagram and social belonging

Sometimes belonging to a group is all we need to feel good about ourselves. Loneliness can trigger a lot of mental health issues. Instagram has a lot of users and this offers an opportunity to integrate with like minded individuals.

Online networks are incredible for social networking. Instagram can make you feel like you are a part of something – whether it’s a serious movement or a group of people who love cats. Just ensure that you remember that you are still an individual – don’t get lost in the collective thought.

I better wrap up this post! I could ramble about this for days (maybe this is worth a part 2). I hope you have found this post and my rambles about the benefits and harmful effects of Instagram beneficial. Let me know your views on Instagram – is it harmful or is it beneficial? Have a wonderful day and see you in the next post!

You can also follow me on Instagram – let’s all motivate each other to be the best versions of ourselves.

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  1. I loved how you went about this post--thoroughly discussing BOTH the positive and negative.

    Social media, like many things, is neither good nor bad in itself but rather it's how we use it. We must manage our time and thoughts wisely.

    1. Exactly, I totally agree with you :) Effects of social media definitely depends on how you use it. Thanks for reading x

  2. Great post - I have had so many moments where I've contemplated coming off my personal social media accounts entirely!
    Lucie x

    1. Yeah social media can turn into a big black hole! I hope you are okay now x

  3. Great post! I enjoyed the fact that you outlined the positive and negative aspects of Instagram because there definitely are both :)

    1. Thank you :) I'm glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reading x

  4. Great post. I find social media really self-deprecating sometimes. But I've also managed to curate my Insta feed so I rarely feel like that on Insta anymore! I never check the trending page and only follow people I genuinely want to follow because I enjoy their work!


    1. Oh wow that's fantastic! You should make a post about curating your insta page :) Thanks for reading!

  5. I love this post! A lot of articles I read about Instagram (and social media in general) always focuses on the negative sides to it, but I love how you shared the positives, as well. Recently I've been trying to curate my feed and knowing when to step away from it more - social media can be a really great way to express yourself and communicate with people around the world. Thanks for sharing! :)


    1. Wonderful feedback :) Thank you very much for reading and being interested.

  6. You're so right, I've never seen a post talking about positive impacts of Instagram. To be honest, I find it quite a negative space and don't spend much time on the app but interesting to read it from both sides x



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