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Identity in Communities and Networks

Exploring how Gen Z will suffer an identity crisis: Excessive social comparison and communication on Instagram.

ABSTRACT

Although Gen Z rely on social media and networks for building identity and community, image-centric social media platforms such as Instagram are increasingly prevalent. Excessive social comparison and communication on these platforms can cause serious implications on body image, mental health, self-worth, and overall identity development for users. This paper will highlight the ways in which Instagram has facilitated detrimental implications on the identity development of Gen Z, and how this transcends into the wider community; on and offline.

INTRODUCTION

I am a textbook millennial. Technically ‘Gen Z’ is the term I believe, but the lines between the two are consistently blurred. I am part of the first ever generation to grow up on the internet, and with social media at my fingertips from a very young (and likely questionable) age. Web 2.0 is something heavily engrained in my life and I candidly admit that I would be lost without it. I spend most of my spare time on social media, Google at least 20 insignificant facts per day, and have almost never turned to anything except the internet to learn or connect with others. The connectedness and boundless nature of the internet and social media is in many ways, incredible (Weeks, 2016). However, there are severe implications for young adults who have grown up on social media, specifically pertaining to their sense of identity (Weeks, 2016). Image based communication is at the forefront of modern social media (Newman, 2015). This can often encourage connectivity and self-expression. However, it can also inherently damage one’s journey in developing and expressing personal identity (Newman, 2015). Unhealthy ideals can develop within social media communities, which have consequences for peoples relationships with themselves and others, both online and offline (Newman, 2015). This paper examines the role of image-centric social media platforms such as Instagram in the development of Gen Z’s identity and self-worth.

Gen Z fundamentally builds their individual identities through image-centric platforms like Instagram (Weeks, 2016). The inherent focus on looks and image can be catastrophically damaging to adolescents, their development of self, and ultimately their mental health (Royal Society for Public Health, 2017). Instagram is one of the leading social media platforms with approximately 1 billion users worldwide (Chen, 2020). Of these active users, 71% are below 35 years of age, and 36% range between 13-24 years old (Chen, 2020). Every individual’s journey with their identity development is bound by their specific context, circumstances, and experiences. However, it is no secret that adolescence and young adulthood are persistently formative years (Stagnor & Walinga, 2014). Instagram being an image-centric app, is predominantly photo based communication (Newman, 2015). It is largely centred around putting the best version of yourself forward and curating a perfect set of images to convey your lifestyle. For young people, this importance placed on their self-image can be extremely harmful. According to a study conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health (2014), Instagram was ranked as the worst social media platform, in relation to facilitating poor mental health issues. Instagram did receive positive feedback for self-expression, community building and increased emotional support (due to being so connected) (Royal Society for Public Health, 2017). However, simultaneously Instagram was associated with the worst levels of anxiety, depression, self-hatred, bullying, and envy (Royal Society for Public Health, 2017). Recently Instagram, and other social media platforms alike have paved the way to a healthier online environment. Instagram has removed the ability for users to see each other’s number of likes on a post, to diminish the pressure people may feel to reach a certain amount of community engagement. While this is a great advancement and certainly a step in the right direction, this does not even come close to addressing the hard-hitting implications Instagram has caused. The generation of youths currently growing up online are experiencing more mental health issues and identity struggles, than ever before (Twenge, 2017). Teen depression and suicide rates have been on an increasing trajectory since 2011, and are continuing to rise steadily (Twenge, 2017). Scholars believe that Gen Z will suffer the largest mental health and identity disaster in decades, due to the anxiety and depression caused by the social media world (Twenge, 2017). These issues caused by platforms such as Instagram, transition with individuals into their adult lives and can have a large impact on one’s social skills and confidence. “In the next decade, we may see more adults who know just the right emoji for a situation, but not the right facial expression” (Twenge, 2017, para.44).

Additionally, Instagram can be damaging to the identity development process through facilitating constant social comparison. The social comparison theory is a psychological philosophy, initially outlined in 1954 by Leon Festinger (Dion, 2016). Festinger stated that humans have an engrained tendency to compare themselves to others, to evaluate their own self-worth and learn how to define their identity (Dion, 2016). Social comparison can be self-enhancing, through looking at an individual worse-off than yourself to feel higher and more confident (Dion, 2016). However, more commonly this model is seen in reverse (Dion, 2016). Humans often look to others who they deem superior to them, and proceed to feel down and worse about themselves as a result (Dion, 2016). This can lead to very detrimental perceptions about one’s self and can often skew identity development (Dion, 2016). While this social theory applies to all facets of life; historically, these comparisons would stretch to the people you interact with in your day-to-day lives. Potentially occurring with people at work, family, friends, people on television, in movies, or in magazines; but the interactions were relatively limited (Dion, 2016). Now, in the digital age, these comparisons expand from every corner of the earth, every social group, every age group, every economic group, etc. (Dion, 2016). The boundaries are essentially, limitless. A study published in 2015 concluded that frequent Instagram use is associated with depressive symptoms and negative social comparison, especially for those who follow strangers rather than people they also interact with offline. This further highlights the damaging implications of excessive social comparison and how this can be linked to poor mental health (Lup, Trub & Rosenthal, 2015). This is a fundamental issue seen on the Instagram platform. Instagram affords its users the ability to interact with hundreds, if not thousands of people per day. While this can offer a sense of community and connectivity, it inherently exacerbates the amount of people we are socially comparing ourselves to, day-in and day-out (Dion, 2016). That level of human stimuli is simply unnatural and a recipe for self-worth/identity disaster (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015).

Furthermore, another study, conducted by Nesi & Prinstein (2015) uncovered a clear link between interpersonal social comparison online and depressive tendencies among adolescents. As previously mentioned, social comparison is a normal part of identity construction. However, evidence shows that social media platforms, such as Instagram have exacerbated the limits of comparison; shifting this process from normal to ultimately threatening (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015). As an image centric app, people tend to selectively present themselves, only showcasing the highlights of their lives (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015). This is also, a natural human tendency; only wanting to post your best photo, conveniently taken on the perfect slimming angle, and only sharing the happiest of moments. It makes us feel strong and confident. However, having access to a billion individuals’ ‘life highlight reel’ can be extremely damaging; especially while uncovering your personal identity (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015). People subconsciously grow to feel inferior if they do not meet the standards they are constantly seeing through their screens. According to Uhls et al, (2011 as cited in Nesi & Prinstein 2015), “this will serve to intensify the issues of identity development and interpersonal connectedness, challenging adolescents to confront them with greater constancy and urgency” (p. 4). This issue isn’t limited to physical appearance dissatisfaction; we can see trends of people feeling career dissatisfaction, questioning their productivity, and even their sexuality due to social media comparisons (Johnson, 2014). Many perceive this constant whirlwind of interaction advantageous as it can prove inspiring or eye opening (Weeks, 2016). While this may be the case for some individuals, this never-before-seen interconnectedness may be the demise of our generation (Weeks, 2016).

Moreover, the overuse of online platforms can cause lasting negative effects on offline personal relationships. For many people, particularly adolescents, their main channel of communication to their friends and family, is through social media (Durlofsky, 2018). This can be a fantastic tool to keep distant relationships alive and communicate on a wide scale, within a short amount of time. However, this increasing reliance on online communication is simultaneously facilitating poor face-to-face communication skills (Durlofsky, 2018). Many people have become accustomed to posting a photo on Instagram and having their friends, family, and acquaintances comment niceties underneath it; or even more redundantly, give it a like to show their praise. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this system, we can see trends of poor in-person communication rising alongside the increase in online communication (Durlofsky, 2018). We are now more likely to discover news about people we know or love online, than we are in person (Durlofsky, 2018). Sharing personal information with the people we are invested in, is what bonds and drives strong relationships (Durlofsky, 2018). While we are categorically more connected than ever, there is evidence to suggest that meaningful, in-person relationships are suffering greatly, due to the lack of meaningful interaction. Communication facilitated on social media platforms are typically weak connections. This is why humans struggle to feel sincerely connected to those on the other side of the screen, in comparison to face-to-face interactions (Booth, 2012, as cited in Durlofsky, 2018).

Rising patterns of smartphone addiction can have damaging effects on individuals, but these implications transcend into the wider community, on and offline (Saiidi, 2017). While focussing on cultivating their Instagram persona and prioritising their presence online; they forget to form tactical and lasting memories in real life (Durlofsky, 2018). This leads to skewed identity development, as individuals are not experiencing the world as they should be, albeit through a lens (Saiidi, 2017). Young people are increasingly prioritising their time on social media, causing the demise of their person-to-person social interactions. This is causing Gen Z to become inherently  less social in real life (contradictory, I know) (Saiidi, 2017). The concern is not directly about being active online, but more so that adolescents are becoming more interested in their online lives, than their real-life experiences with one-other (Durlofsky, 2018). As a generation that has been raised by the internet, online social sharing is going to remain largely prevalent (Saiidi, 2017). Though, this should not come as a top priority over face-to-face relationships; as these are what ultimately shape who we are and aid our identity development naturally (Saiidi, 2017). Humans are biologically social animals, so why do we so heavily prioritise our online persona, and virtual relationships? Humans, and particularly adolescents are fundamentally addicted to social media (Jones, 2018). Companies such as Instagram have meticulously developed their platforms to facilitate human reliance. From the design aesthetics, to the relevant platform stimuli; these aspects have all been employed to make Instagram a vital component of our daily lives (Jones, 2018). We must remain aware of this control that social media corporations hold over us; and re-learn to be social in real life, without documenting every second of it to feed the narrative of our online selves (Jones, 2018).

I openly observe and acknowledge the global connectedness that Instagram has aided in facilitating (Newman, 2015). It has been deemed as a hub of self-expression, inspiration, and community building (Newman, 2015). However, these advantages come at a severe cost. Being one of the leading social media platforms for individuals in their most formative years; Instagram poses a large threat to adolescents and their identity development (Chen, 2020). The platform has been linked to perpetuating a multitude of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders (Royal Society for Public Health, 2017). These trends are predominantly correlated to the boundless social comparison that the platform offers, causing individuals to question their appearance, lifestyle, ethical choices, interests, and overall identity (Dion, 2016). Furthermore, Instagram facilitates a community built upon showcasing the highlights of people’s lives, generating unrealistic and unattainable beauty and lifestyle standards (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015). This can leave individuals feeling unworthy, self-conscious, under-achieving, and generally sub-par to their virtual peers (Nesi & Prinstein, 2015). Finally, social media platforms such as Instagram are aiding the demise of strong in person relationships (Durlofsky, 2018). Generation Z is categorically addicted to social media, leading them to limit their experiences, and consequently hindering their ability for identity development (Jones, 2018). Social media has afforded this generation of adolescents a unique opportunity to grow up online. This can prove advantageous in many ways, providing an outlet for people to express themselves, connect with others, and find a community that they might not have offline (Johnson, 2014). However, I believe that the damages come at a greater cost. What is the point of nurturing a fortunate, well rounded and knowledgeable generation, if they are all riddled with self-doubt, unable to reach self-acceptance and ultimately struggling with their sense of identity.

REFERENCES:

Chen, J. (2020). Important Instagram stats you need to know for 2020. Sprout      Social.

https://sproutsocial.com/insights/instagram-stats/

Dion, N. (2016). The effect of Instagram on Self-Esteem and Life Satisfaction. Salem      State   University.             https://digitalcommons.salemstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1091&cont      ext=honors_theses

Durlofsky, P. (2018). Pause Before Posting: The Benefits of Not Over Sharing on             Social Media.

https://psychcentral.com/blog/pause-before-     posting-the-  benefits-of-not-         over-sharing-on-social-media/

Johnson, C. (2014). Growing up Digital: How the Internet affects teen identity.       

https://www.deseret.com/2014/5/28/20542165/growing-up-digital-how-the- internet-affects-teen-identity

Jones, L. (2018). The Digital Age: Are We Losing Human Connection?

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-digital-age-are-we-losing-human-connection/

Lup, K., Trub, L., Rosenthal, L. (2015). Instagram #Instasad?: Exploring Associations     Among Instagram Use, Depressive Symptoms, Negative Social Comparison,           and Strangers Followed. Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social   Networking, 18(5).

https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2014.0560

Nesi, J., & Prinstein, M. J. (2015). Using Social Media for Social Comparison and            Feedback-Seeking: Gender and Popularity Moderate Associations with           Depressive Symptoms. Journal of abnormal child psychology43(8), 1427–          1438.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-0020-0

Newman, M. (2015). Image and Identity: Media literacy for young adult Instagram users. Ingenta Connect, 4(3), 221-227.

https://doi.org/10.1386/vi.4.3.221_1

Royal Society for Public Health. (2017). Instagram ranked worst for young people’s         mental health.

https://www.rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/instagram-ranked-    worst-for-young-      people-s-mental-health.html

Saiidi, U. (2017). Social media making millennials less social: Study.           https://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/15/social-media-making-millennials-less-       social- study.html

Stagnor, C., Walinga, J. (2014). Adolescence: Developing Independence and      Identity.

https://opentextbc.ca/introductiontopsychology/chapter/6-3-  adolescence-developing-independence-and-identity/

Twenge, J. (2017). Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?     https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone- destroyed-a-generation/534198/

Weeks, I. (2016). Social Media and the New Sense of Identity. Science Leadership Academy.

https://scienceleadership.org/blog/advance_essay-3– social_media_and_the_new_sense_of_identity

18 replies on “Exploring how Gen Z will suffer an identity crisis: Excessive social comparison and communication on Instagram.”

Hi Emily,
I really enjoyed reading your paper. I wrote about a similar topic of communities and identity issues on Instagram. I agree with your opinion about the cost that comes with the large role social media plays in our lives today. I never really grew up with the use of social media, i had it around but barely used it and still now as an adult i barely use it. Do you think as an adult now that if you didn’t use it as much when you were younger that you would use it as much now?

Thanks!
Jade

Hi Jade!

Thank you so much for your feedback!
I would hypothesise that if I was not as conditioned to using social media as a child, I most likely wouldn’t be as attached to it as an adult. However, I cannot necessarily determine that this would be the outcome; as i feel that our society, or at least the circles that I integrate within are quite social media driven so I potentially would have reached this outcome at any age. Regardless, I do think it is important to shield children from social media at a young age due to the fact that they are developing and learning so much (as discussed in my essay).

Thank you!
Emily.

Hi Emily,

I really enjoyed your paper, and you raised some very interesting points about how Instagram has such a negative impact on adolescents’ mental health.

Like you I grew up in the age of the internet and social media, so I can relate exactly with the idea of how influential it is within my own life. No matter what it is; news, entertainment, communication I use social media, especially Instagram. I believe that this reliance on Instagram has also impacted the way in which I perceive media presented on the platform.

I briefly mentioned the idea that users “selectively present themselves”, I completely agree with this idea that social media, especially image based social media like Instagram is influencing the way in which we present ourselves online.

Do you think that this concept of ideal self is significantly different to one’s actual self? And what issues could this difference cause if these personas are too different from one another?

I’d love to hear what you have to think about this. Here is a link to my paper if you want to check it out! http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/10/the-impact-of-social-media-and-social-media-influencers-on-the-construction-of-identity-and-self-esteem-for-adolescent-males/.

Hey Sam!

I’m glad you enjoyed my essay, and that’s a great question!
I truly think that every individual is different. There are some outliers that are completely candid online, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Simultaneously, there are those that are perpetuating a completely false representation of their lives online; differing greatly from what their truthful daily life entails. However, I believe that the majority of us lie somewhere in the middle. As I outlined in my essay, it is human nature to want to present the best version of yourself; people do not want to feel weak, boring or vulnerable, and that’s ok. I think the problem more so lies within the access that every individual has to millions of other users’ perfect depiction of their lives. To directly answer your question, I think that the reality:online persona ratio differs from person to person depending on their specific context and experiences. The issues that I believe can arise from perpetuating a false online facade are particularly aligned with losing ones sense of self, and potentially skewing your true sense of identity through living through an online lens. This creates issues for not only the individual themselves, but the people interacting with their content too.

Thank you so much for interacting with my paper, and i’ll be sure to check yours out too!

Regards,
Emily.

Hi Emily,

Wonderful paper, you have written about a topic I find particularly interesting.

Your point about smartphone addiction hindering face to face interaction and relationships was very engaging; a point of debate not popularly discussed. Do you think face to face interaction is hindered purely because of communication online, or do you think comparison of other users decreases real-life confidence as well?

My paper discusses the ways social media can impact adolescence identities as well, specifically through visual affordances. I would love to hear your feedback.

Here is a link to my paper: http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/10/need-for-validation-visual-social-media-and-influencer-identities-promotion-of-unrealistic-expectations-for-adolescent-females/

Hi Mia!

Thank you kindly for your feedback!

In response to your question, I genuinely think it is a combination of the two.

I do believe that this decline in face-to-face interaction is predominantly due to Gen Z’s increasing comfortability with online communication. However, I definitely think there is something to be noted about the simultaneous effects that lack of self-esteem and confidence is having on physical interactions as well. Perhaps young people are growing to prefer online interaction due to their ability to curate their image and thoughts perfectly, rather than have them candidly in person.

Your question is certainly food for thought, and something I am going to research more deeply.

I’ll be sure to check out your paper, it sounds very interesting and applicable to my topic.

Thank you!

Emily.

Hi Emily,
I was interested in your topic because I too have grown up with social media and wanted to see how your discussion would relate to my own personal experiences with Instagram. I think we all fall prey to social comparison, especially on Instagram. Like you said, this comparison existed prior to the app’s existence and is merely multiplied now that we have immediate access to view profiles with which we can compare ourselves to. Every now and then I tend to go through my ‘following list’ and have a look through who I am following and ask myself “Am I following this person because of their content or am i following this person just because they are pretty?”. I think this question sums up the comparison culture on Instagram as so many of us simply follow these accounts with the sole purpose of self scrutinisation and comparison. Do you also have issues with this comparison culture? How much of your research do you relate to?

I loved reading your paper and thought I’d link mine as well. While my topic is not necessarily similar to yours, it is also in the identity in communities and networks stream.
http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/author/sofia-ampil/

If you’re interested give it a read!
Sofia

Hey Sofia.

Thank you for your feedback and comments, they’re greatly appreciated!

I really appreciate your recommendation to check in with your ‘following’ list. I think it is really important as creatures that interact with so much content, to moderate what you’re watching and seeing. I’ll certainly be taking that on board to hopefully condense the amount of content i’m privy to.

In response to your question, I do relate to a lot of the research discussed in my paper. While these implications have fortunately never resulted in serious mental health problems for me personally, I certainly do experience social comparison and self-doubt because of Instagram. Not just with looks, but also with lifestyle representation online. Particularly with the rise of influencer culture, we are seeing an over-representation of people living a very glorified lifestyle. Because of this I feel that my perception of reality has been skewed, leading to unrealistic expectations for both my physical attributes and my lifestyle. I hope this gives some perspective on my personal experiences!

Thank you for your considered thought and interaction Sofia!

Regards,
Emily.

Hi Emily!

I was instantly interested when I came across your paper as it has some similar topics with my own paper, so I was curious what you thought about how identities are being altered by social media. Like you, and a lot of people in our unit, I have grown up with a phone in my hand and seeing the new trends and societal structures that social media is creating. I’m interested to know if you believe that there are certain types of accounts of communities on Instagram which are more damaging to identities than others?

I think my paper might interest you as well and I’d love to hear your feedback: http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/10/social-media-has-helped-in-manufacturing-deceptive-and-inauthentic-identities-online/

Have a great day!
Leah

Hi Leah!

So glad that my paper sparked your interest, and I really appreciate your feedback!

In response to your question, Yes! This is something that I wanted to discuss in my paper but simply did not have the space to- so I’m really glad that I have the chance now!

The community that I think is particularly damaging to identity development are Influencers. I believe that the rise of influencer culture is specifically detrimental in this regard. ‘Influencers’, ‘content creators’ or anything of the like, present a misrepresentation of a ‘normal’ lifestyle. With traditional celebrities we as ‘normal’ people can pretty easily identify that their lifestyle, physical appearance, and attributes are largely curated and perfected due to unlimited resources.

With influencers however, this distinction is not so clear. Influencers typically present themselves as ‘normal’ people, yet do not live a ‘normal’ lifestyle. This skews people’s perception into thinking they should look or act a certain way in congruence with working a 9-5 and balancing other tasks, when in reality, taking these perfect photos and curating this online image IS their lifestyle. I think the over-representation of a glorified lifestyle, and the under-representation of a typical lifestyle is a major cog in problematic online society of today.

I hope that provided some insight for you! Thanks again for your engagement.

Regards,
Emily.

Hi Emily,
I found your paper very interesting. Your focus on the detrimental effect on millennials who have grown up on social media (including yourself) was well explained and explored. I particularly liked the reference to “knowing the correct emoji for a situation, but not necessarily knowing the correct facial expression”.
Do you think there perhaps needs to be more guidance and education around social media platforms and the impacts these can have on individual’s mental health, but also the impacts the digital footprint they are creating for themselves may have on their future? As this is the first generation that has grown up not knowing a life before the internet and social media, they are essentially the test group for future generations.
My paper focuses on the online identity that users build unknowingly and how this may change based on the social community they are a part of. I have a focus on Instagram for my paper as this is a main focus for likes and follows. If you’d like to read my paper, you can find it here: http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/11/identity-built-unknowingly-online-ambient-awareness-building-a-users-identity-from-online-social-communities/

Hey Bobbie

I’m glad you found my paper to be interesting!

Super interesting question that you pose, and I 100% agree. I certainly think there should be more education surrounding not only the safety knowledge needed to operate social media, but also the opportunities.

We are seeing a generation that has a whole new means of career development, whether that being an Influencer, developing a business on social media, or anything of the like; it is something not widely discussed through traditional education. I think schools should be integrating heavier education surrounding cyber safety, cyber opportunity, and as you mentioned the implications that might come along with facilitating a heavy digital footprint.

Thanks so much for your interaction with my paper!

Kind Regards,
Emily.

Hi Emily,

Your paper was really well written and an interesting one to read.

It’s really concerning to see the impact on personal relationships and interacting in person, although we feel more connected than ever by social media. It’s funny because if I see someone on Instagram who I have never met before, I immediately have a conceived idea what they might be like. However, when I meet them in person they are nothing like their online persona.

As you say we comparing ourselves to others is only natural and human, but Instagram has taken this to the extreme. You mention excessive social comparison is impacting on Gen Z and I totally agree. I constantly compare myself with others on Instagram and have total envy or FOMO for when others at events or achieving things which I myself desire.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out with our generation in the future and the long term side effects from apps like Instagram.

Regards,
Nathan

Hi Nathan!

Thanks for your feedback and insight!

I too find it really interesting that we build ideas about people based on their online platforms. It’s strange to meet someone in person and not have that perception match up. It’s almost like watching a movie after reading the book, and the actor/actress isn’t depicted how you had imagined.

Thanks again for your engagement!

Emily.

Hello Emily!

Thank you for writing such an interesting paper and for raising such interesting points. As a young adult, I am on Instagram and find myself getting sucked into the world of photoshopped photographs and perfectionism. Your comments concerning the decline of peoples mental health whilst on Instagram were interesting as I have found myself feeling less about myself as my time on Instagram increases. I was wondering Emily, do you feel that you can relate to your comments about the decline of mental health? It would be interesting to hear your more personal views and experiences on this topic.

Thank you for your comments and your paper!
Isabella.

Hi Isabella!

Thank you so much for your positive feedback, it is greatly appreciated!

It is unfortunate that you have identified that you align with some of my points raised. As per your question, I too feel this way at times.

I feel as though this conversation is typically had in relation to physical appearance, which is definitely something that affects my self esteem (constantly seeing perfectly angled, edited, and filtered images).
However, something that I made the effort to outline in my essay is the representation/comparison of lifestyle too. I feel like there is less and less ‘relatable’ content on Instagram and an exponential rise in perfected depictions of people’s lifestyles. This often leads to me feeling unsure about my lifestyle choices because I am constantly not seeing a ‘normal’ lifestyle represented on the platform.

I hope that in the future we can facilitate a more positive online environment in which content does not make us feel inferior to others.

Thanks Isabella!

Regards,
Emily.

Hi Emily,

Interesting read!

I agree with the points you raised in your conference paper completely. I personally believe that social media has taken a toll on my mental health for the very same reasons you outlined in your paper. Particularly, as it results in me comparing my life to others. While we are told that this is merely a stylised snapshot of someones day, for whatever reason, I still find myself wishing my life could be like that. In turn, then wondering why my life is not like that. It is a trap that I feel many people of our generation fall victim too.

Since you wrote this from a first person perspective, I will pose a question to you directly. Do you believe social media has unintended negative effects? If so, do you believe this has affected your life in any way?

Great read Emily. Very thought provoking.

If you get a chance, please check out my paper
http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/11/the-role-of-web-2-0-in-the-rise-of-online-hate-groups-such-as-incels/

Hi Tess!

Thank you so much for your engagement and feedback.

In response to your question, I feel quite aligned with the personal experiences that you have identified. While I completely understand that the representation on image-centric apps like Instagram is heavily curated, and often falsified, I still fall prey to holding myself to that same standard.

I feel as though often this conversation is had specifically pertaining to looks, which is definitely something that affects my self esteem (constantly seeing perfectly angled, edited, and filtered images).

However, something that I made the effort to outline in my essay is the representation/comparison of lifestyle too. Particularly with the rise of influencer culture, we are seeing an over-representation of people living a very glorified lifestyle. Simultaneously, this comes with a severe under-representation of individuals living a ‘typical’ lifestyle. While this is a progression I can somewhat get behind, I understand that moving into a more modern culture will facilitate the rise of modern careers; I do feel that this can be damaging. I think the core issue with this is the notion that influencers are ‘the everyday person’, they present themselves as ‘just like everyone else’ (which typically they are, or at least start off this way). This is why when we look at their perfect bodies, lavish lifestyle, endless home organisation, etc, we tend to feel inferior. However, what is misrepresented is while they may be a ‘normal person’ they do not typically lead a ‘normal’ lifestyle. They’re not usually at work from 9-5 so the opportunity to hit the gym 3 times a day or reorganise the pantry twice a week is more frequent.

While there are certainly exceptions to this, I feel that this is a trend that I frequently identify, and have to constantly remind myself.

So, yes, I do find myself questioning my worth and purpose because of misrepresentation online. While this is often pertaining to physical attributes, I also identify it as having an impact on my confidence in terms of my lifestyle choices too.

If you are happy to continue this discussion, I would like to know if you also have felt pressure to lead a certain lifestyle, based on representation online? I majorly ask this to extend the conversation past looks and to identify whether others feel this pressure to adhere to a falsified lifestyle too.

Thank you for extending my thought on this matter. Looking forward to your response.

Emily.

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