Instagram knows everything about us: where we go on vacation, who we’re friends with, and even which side of our face we think looks best. And we know the best ways to take selfies with filters that create a “no-filter” effect and which masks hide dark circles under the eyes better than any cream can. The symbiosis between us and the application creates a beautiful picture that we’d love to believe in and users do everything they can to support this image. But should they? Let’s try to figure out in which situations people are most likely to lie about something on Instagram and why it happens
“Yes, this is what my face really looks like.”
Instagram and Snapchat filters along with photo-editing applications like Facetune help us to create a better version of ourselves in just a few taps. And there’s nothing bad about the desire to fix some flaws in one’s appearance until the user starts to forget what their face really looks like. More specifically, they shouldn’t forget that their face is not worse than the Instagram version.
In some smartphones, pre-installed photo applications edit selfies automatically with the use of default settings: when you take a selfie, you already see an edited picture and you never even see the original. Almost all Instagram masks make the face narrower, remove pores, enlarge the eyes, and shrink the nose. And it doesn’t matter that a person just wanted to try some silly dancing eyebrows for fun. When they look into the screen of their smartphone, they don’t see a real face.
Maybe someone was quite happy with what their lips looked like but after dozens of automatically edited photos, it’s really easy to start doubting if you look good and feel jealous of stars like Kylie Jenner. The medical journal, JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery published a report saying that the photos with filters which “blur the line between reality and imagination” can cause body dysmorphic disorder. This is a psychological disorder that makes people fixated on the non-existent flaws of their appearance.
In the past, plastic surgeons were asked by patients to make them look like a celebrity, but now people ask them to make them look like themselves but from edited selfies. This has become such a widespread phenomenon that some experts have given it a name — “Snapchat dysmorphia.” And it’s not always possible to satisfy the demands of these patients: it may be completely impossible to fully remove the nasolabial folds or to make the eyes appear bigger as filters do.
Even if a person doesn’t go out to look for a plastic surgeon after experimenting with Instagram masks, it doesn’t mean that their self-esteem isn’t affected by them. Only in 60%-65% of cases can people tell the difference between a real photo and an edited one. When you launch Instagram, it seems that everyone on it has perfect faces, and only you have big pores, dull skin, and a big nose. Because of this, you’ll feel the need to add on a filter and hide this “mess” under a funny mask.
“I’ve lost some weight in time for summer.”
Instagram is full of photos of fit models and slender girls — there’s no escaping them. Studies show that if people are shown pictures of others they think are more attractive than they are, they’ll stop being happy with their appearance. More than that, a link between using Instagram and an increase in orthorexia nervosa symptoms has been found. This is a food disorder where people become excessively preoccupied with eating healthy food. Interestingly enough, no other social media platform actually causes this effect but Instagram.
Because people want to have “perfect” Instagram bodies, they start experimenting with strict diets, starving themselves, and training too much. But the body of an average person will always be very different from the beautiful (and most likely edited) pictures that try to sell you that detox drink. This is when people start looking for better poses, clothes, and photo editing just to conceal the fact that their weight isn’t perfect!
“Yes, I totally needed this new thing!”
We don’t go to the store because we need something anymore. We go shopping because we see something new, trendy, and attractive on Instagram. 85% of Instagram users are subscribed to accounts about fashion, trends, and lifestyle. Many people follow bloggers who are constantly advertising different products. Additionally, 80% of people who use Instagram are subscribed to brand pages.
72% of respondents made a purchase related to fashion, style, and the beauty industry after they saw a product on Instagram. People mostly buy clothes, beauty products, shoes, and jewelry.
Nowadays, it’s much easier for stores to sell products on Instagram: brands can tag products on photos like they can people. Do you like the dress on this model? Simply tap on it and the network will instantly redirect you to the store’s page and you can pay in just a few simple actions. When people started making these impulse purchases, it doesn’t even look strange when they’ll try on a piece of clothing in a fitting room, take a photo, and leave. This is actually reasonable: at least they don’t spend the money (until this brand does a collaboration with their favorite blogger, of course).
“I’m doing great!”
If we had to describe Instagram in one sentence, we’d say, “Here, everyone is more attractive and happy than you.” Of course, we realize that in most cases, this is just a picture that has nothing to do with real life and is only posted to collect likes. But on a subconscious level, it still presses us.
Using social media has already been linked to the increased feeling of depression and loneliness but Instagram has made another step forward in this aspect, unlike other platforms. The Royal Society for Public Health has conducted a study of 1,500 young people (aged 14-24) in Great Britain. They were asked to compare different social media accounts based on the parameters that experts named important for health. The result of the study showed that the most harmful platform for psychological health is Instagram. The platform that is based on beautiful pictures can cause a feeling of anxiety and inferiority in young people. It’s also worth noting that Snapchat is almost as bad as Instagram. However, Instagram can also cause bullying and FOMO — the fear of missing out — in regards to interesting events and good opportunities.
“Beautiful pictures from a vacation are the most important thing.”
Ideal-looking landscapes from the profiles of travel-bloggers have a great impact on the tourism industry. 67% of those who use the travel hashtags use Instagram to choose the destination of their next trip and 70% of people share the plans of their future trips on social media.
Some places, for example, like the lavender farms in Tasmania and the fjords in Iceland have become way more popular among tourists thanks to being very “Instagram-able”. According to this survey, this is one of the main factors for people aged 18-33 when choosing where to go on their next vacation.
However, sometimes the desire to bring home photos to make other people jealous becomes incredibly large. In 2016, in Cina, the longest, tallest glass bridge was opened. 13 days later, it had to be closed because the sight was not able to deal with the incredible number of people who wanted to take a photo on it for Instagram.
“I can afford this.”
19-year-old blogger, Bryan Denton conducted an experiment: over the course of one week, he pretended to be a rich guy. He didn’t have to do anything special for this, he just filled his profile with photos of expensive stores and his private jet — using the help of a couple of apps like Facetune, PicsArt, and Lightroom, of course. His subscribers were never able to find out the truth. According to Denton, he was shocked at how easy it was to do.
A different blogger, George Mason, did a similar experiment: in one week, he posted photos from Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Greece. As you might have guessed already, he didn’t actually go to these places, he just used Photoshop. But his subscribers didn’t notice anything at all.
But for these bloggers, their attempts to try to look like rich people were nothing more than experiments. Other people, however, are seriously ready to pay for rental flowers, the latest-model iPhone packaging, and expensive jewelry just for an Instagram selfie.
Of course, not everybody goes to such extremes: some people just post pictures from restaurants and others continue to post photos from a picturesque resort when they’re actually back in their office. Some people may show off with their new smartphone but nobody is going to say that it was bought on credit. Everyone on Instagram is “rich and successful” — so we should be too.
Who would’ve thought that a simple smartphone app could make us feel worse than others and spend money, time, and effort on trying to match some idea that was collectively made up by thousands of regular users?
Does all this mean that you should remove Instagram from your smartphone right now? Of course, not. This is still a great place to share moments from your life. And the more real they look, the better. Your face looks great without all the masks and filters and the most sincere photos look far better than hundreds of polished, identical pictures. Besides, now that you know how Instagram can affect your mental state, it’s easier to track negative emotions and give yourself some rest from the desire to live up to these expectations.