The Instagram Effect: How "Likes" Are Actually Ruining Our Lives
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Politics and Activism

The Instagram Effect: How "Likes" Are Actually Ruining Our Lives

When you look in the mirror, do you really "like" yourself?

The Instagram Effect: How "Likes" Are Actually Ruining Our Lives
Essena O'Neill

This past week, anyone with a computer and a Facebook account heard about the former 19-year-old Instagram mogul/model Essena O'Neill, who "quit" social media, after her modeling career had been founded on just that, nonetheless. Over half a million followers and tons of paid promotions later, O'Neill came clean, citing the pressure that she felt to get likes, the work that went into creating the perfect picture, and how companies are using young, attractive girls in order to sell their products.

O'Neill was praised by many for her actions, but she also faced an intenseamount of backlash about her overarching claims that "social media isn't real." To a certain degree, I would have to say that these critics are right. Social media is a part of our everyday culture, and at this point, you really cannot escape that. It is up to an individual to choose what they post, and to be as genuine as they wish to be. However, as a 19-year-old college student, it is easy to see the many truths behind O'Neill's claims and to understand the support of her growing fan base. I look around me, and at any given moment, it seems as though life revolves around capturing the perfect image or most "candid" picture in order to show the world how ~fun and exciting~ your life is.

I've witnessed it all first hand, and I'm just as guilty as any of my peers: going out with your friends and spending hours trying to get the "perfect" picture for Instagram, thinking all day long about some clever song lyric to use for the caption, taking a minimum of 100 selfies, having your friends help you pick the best one, and then spending even more time editing out all of your imperfections while attempting to still look natural. But then, if you don't get a certain number of "likes" in a given amount of time, you feel like a failure, you feel unattractive, and you compare yourself to everyone else around you. We've all been there at one time or another, and when you take a step back, it isn't as healthy and normal as it seems.

Even listing all of those steps, those calculated decisions in order to make the most of your post, seems a little crazy when it's written down on paper. So, why is it that we feel ashamed or embarrassed if our best friend gets more likes than we do? Why do we spend so much time perfecting our pictures?Why is it that we measure our value in how many likes we get?

So, as of recently, I've been trying a little personal experiment. No, I'm not making some bold move to boycott social media like it's an evil enterprise that is meant to tear our lives apart, because that's simply not the case. (Plus, I'm not getting paid to post pictures of myself, so I doubt that would really make much of a statement anyway.) But, I have been aware of how many pictures I'm taking and for what reasons.

Yes, some events are certainly worth documenting and sharing with the world, but sometimes it's necessary to take a step back and say, "Am I doing this for myself or am I doing this just for show?" Are you taking your pictures in order to save fond memories with your best friends, or to get as many likes as you possibly can? Do you feel beautiful in that selfie, or are you waiting for someone else to tell you that you are? Once I was conscious of what I was doing, I noticed myself putting down my phone a lot more, and caring what other people thought a lot less.

I started taking trips, going to fun places with friends, and experiencing it all in with my own two eyes rather than taking 50+ pictures to document the moment. I started posting less and appreciating more: appreciating the people and sights that surround me. Sometimes, I take pictures and just keep them to myself, because after all, Facebook and Instagram don't necessarily need to know about every detail of your life or what you're doing at any given second. I've found that the best part is that you're experiencing something fun and amazing with the people you care about the most, and that alone should be more than enough to make you feel complete.

In all honesty, I cannot say that social media is our enemy. You can use all of these platforms to your advantage, to communicate with others, and to explore interesting topics and viewpoints at the push of a button. The problem lies within ourselves: it is the way that we constantly seek happiness and validation by putting our personal lives on display and hoping for a positive reaction in return. Your worth is not defined by the number of followers you have, and your joy is not measured by how many likes you get on a picture. Sometimes you have to set the phone down, look around you, and see how wonderful life can be through your own two eyes rather than your camera lens. So live life to the fullest, visit new places, try new things, and do it all with the people you love. Ultimately, you will "like" yourself a lot more than any of your Instagram followers can.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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