As a preteen, I thought the coolest thing was watching my three older sisters run their MySpace pages. I would throw fits trying to get my mom to allow me on the site, but I never understood why she wouldn’t let me get an account before eighth grade. Now, at the age of 22, I find myself grateful I was defeated during all of the fights and arguments over wanting to be on the Internet like the “cool kids” were.
Thanks to my mother and her strict rules about the Internet, I never found myself attached to the idea of wanting to market myself at a young age as the generations behind us currently do. Today, it is no secret that social media has quickly become one of the world’s most powerful communication giants. The media in itself has the ability to shape our minds, opinions and our life decisions.
Today, social media is changing the way we live significantly. Think back to when the Internet was first introduced; it was strictly a search engine where people went to learn and expand their minds. Now more than ever, social media platforms are reshaping the way we communicate and connect globally.
Most social media sites we use on a daily basis revolve around visual communication; take Instagram as an example. Myself, along with billions of other users, have become frequent users of the picture-posting app. After the app’s release in 2010, the number of users eclipsed over a million within the first three months. This global phenomenon has connected the world in a universal language: pictures.
The idea of posting just pictures was appealing to everyone and it was a major step in the way communication works within our contemporary culture. However, no one knew the damage that could potentially occur. People have become so attached to the idea of posting about their lives that it has transformed into a feeling of dependency. At times, I even find myself asking, “When did I last post?” or, “Is there anything I can post today?”
We’ve all heard how social media has created an uproar over how it can destroy self-esteem, but it is more than just the idea that social media can hurt someone’s self-confidence about their image. Younger generations are turning to sites like Instagram in order to feel anything at all. These sites are teaching people that being liked by their peers is based on, well, literal “likes.”
How many of us have felt that if a photograph doesn’t reach a certain amount of likes, it’s not a good picture? I know I have. Thinking back now, I can’t believe I let myself get wrapped up in that nonsense. You see it everyday — users feeling the need to remove a photograph if it doesn’t reach a popular number because it doesn’t fill their personal satisfaction level.
The gap between generations is continuing to grow. Gratifications and desires have transformed bit by bit with each one. If you take a look at Instagram users today, their goal is to reach the most likes, not post strictly for the reason of sharing with their peers, friends and family.
The issue has gotten so extreme that users are now paying for their likes. If you look through different Instagram accounts, there are accounts strictly designed for average users to connect with in order to gain an extreme amount of “likes.”
Not only do users rely on the number of “likes” to feel good, but companies and businesses have now discovered Instagram users subconsciously use the application when making their life decisions. For example, scroll through your Insta feed and there is a guarantee that an advertisement will pop up, or you’ll find your favorite celebrities endorsing specific products.
Without you knowing, advertisers are forming your opinion on what to buy, where to purchase things, where to eat, etc. If you research how much businesses spend on social media advertising, you will find that it is over billions of dollars.
Instagram is no longer a site where users can go just for the pure enjoyment of sharing photos. It is a business deal and a manipulation tool. Next time you scroll through your Instagram feed count how many advertisements you see or how many celebrities you see promoting certain products. Remind yourself why you started posting on Instagram to begin with: For the chance to share memories.
The dependency of social media has permanently found a home in our society and the media content will continue to grow in multidimensional ways. The addiction will only get stronger and it’s up to future generations to take a step back and remember that life doesn’t revolve around how many “likes” you get, and followers you have.
Who cares if you don’t get 100 likes or have 1,000 followers? Post whatever because there’s more to life than that, and remember; Social media does not define you.