“Like this picture for a follow”


Khushi Salgia, Arts and Entertainment Writer

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms of the 21st century. According to Omnicore Agency, “17% of teens say Instagram is the most important social media site (up from 12% in 2012),” making Instagram the most used social media, with 600 million monthly active users.

Now people are turning Instagram into a career. A lucrative one, considering that  20 percent of all internet users are on Instagram, but is it having a negative effect on people’s lives, happiness and self esteem?

“I wouldn’t know what to do with my life,” said Emma Bridgestock, a freshman at Vista del Lago High School, when considering the possibility of  social media disappearing.

According to Social Media Today, teens spend “30 percent of all [their] time on social media.” Because so much time is spent on social media, it is definitely having an effect on the users, and it’s not always a positive one.

The first and most common issues are “likes”, comments, and followers. Most teens are very conscious about the number of likes and followers they get. They consider it as a way of measuring popularity. According to Sage Journals, “The same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are activated when teenagers see large numbers of ‘likes’ on their own photos.”

Likes are considered a form of self validation and if a selfie doesn’t get enough likes, most people will take it down. This is harmful to the self esteem of a person because they judge themselves based on what other people think of them, even though a ‘like’ on a picture does not necessarily mean they think you looked attractive, or less ‘likes’ on a picture means you’re ugly, according to Penn State University. Sometimes a picture gets less likes because some people don’t see it or they forgot to. It usually doesn’t mean they don’t like you or think you’re attractive.

The other thing that causes emotional complications is the amount of followers. Having a lot of followers is also considered a sign of popularity because it is a loose indication of how many friends a person has. There are a lot of people who are friends with someone but don’t follow them on Instagram, and there are a lot of people who follow them on Instagram that aren’t truly their friends.

To gain more likes and followers, people will add effort. One of the things they do is hash-tagging. The more hashtags a person gets, the more engagement the post receives. According to Omnicore Agency, “posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement [and] the most popular hashtags on Instagram are #Love, #Instagood, #Me, #Cute, and #Follow.” By putting these in the description of your photo, it becomes more exposed to the world.

Another thing people do is write things in the description like “comment for a rate/tbh” which means that if you comment on the photo, they will rate your appearance and give you their “honest” opinion on you. “Like for a followback,” which means that they will follow you if you like their photo. One more example is “turn on my post notifications for a shoutout.” This means  if a person turns on their notifications, they  will be notified every time that person posts in exchange for a  shoutout–a post  telling all their followers to follow said person.

Another thing people do is post pictures at certain times on certain days. For example, 5 p.m. on  Tuesdays is when the  most amount of people are on Instagram at the same time, which means posts are likelier to have more  likes.

Those were just a few  things people, especially teens, do to become more Instagram popular, but not everyone does them, though.

There are many teens out there that don’t view social media as a popularity contest, but instead as a way to keep in touch with everyone.  “I used to try way too hard in middle school but now I just use it [Instagram] to share pictures and I don’t necessarily do it for likes,” said freshman Bella Masoud.

However, the overwhelming majority uses Instagram to measure their self worth. This is very taxing on the confidence of most teens. They constantly keep checking their profile for any new activity. Their confidence is boosted when they gain a new follower, but lost when they get half the likes than they normally do.

Former Instagram model Essena O’Neill told The Guardian, “I remember I obsessively checked the like count for a full week since uploading  [a new post].”

Instagram also creates jealousy. When someone is trying hard to get 50 likes on a photo and they scroll down and notice that their friend is at 87, it creates sort of a competition. A person may go on Instagram and notice that their best friend just posted a beautiful selfie with silky hair and glowing skin and it has 59 likes and 49 comments. Then certain thoughts will come to the person’s mind like “Why don’t I look like that?” and “What is it about her that makes her better than me?”

Not only will the person’s self esteem and confidence get crushed, but then they’ll go out if their way to meet or exceed the high standards their friend  accidentally set. It takes a toll on people’s happiness because they are constantly worrying about how people think of them.

Competition is bad enough among friends and schoolmates, so one can imagine how bad it would be with celebrities. The most followed celebrities on Instagram are Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. All of their pictures are contrived perfection. For example, Ariana Grande’s latest Instagram post is a picture of herself in a silk gown and perfect hair with a cute smile inside what looks like a mansion. This isn’t reality. She must have taken fifty shots until she had one that was good enough. It would have had to take some preparation, as she had to do her hair and makeup for the picture. It’s not just a casual photo she randomly took; it was staged.

Then there are Instagram models. Instagram modelstypically girls— get paid to post pictures of themselves. Typically around $50,000 per post. These are even more staged because all the pictures have to look perfect since they make a living off of them. A popular Instagram model, Amanda Lee’s latest post is a picture of her sitting at the edge of a pool with long flowing hair and a bikini showing off her flat stomach and curves. They also get paid to advertise things on their account, like Fit Tea and SugarBearHair. Again, this is most likely staged.

Instagram is not reality —  it is contorted reality. People do many things to try to climb the ladder of popularity, but as they are doing that they are also climbing down the ladder of happiness. The only ‘like’ you should be paying attention to is liking yourself.