The world through the lens of Instagram

Endless parties, never-ending smiles, young couples in love, and generally the proverbial “best hits” of life all in a few photos. This is generally what you tend to see on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but the biggest offender of those tendencies today is the popular online application Instagram.

The app has garnered over 200 million active users since its inception in 2010, and it seems to be more popular than ever. Software engineers Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger developed Instagram first as an HTML5 project named "Burbn" until it was redesigned with a focus on mobile photography. Thus the name "Instagram", a combination of the words "instant camera" and "telegram". In 2011, the app introduced hashtags to increase interaction among users.

There is a question, however, of whether profiles on Instagram are an accurate representation of a person's life, or if they simply perpetuate a culture of showing off.

Third-year SMC student Alan Vasquez, who’s been using Instagram for over two years, believes that most people try too hard to create a fictionalized version of themselves on the internet to impress others.

“Every time I see a selfie on Instagram, I can tell they’ve made a strong effort to make themselves more appealing to their friends and strangers,” he said. Vasquez added, “Like a girl who presses her breasts together or a guy sucking in his gut. Right after they get the right one, they put more effort into editing filters to make it look more convincing than the effort they’d take into opening a book."

The effort people take to look "perfect" may not begin and end with them, either. According to Psychology Professor Tina Feiger, Instagram could serve as a mirror in which people evaluate themselves, and not in a good way.

“Being on [social networking sites] for a great deal of time sets up more opportunities for social comparison,” said Feiger. She mentioned, for example, how people feel alienated when they compare their pictures to others'. "If everyone looks like they are having a wonderful time and one is having a 'blue' day, then you may get the mistaken impression that you are the only one who isn't happy. This may lead you down a negative emotional trajectory,” said Feiger.

In this respect, the edited version of someone’s life can make others feel bad about themselves, in multiple ways.

Some people may actually get angry at those "perfect"-looking Instagram photos, according to second year SMC student Jesus Escobar.

“You’d think people [would be] happy for others since they 'heart' others' pictures and leave nice comments, but most of the time people get mad if their friends went somewhere without them, and they post a picture of the great time they’re having,” he said.

Instagram’s “heart” feature allows people to like others’ photos, and that lets people see how many followers have “hearted” their photos, which may lead to them posting photos in order to show off to get as many “hearts” as possible. This behavior, according to Professor Arezou Ghane, is due to cycle of self-indulgement among users. “People respond to these perfect online portrayals by putting forth their own perfect portrayals, propelling a kind of ‘envy spiral,’ wherein everyone is merely trying to keep up with the unrealistic norms of social media,” she said.

Professor Feiger believes that most people should ignore the negative feelings social networking sites like Instagram may conjure up.

“So as a young adult who is getting to know oneself, and [clarifying] one's values and interests,” she warns, “hang on to your very SELF as you read about others' lives.”

Jose GutierrezComment