“Instagram vs. Reality” is a common saying
you’ll hear frequently across the Millennial and
Gen X generations. This roughly translates to: “I look and act one way on Instagram, which is different than my normal, everyday life.” At first, this phrase was funny; you could see people posting posed photos versus more real and candid photos in a carousel with the phrase included in the caption. Unfortunately, this phrase is one small example of how social media, not just Instagram, is creating negative side effects within society.

The ever changing social media culture has been directly connected to both physical and mental side effects. Some of the most common physical side effects include back issues, neck issues, eye strain, obesity and risk of cardiovascular issues. Mental side effects include cyberbullying, issues with depression, anxiety and body image, and sleep deprivation.

In an effort to combat the mental side effects of social media, Instagram announced that it will be testing the removal of the front-facing like counton user photos. The test initially started in Canada, but quickly expanded to include users from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Brazil.

Instagram Chief Adam Mosseri hopes the change will help minimize the negative factors associated with social media usage. “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about.”

While reading about the change earlier this year, I thought to myself, “Wow this is great. Instagram is finally doing something to help combat the Instagram vs. Reality filter.” But I quickly realized that the last word of my thought is potentially the root of the issue at hand. Don’t get me wrong, it is GREAT that Instagram is testing out this new feature of removing like counts from photos, but do we really think this minor change and the addition of a new AI anti-bullying software will solve the broader mental health issues social media is creating as a whole?

Simply put, the answer is no. According to multiple studies, Instagram and Snapchat rank as the two worst social media apps for teens’ mental health. The two platforms are very similar, but the one common feature that jumps out at me here is the ability to alter your picture or add a filter to make it “better.” YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, three of the top-ranking social media apps for teens’ mental health, do not have a “filter” option for the type of content users are sharing. If the goal of Instagram is to focus less on the number of likes you are getting and more on the friendships and content you are sharing, shouldn’t Mosseri and the Instagram team be focusing on the root of the issue (filters and photo altering features) instead of the end result (number of likes on a post)?

But what do I know!? I’m just one of the many social media-obsessed millennials using Instagram to fulfill her life-long dream of becoming a #FabFitFun ambassador. #NotAnAd #Unsponsored

– Allie Friedman, digital marketing specialist