Instagram vs. Real Life

Instagram as we all know is completely reliant on interpretation. Unlike Facebook which allows users to express lengthy opinions in status updates, Instagram is image-driven which makes it much easier for users to trick/influence their followers into believing and only seeing a certain aspect of their life as they want them to see it. Although you have the ability to write a caption underneath your photo which is limited to 2200 words (entirely reasonable amount to explain a photo), you are not able to write more than 150 words in your ‘bio’ which is what is supposed to tell people about yourself, arguably setting people up to not properly express themselves before they even start posting. Instagram is however and has never claimed to be a forum used for drawn-out conversation or discussion like Facebook can be used for, which is arguably the beauty of Instagram. But, what are the consequences and harms of portraying yourself as someone who you may not be in real life?. Is the more we post on Instagram the more we search for validation through likes and not through our real lives?.  As they say “Being famous on Instagram is like being rich in monopoly money” – it’s not real.

In a recent article in the New York times titled “Facebook made me do it”, this loop of positive reinforcement through likes on Instagram is analysed. The near immediate approval of what you are doing can become addictive and necessary, it may influence us to post more controversial photos just to see how much the barrier can be pushed and what people respond to. The article compares this kind of activity to such things as graffiti or protests, the world wide scale of who’s going to see what you are doing increases the risks you are willing to take, its described as being ‘performative’. I think this is extremely true and see it in my friends I follow on instagram, businesses, fashion labels, organisations, even I myself am guilty of such things. It is hard not to glamourise the photos you post on your online life, with the options of filters and saturations. What in reality is a photo of a cloudy and cold day can instantly become a hot and sun drenched day just with the application of a filter.

The article references the research of Coye Cheshire, a professor of information sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies how we interact online. He thinks that the act of anonymity online is similar to the feeling that is received when in a crowd, you act more impulsively than you might in person and so do things that you otherwise would not face to face. This is often seen in the example of ‘keyboard warriors’, often just bullies who find their voices much easier and louder online than they would in real life. This article is extremely successful in illustrating what the effects of having an online personality can be and the feelings of encouragement and approval which you may or may not like to admit are hard to ignore.


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