Negative Effects Of Instagram Essay Example


Time Magazine’s Amanda MacMillan (2017) describes Instagram as the worst social media for user mental health based on the British Status of Mind survey. Although Instagram is attributed positive characteristics such as allowing for a space of self-expression, self-identity, and community building, inherent in the underpinnings of Instagram’s algorithm is a sense of despair, anxiety, and inadequacy (MacMillan, 2017; Cambre & Lavrence, 2019). In response to the detrimental outcomes from using Instagram, MacMillan (2017) provides suggestions from various sources on how to reduce those harms, including adding a heavy usage warning, additions to the health curriculum to include safe social media use, as well as including warnings on images that state when digital manipulation has occurred (MacMillan, 2017). Regardless of the suggested solutions, there lies the conundrum of what Iqani (2013) calls the conditional freedoms of visual media. 

A common theme throughout the readings was a solidification that nothing is free and that the tension between pleasure and constraint is present in all aspects of consuming visual media (Iqani, 2013). MacMillan (2017) and Cambre and Lavrence (2019) emphasize the fragile nature of mental health concerning excessive social media use, specifically Instagram. As was discussed in Cambre and Lavrence’s (2019) interviews, MacMillan (2017) also highlights the anxiety attached to the fear of missing out and appearing two-dimensionally perfect on a screen. These behaviours and emotions prove Cambre and Lavrence’s (2019) idea that social media is an inverted panopticon: the fear of being invisible takes over the fear of being surveilled. This inverted panopticon links back to Iqani’s (2013) conditional freedoms as it demonstrates how the pleasure of being visible results in diminishing mental health surrounding the thought of being invisible. 

Stretching MacMillan’s (2017) article a bit further, a constraint that she did not mention was the hidden tax involved with participating in the attention economy (Zulli, 2018). At initial face value, user’s fears and anxieties are experienced due to Instagram’s algorithmic significance of the glance (Zulli, 2018). Transactional glances are made up of strategic self-branding techniques to create an online presence (Zulli, 2018). Getting another user to notice, follow, and like one’s content may be pleasurable for a short period. However, as Iqani (2013) emphasizes, there will always be constraining conditions on visual media freedom: eroding mental health.  

To reiterate, the themes from this week point to the conditions attached to visual media. Whether it be newsstands or social media, visual media consumption is a give-and-take of pleasure and constraint (Iqani, 2013). MacMillan’s (2017) article highlights just one consequence of this tension outside of the others already mentioned in the readings.

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