Since the advent of the newest forms of social media in society such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, users have not only incorporated these technological tools to their lifestyle, but they have also become compulsive to use them to excess. Then, there is a question to this: are they aware of how detrimental social media can be?
Almost 1500 people aged 14 to 24 were surveyed on how certain social media platforms impact health and well-being issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image.
Instagram, with over 700 million of users worldwide, constitutes the most harmful app, affecting particularly females in their teens and earlies the twenties. As many as nine in 10 teenage girls say they are unhappy with their body, stated the report.
This app draws young women to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and photoshopped versions of reality,” said Matt Keracher, author of the report.
“Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’ “, an anonymous female said in the report.
Body images issues are not only the negative impact that it can bring to its users but also sleep disorders, anxiety, depression and fear of missing out (foMO). FoMO means the worry that social events, or otherwise enjoyable activities, may be taking place without you present to enjoy them. This digital term is also associated with lower mood and lower life satisfaction.
Janeth Olufemi, is one of those 700 million Instagram’s users. She is 24 years old and is currently doing a master’s degree. Janeth became a user in 2013 and over the time she got ‘fascinated’ with the idea of being able to ‘promote’ herself by posting pictures on this app. ‘When I discover this I said wow, I can promote myself by posting pictures of me, showing people what I do, where I am, what I am wearing, that is amazing’.
Janeth is passionate about makeup, so she uses this social media with other purposes as well, ‘I am in a business because I am into makeup, so I post my makeup pictures just to get more followers, this a very key. By having a significant number, like 20k as an example, means having a huge platform to promote what you want, to get advertisement’.
She thinks that this platform has a lot of benefits, ‘any brands can come to you and ask you to advertise a product and get them for free, so it helps to build a brand for you in a way. People can get stuff for free and they also influence people to buy those things, so I think Instagram has become more a branding platform than anything else’.
Janeth uses this app for 2 hours daily, she gets engaged with videos, ‘once you start watching one it is difficult to stop watching some other ones’.
She is aware of how harmful Instagram can be if people don’t use it in a positive way. “If for some reason I would not be able to have internet one day, it wouldn’t affect me at all, while there are people who could die because most of them are just showing off, so I think they have an inferiority complex and this is a problem. I think I am definitely quite far from that”.
Janeth encourages those users who can spend hours on this social media with different purposes of branding, to switch them off from this and educate themselves about how to use it in a positive way to get the most of it.
The Royal Society for Public Health, is calling for action from government, social media companies and policymakers to help promote the positive aspects of this app for young people. They hope to achieve this by creating social media platforms to highlight when photos have been digitally manipulated and also by introducing a pop-up heavy usage warning.