Is Instagram Toxic?

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Instagram’s Toxicity

You’re an influencer in fashion, beauty, fitness, or travel and you just finished curating your photo list, touching them up, and about to post your highlight reel onto your Instagram. Wait! Before you do that, think about your audience and how you want them to feel. What? What are you talking about? Well by now most likely you’ve heard about the leaked internal Facebook documents how the company has known that Instagram is toxic to teenagers, especially teenage girls. 

Internal Leaked Feelings

In case you haven’t, internal Facebook documents were leaked showing that the company knew that Instagram could be harmful to a teenager’s mental health leading to eating disorders, depression, and overall negative feelings. Facebook has publicly tried to quell these issues by experimenting with removing “likes” from their posts, which led to teens feeling greater anxiety. 

mental health concept young woman having depressio HXXSYUM 1 Teenagers not only feel FOMO (fear of missing out) from not being excluded in certain activities but also have a warped sense of self by seeing everyone else’s best moments. A small focus group of 98 students had a whopping 90% of them saying that social media negatively affected their mental health.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” (CS Lewis)

So what can you do to ensure that you’re not making your audience feel bad about themselves? Facebook’s own researchers have advised that Instagram users reduce their following of celebrities (that includes you!) while increasing exposure to close friends. After all, if you have more means, live in a cosmopolitan city, or have access to special events, of course you are going to seem much more exciting to a teenager living in the middle of nowhere.

However, his or her peer group will have similar opportunities. Thus from a comparison perspective there’s less FOMO. Keep this in mind, as a Facebook employee quipped, “Isn’t that what IG is mostly about?” he wrote. Getting a peek at “the (very photogenic) life of the top 0.1%? Isn’t that the reason why teens are on the platform?”

Take an online break

Previously, influencer’s mental health came up and a few solutions arose including the need to take a break. Coming up with content time and again to feed the machine is hard. However, perhaps you can use your break from your regularly scheduled content to show your audience your real side. Norway’s new law requires disclosure on retouched photos, but perhaps you can step up by disclosing ahead of the law. Dale Carnegie, the famed author of Win Friends and Influence People, and his proteges identify humility, authenticity, and vulnerability as key traits to real relationships. By being real, perhaps you may end up with more followers than before.

Remind people that you make it look easy

Professionals make their very hard jobs look easy, that’s why they are professionals. Think about how easy Tom Cruise makes jumping off a building or LeBron James driving through the lane. Remind your followers that you are a professional and that you’ve worked very hard to get to where you are today. Some teens in the study developed eating disorders because they believe that they should wake up looking like you do (if you are a fitness influencer, for example). Let them know that your hard work and perseverance got you to where you are today.

mental health and self care concept EHZW77Z 1

Do the right thing

You’ve come this far and you probably know what you are doing. Don’t change your formula, just think about your audience sometime.  Do what you do best, influence your followers, find the latest trends, find cool stuff, do cool things but keep it real and keep it humble. Show your audience your human side, we think it will pay dividends in the future.

 

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