The reality of Instagram

Some users have become disillusioned with the divide between reality and perception when it comes to social media. Julian Gentilezza /Unsplash

Julian Gentilezza / Unsplah

Some users have become disillusioned with the divide between reality and perception when it comes to social media. Julian Gentilezza /Unsplash

Stephanie Hollman, Opinion Editor

“God, your life looks so cool.”

I received this Instagram comment from one of my old high school friends on a photo that I took this past summer of my cousins ascending the summit of El Capitan, the daunting, 7,569-foot monolith on the north side of Yosemite National Park.

 As an amateur photographer, I was particularly proud of this one photograph because to me, it captured all of the beautiful parts of the moment perfectly: the breathtaking view of Yosemite valley and my favorite hiking companions, caught mid-step, under the perfect lighting provided by the California sun.

What it didn’t show, however, was that what it took to get the shot was not as picturesque: 14 hours of hiking endless switchbacks, several heated arguments amongst the hikers about which trails were the right one, stale Clif Bars and severe sunburn. All while at the mercy of vicious mosquitos.

My friend’s comment prompted me to think about how social media, particularly Instagram, has a negative effect on its audience. The social networking app originally made for sharing personal photos and videos to your family and friends has become a conglomerate of low-quality memes, fitness transformation photos, high-speed cooking videos and, above all, heavily-photoshopped images displaying the best sides of everyone’s lives.

Comparison is the thief of joy, and the way that Instagram is used now by certain users to showcase only their exotic travels, delicious (and expensive) looking meals and obnoxiously cute “#relationshipgoals” couple photos, unveils the hidden danger that lies when what people perceive is radically different from reality.

 Users need to be reminded that the posts that fill their feed have all been carefully selected from numerous shots and are not accurate depictions of how the poster’s life actually is. They need to understand that life exists beyond cleverly thought out emoji captions and base their self-worth on their lives outside of the app and not on the amount of likes and followers that they receive. 

The photos are artistic expressions, not the a realistic representation of reality. They are meant to evoke feelings associated with capturing a perfect moment. Unfortunately, envy is a big one. Viewers fail to realize that in reality, their lives, just like yours and mine, are far from perfect: they just usually pick the photos that make it look like they are. 

Another version of these perfect photos are ones in which users advertise products or a brand through their posts with a cheery caption and various links. As brand ambassadors, their main duty is to bring attention to the company and introduce the brand to their social network in a positive light. Personally, I see no problem with this advertising method because for the most part, users will post about products that they have tried and tested from brands that they respect and proud to represent.  

At the same time, how popular would the app be without the variety of captivating content that it features? Photos and videos titled “A Day in the Life of a UND student” or “Mediocre trip to Yosemite National Park” wouldn’t garner much interest with its current audience. Therefore, we should appreciate Instagram and other social media sites as they are: a fun place to enjoy adventures, inspiration and the occasional hipster latte art.

Stephanie Hollman is the opinion editor  for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]