The Dangers of Instagram

Yes, you read that right. Everything has dangers, really, except the dangers of Instagram pose different issues than athletic activities like snowboarding, skiing, surfing, and skydiving. What's the big deal? Everything comes with its risks. Even walking across the street could be dangerous! Instead of risking potential physical injury while "instagramming", you risk harming your mental health, and since you can't actually see this type of harm, it's harder to stay cautious. Millennials spend about 2.5 hours per day on social media. In fact, according to BroadBandSearch, it has been predicted that the average person will spend 6 years and 8 months on social media in their lifetime (assuming an average lifespan of 72 years). Do you think people are “over-instagraming”?People talk about overeating and overthinking, yet nobody seems to talk about the potential dangers of social media consumption. There's no warning sign. Imagine if there were a warning on Instagram like on tobacco products: frequent consumption could lead to loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Would people think twice before lighting up their phone screen? Does this mean Instagram is bad? No! There's something magical about capturing a happy moment on camera and then sharing it with others. It's like a way of saying, "Look at me, I'm happy, and I want to share this bit of happiness with everyone I know". The emphasis on photos is what makes Instagram different than other social media sites. However, this is probably what causes greater risks. According to Time Magazine, Instagram negatively affects self esteem levels more than other networking sites. Here is my personal experience: One day, I decided to create an art page on Instagram. I'm not sure what my purpose was other than feeling like I had something to share with the world. Do you ever feel like you have a message that you need to get out there? This is how I felt. Well the problem is a lot of artists feel the same way. It's not about the message. It's about figuring out how to get your message out there. One day, I received an offer to gain followers for a fee, so I paid $10 for 1000 followers. I thought it would help me gain recognition. It turns out they aren't real followers, and now my page feels fake. At first glance, my page looks popular, but anyone who clicks on one of my posts must realize it's fake. Nobody has 1000 genuine followers but only an average of 10 likes per post. Wow, I really look like a fake, or someone who's so desperate for attention that she has to buy followers. I thought that was how marketing worked, that people would take my page more seriously when I have a large following. Now, I just feel lame. I feel like a fraud. Comparison is a trap, and I fell in. Instead of feeling good about my art, I felt lowly. The crazy thing is I was comparing my art to people who obviously have way more free time than me. Sometimes I would stumble upon a post such as a quote, scribbled in black ink against a white background, that earned someone hundreds of likes, and immediately the word, "why", came to mind. "WHY does this person have so many likes when I posted an even better quote that was even written in a more artistic manner?" Envy. It's human nature. If this is what Instagram evoked in me, then I'm certain I'm not the only one. In reality, the number of likes has nothing to do with ability, but with being able to play the game. There are Instagram engagement groups on Facebook, where all the posts include "follow for follow" or "like for like". How can we take any of this seriously? If someone has lots of likes, it could be just because they made a deal to exchange likes with several people. Because they had lots of free time. I wasn't willing to put in so much effort. Damn it, I just wanted to show off my art! Then, I started asking myself questions: "What's the point of sharing my artistic message?", "Do I really have something to give the world?", "Should I hide away my sketchbook for only my own eyes to see?". In addition to self-doubt, I noticed that my enthusiasm for art started to decrease. Creativity used to be my escape, a chance to get away from the menial tasks of society. Creativity was my self-pampering. After a long bubble bath and a little painting session, I felt rejuvenated, like a key part of me had resurfaced. After creating an art page online, art started feeling like a chore. Instead of painting for myself, I painted what I thought other people would want to see. It turns out that the pressure I put on myself dampened my creativity. Everything I created started to feel stale, like a hard cracker. In the end, Instagram perpetuated my loneliness. I cried out to the world, but nobody was listening. We all just want to be heard. Popularity is like a vicious cat roaring in our faces. It turns out proper usage of hashtags isn't enough. Do few likes make something bad? I didn't want to feel envious, to feel less than...

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