Shooting the Messenger


Blaming Instagram for insecurities is short-sighted and inefficient

The generation growing up now is in a unique position of not being able to remember a world pre-internet. Most students here at best remember having a dial-up connection, but would be hard-pressed to have spent a long period of their lives without internet whatsoever. In the wake of this new era of tech savvy and arguably tech-dependent millennials, the landscape of social interaction has evolved greatly.

Whereas advertising mainly appeared in magazines and television commercials before, countless sums of money are now being invested into online social media platforms. And yet – despite major invasions of privacy and a concerning amount of our data being taken and sold to multi-million/billion dollar companies to tailor ads specifically to us – this is not the biggest grievance that I hear lately from my fellow scrollers.

As of the last few years, an overwhelming complaint has surfaced about the popular app Instagram in particular. The argument is this: Instagram makes people insecure. At first, I was a little dumbfounded by the argument. I personally have very rarely felt insecure about myself while scrolling through Instagram, so I had a hard time buying into it to begin with.

The argument is that people only post the best aspects of their lives. They post pictures that are so heavily edited that the people within the screen are unrecognizable. They post pictures of expensive vacations, elaborate meals and ridiculously luxurious nights out on the town. Meanwhile, the rest of us sit there scrolling through these pictures, feelings badly for ourselves that we are not living a life exactly like these people. We wish we were richer, prettier or more popular; whatever it is that tickles your fancy.

I have a problem with this argument. It seems as though we are shooting the messenger a bit. Instagram is only the medium used, not the dictator of what we post. If you so choose, you can post nothing but a picture of your cat every single day. The problem is not Instagram itself, it is the way in which we are using it. It is the need for us humans to try to make our mediocre lives seem thrilling and amazing, and this need is certainly not new. It is not only with the age of social media that parents would yell at you to clean your room before guests came over. People have always had the tendency to flaunt the best parts of their lives and hide the skeletons in the closet.

If the case is true that Instagram is a particularly significant catalyst for insecurity, it seems to me that the population actually has a problem with envy or self-esteem that needs to be dealt with. It’s silly to blame the girls posting their bikini pictures online for your insecurities. They are as entitled to post what they want, and they do not exist to make you feel better or worse.

In my opinion, if you find that scrolling through Instagram turns you into a big green monster or results in you crying in the fetal position, perhaps Instagram is not the real culprit here.  We are always quick to blame the medium and not the people using it. In some cases, it is justified. For example, guns are designed with the specific purpose of killing, so it is not a far stretch to toss them a part of the blame when a shooter goes rogue. However, Instagram is simply a picture-sharing platform. Outside of the basic terms and conditions guidelines, Instagram has no horse in the race in regards to what you post. They make no suggestions. We take it upon ourselves to post what we choose to post.

Even more, I had to laugh a bit at implication that only posting the best parts of our lives is in some way wrong. The same people that make these complaints frequently also not only do the same, but shame people that do share negative aspects of their lives as “oversharing.” Which is it? Are we morally unsound for only posting the rainbows and unicorns or are we morally unsound for posting about how we cried earlier that day?

Better yet, if this is an ongoing issue that you cannot seem to resolve, perhaps a move as radical as deleting your account is in order. There is no mandate to have an Instagram account, and if these images are something that you really find you cannot grapple with, then just don’t look at them. I know a few people personally that have taken this route and are much happier for it. You know what they say: “if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

I am empathetic to those that deal with insecurities while scrolling through the web. We all have insecurities, and to say that I never ever have any flare up myself would be misleading if not an outright lie. But all I’m trying to say is that being too quick to blame these external forces may force you to overlook very influential internal forces. Maybe ask yourself where the envy and insecurity stem from, and whether it’s from a place that you can improve or from a place that you could come to terms with. From my own experience, dealing with those underlying personal issues first has a trickle-down effect that tends to see other issues solve themselves.

Either way, I hope that anyone reading this that relates to this struggle somehow finds a way to cope with these issues and can learn to scroll happily on.