If there’s one thing that Facebook has taught us all, it’s that social media is depressing — and it’s not the only over-sharing network that sometimes makes life feel like scenes from The Road. Researchers from Pace University’s Psychology Department have learned that Instagram could also cause some users despair.
According to the newly released findings, there may be an association between the amount of strangers a person follows on Instagram and his or her general well-being. The data, which surveyed 117 young adults aged 18-29, suggests that users who follow lots of strangers are more likely to experience “depressive symptoms” by comparing themselves negatively, while users who follow friends tend to be happier and compare themselves positively.
Although most people are generally aware that Instagram is a highly curated collection of photos enhanced by filters, and not a raw portrayal of someone’s life, many users still scroll away without knowing the circumstances behind a particular image. These Instagram users end up not only negatively comparing themselves, but also doing it by unreasonable standards. Even Instagram’s UX may play a role in fostering negative feelings:
“[I]n contrast to Facebook, where connecting with other users is reciprocal (both individuals receiving status updates on each other), following someone on Instagram may only go in one direction.”
The image sharing platform is also conducive to “passive use,” which sounds positively psychotic:
Passive use (e.g., browsing others’ profiles without posting one’s own new material) seems to be particularly detrimental. Passively looking at others’ profiles displaying photos of vacations or social events to which one was not invited often triggers resentment, envy, and loneliness. Jealousy and relationship problems can result from spending too much time on profiles of romantic partners.
Ogling starlets isn’t particularly healthy either. “Spending a lot of time looking at — let’s say celebrities — might trigger negative feelings,” explains Dr. Leora Trub, a practicing clinical psychologist and an author of the study, the first to look at ‘the psychological correlates of Instagram use.”
Instagram however, is not solely a pit of mental anguish. One of the surprises that Trub found in the research was how Instagram users who encircle themselves in the warm embrace of people they know, have a relatively positive experience, despite the increased amount of time they spend online. Context is key!
“You look at your friends on Instagram and think, oh that’s a really beautiful spot that my friend was at last weekend, but I know that’s the first time they’ve gotten out of town in a while,” explains Trub.
As individual’s social media circles continue to grow online, the greater their impact could be in the real world. And everyone’s equally susceptible to the throes of social media, says Trub. “There was no other differences based on demographics; so no difference between men and women, no difference between education, no difference for ethnicity, which is interesting.”
(Image: Free Images/ANIMALNewYork)