INSTAGRAM THROUGH THE EYES OF A 15 YEAR OLD

IN SIÚN’S WORDS… THE STRESSES OF INSTAGRAM 

It's the second most popular social media app on this planet, with more than 500 million users. It can be a lot of fun, but Instagram can also come with a lot of stress. I've had Instagram since I was 11, and I am now 15, so I guess you can say that Instagram and I go way back.

Throughout my time on Instagram, I have felt stressed about certain aspects of the app. I like to break it up into two categories: the Stress of Posting and the Stress of Followers. 

I feel the Stress of Posting whenever I am about to upload a picture onto my account. I want to look good in it because I feel like people will be analysing it, when in actual fact they will barely glance at it. I remember being on holidays in 1st Year and getting my Mum to retake the same photo a billion times to get the "perfect" picture. 

The Stress of Followers was a big thing for everyone in first year, when you were only considered "cool" if you had a certain number of Instagram followers (usually over 1,000). I have actually heard of people not being able to eat lunch with others because they don't have enough followers. I think that this is quite an ignorant way to think, because if a person is to be judged on anything, it should be their character, not the amount of followers that they have on any social platform. 

I was curious to see if it was just me who felt this way about the Stress of Instagram, so I decided to make a survey and send it to my friends, (a small group of less than 30 friends). These were the results: 89% of people said that they feel stressed when they post on Instagram and 48% of people said that they have worried about the amount of followers they have.

INFLUENCERS AND BODY IMAGE

An influencer is technically a person who has the power to influence others into buying products that they promote on social media. Instagram is probably the social media platform that they gravitate towards the most, with 500,000 operating on it. It is estimated that advertisers spent $2.38 billion on Instagram influencers in 2019. Personally, I think that some of this money could be put towards a lot more meaningful causes. 

Influencers and the body image of young people are tied closely together. If someone is growing up looking at thin, pretty girls and tall, muscly men, they are obviously going to believe that this is what they should look like. I myself have felt this pressure at one time or another throughout my life. To add to this, the results of my survey showed that 59% of people have compared themselves to influencers online. 

Some examples of Irish influencers are Georgia Penna (@georgiapenna) and Rob Lipsett (@roblipsett). Some more international influencers include the Kardashian sisters (who have a total following of 628.3 million between them) and lifestyle youtubers like Alisha Marie (@alisha). I asked one of my close friends (thanks Sara!) for her opinion on influencers and this is what she said:

"There are loads of influencers on Instagram that promote positive body image but overall the whole content of the app is edited photos and polished images of people's lives, so overall I always associate Instagram with damaging the mental health of teenagers and all its users".

COMPARING YOUR LIFE TO THEIRS

At some point in your life, you have probably compared yourself to others - at least, I know I have. It's completely normal to do this every once in a while, but to be constantly comparing yourself to people you see online is unhealthy. You see the money and the designer items that social media stars have, and the cool places that they travel to, and you start to feel like you should have all those things too. The truth is that what people put up on Instagram is rarely ever an accurate representation of their life, just a snapshot of the good parts. Everyone has their own problems, and the best thing to do is to unfollow any toxic influence on your life.

FILTERS AND PHOTOSHOP

In recent years, photoshop has become extremely popular amongst Instagram users. I don't think this is healthy, as some people now feel that they can't put a picture up on Instagram without smoothing out every flaw. There are also some accounts that repost "obviously photoshopped" pictures from celebrity accounts, which can be quite degrading.

There is a feature on Instagram called face filters, which you apply to your face to give it an airbrushed effect - or dog ears. These are fun and entertaining, but they can also be dangerous in changing the way you see yourself without them. For example, the "Fix Me" filter marks a user's face with pen to show them how a plastic surgeon would change their face. The "Plastica" filter shows how a user might look if they got surgery by over-inflating the lips and cheeks and shrinking the nose. As you might imagine, these could be quite damaging to a person's self-esteem, not to mention their mental health. Fortunately, Instagram has released a statement saying that they will be taking down all plastic surgery related filters soon. This picture shows three people wearing said filters and the following gif shows Kiernan Shipka, star of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, posing in a filter.

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF INSTAGRAM

I feel like I've been extremely negative so far! There are also a lot of positive things about Instagram. I love the app because it gives you a chance to express yourself and be creative. You're also able to follow your friends and favourite celebs to see what kind of stuff they're getting up to. There are also some very inspirational influencers on the platform, which include:

Joanne Larby (@joannelarby) ~ Joanne is an Irish influencer with over 143,000 followers on Instagram who inspires me with her refreshingly honest posts. She went from being a body confident plus-size model to training twice a day and becoming weight obsessed. She recently opened up and told her following that she suffers from body dysmorphia, and is now using her platform to promote body neutrality.

James Kavanagh (@jamesalankavanagh) ~ James is also an Irish influencer with 133,000 Instagram followers. He is a gay rights activist and his posts are hilarious.

Nikkie De Jager (@nikkietutorials) ~ Nikkie is a Dutch beautuber, based in LA, with a total Instagram following of 13.7 million. She is extremely talented and recently revealed that she was blackmailed into coming out as transgender.

Billie Eilish (@billieeilish) ~ Billie is an American singer-songwriter who has 51.1 million followers on Instagram. She recently won five awards at the Grammys and became the youngest winner of album of the year... ever. She inspires me by wearing baggy clothes to conceal her body because she feels that it is not public property.

BRAND TAKEOUTS

It’s important to be aware of the effects platforms like Instagram are having on young people day to day. It’s a huge part of my life and my friends lives. 

Although I think that way too much money is spent by brands on influencers (I personally feel that there are way too many advertisements on Instagram), I do feel like it's a good way to advertise your product, as people tend to listen to them…..

…..A big thank you to Siún for being so honest in sharing her thoughts on the positives and negatives of Instagram. Given ‘the stresses of Instagram’ highlighted by Siún, it has paved the way for TikTok - a platform where imperfection and fun is embraced. Looking to the future, there is an opportunity for brands to present beyond their stylised brand bible looks, and consider how they might show up in more real and ‘unfiltered’ ways.