Instagram has always been referred to as the social media app for the vain, egotists and narcissists among us. I mean why else would you make an app that only allows users to post photos. Initially, you couldn’t even message the people you followed on IG as the platform only allowed you to communicate through the pictures you posted. I don’t necessarily agree with the take that Instagram is solely meant for people who want to massage their own egos but the newer features they have slowly made sure it is the be-all and end-all for those who want to be seen.
After adding DMs and making it more of a communication tool, Instagram landed their killer blow when they introduced the stories feature… Because posting pictures every single day is considered by some as “overdoing it”, by introducing stories Instagram would now make it acceptable to post everyday, heck every hour if they wanted.
Initially, social media was a great way for celebrities to give their fans access to the other side’s of their lives but quickly we became the celebrities and it was the normal guy/gals giving other normal guys/gals a window into their life. Now to the topic at hand…
Instagram introduced AMA (Ask Me Anything) a few months ago and since the introduction of this feature I have begun to see how addictive this application can be. I like Instagram, I like it a lot but the recent spamming of AMA has shown me why people feel like Instagram is all about massaging egos and individuals saying “give me attention, please” without actually saying that out loud.
I’m going to start with the things that I’ve noticed and then resort to some expert opinions later on…
Ask me anything is a pretty simple feature or at least it’s supposed to be.
In the set of people I follow, AMA has become pretty popular with young women (mostly teens and ones in their early twenties) and I kinda understand why this is the case. AMA is a simple way to get your followers to engage with you and because you can then post the interesting responses you get someone post “Ask me anything” and getting responses such as “not a question, but you are pretty hot.” This stuff is quite empowering and pretty quickly I’ve seen the same set of girls (and on rarer occasions, boys) post ask me anything week-in-week-out and worryingly there’s a dependence to get that positive feedback.
It doesn’t matter that the same person posting an AMA story hasn’t gained a new follower since they last posted a previous one two days ago but they still will because they have quickly become addicted to the feeling of having people fawn over them like they are gods/goddesses.
People generally like attention, but features such as AMA have ratcheted this up a notch and on top of features such as stories which see people over-sharing every little thing that happens in their life I can’t help but feel these features are doing more harm than good.
I’m not a psychologist but I do know that the pressure to look perfect on social media is real and coupled by the fact that the bulk of young people using these services are young (under 35) that pressure is even more pronounced. How many times have we seen people who look out of this world on social media only to stumble upon them in real life and think, “well this is a pretty ordinary chap/chap-ess.” This behavioural patterns will definitely come back to haunt us.
There will be tears…
A simple Google search of the phrase “social media lifestyles leading to debt” shows some pretty sad results and these are not from any run-of-the-mill websites either. Let me give a few examples;
- The Independent in UK had this story: WOMAN RACKS UP $10,000 DEBT AFTER TRYING TO BECOME ‘INSTAGRAM FAMOUS’
- Forbes had another take: It’s Official: Millennials Are Going Into Debt Over Their Social Lives
- Creative Money (a smaller blog) posted: IS YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE PUTTING YOU INTO DEBT?
And the experts?
That’s my view but if you’re not particularly concerned with the views held by a Zimbabwean chap we can always look at how more reputable names feel about the application. Nir Eyal a Stanford University lecturer also gave some insight as to why Instagram is so addictive:
- FOMO(fear of missing out) is a huge reason to use Instagram, Not just to take pictures, but this fear of missing out on the moment. And my solution to alleviate that pain point, that psychological itch, is to open Instagram and scroll through.
“Capturing images has been habit-forming for over a century,” Eyal says, and it stems from “this anxiety that we feel if we don’t capture this moment it will disappear forever.”
I use Instagram and I like Instagram but more alarmingly, I may be addicted to Instagram. Features such as AMA mean now you don’t even need to be posting or viewing pictures to get hooked.