Updated: Mar 11, 2021
By Hannah Young
Image via PayU
With over a billion users, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms our world has ever seen. Everyone from celebrities to small businesses to your neighbors is familiar with Instagram and likely has an account. The sole purpose of Instagram is to show videos and pictures of your life. Since its establishment in 2010 and it’s purchase in 2012 by Facebook, Instagram has undergone numerous modifications to keep up with the changing world.
Many people believe that Instagram has a history of stealing features from other social media apps. One example is the 24-hour stories feature that was added in August 2016 that is clearly a duplication of Snapchat stories. Another, most recently, is reels, a feature designed to compete with the trendiest social media platform at the moment, Tiktok. Additionally, Instagram has also created some features similar to online shopping apps such as Depop where users can click on a photo and purchase the clothes they see an influencer wearing.
However, with so many different features, Instagram is becoming increasingly hard to navigate. According to a Forbes article by Enrique Dans, “What started out as a great app to improve your photos and publish them in a few clicks, now requires users to understand how to post photos and videos, convert them into a Story that is displayed for 24 hours and then disappears or moves into the background, link them to make a longer video, or now, make a Reel, which in turn has several additional possibilities lifted directly from TikTok.” Experts believe that this can in turn make users feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed when using the app. There is also the argument about that app’s central page known as the feed. What was once a place to see posts from accounts you were following in chronological order from most recent to earliest, has now turned into a mountain of posts organized by algorithms and filled with advertisements generated from artificial intelligence. The algorithm is constantly changing and nearly impossible to decipher. It brings up images that you did not want to see and can, in turn, damage your mental health.
Image via Social Toaster
No matter how many features the app manages to add, at its root Instagram has been designed to be a “highlight reel” of sorts of one’s life. With thousands of filters and algorithms that push unwanted content, it’s impossible to escape the fakeness the app is built upon. Body image, self-love issues and more are commonly connected to Instagram as a result of photoshop and other enhancements that allow celebrities and other big Instagram influencers to change the way their face or body looks. People, especially young teenagers, that follow these individuals will then believe that is how the influencer looks all the time and go to extremes to achieve that same look so that they may be deemed good enough, in hopes of gaining more likes and followers.
So what exactly does this mean for us as Gen-Z? Well, it seems that there will always be toxicity on every social media platform and no matter who we follow, there is really no way to avoid it.
Despite all the craziness and negativity the app brings, there are occasional signs of hope and ways to navigate the app to see more meaningful content that you would actually enjoy. Some ways you can do this are by following accounts about topics you’re interested in and actively engaging in their posts, following positive hashtags, and blocking accounts that you don’t want to see content from. Most importantly, you should never forget that the app is very artificial - from the technology running it to the types of posts that you may come across occasionally. Remember that you are not defined by numbers and stupid algorithms. Your voice matters so post what you want and when you want!
Written by Hannah Young