Nowadays the usage of digital technology is always increasing and almost everyone is aware of what social media is. The social media gives people the ability to share their lives, interact with other people, like and comment at any time and place. January 2019 data shows that 45% of the total population is active social media users. One of the most popular social media platforms is Instagram. But does Instagram have a positive or negative impact on social media users? Why we hear so much about the reasons why Instagram lowers down our self – esteem?
But first – what is Instagram? It is a social platform mainly used for sharing and looking at other people photos and posts. Instagram can be a very fun way to interact with people and share your life with friends and family. Also, it allows users to stay up to date with everything their friends and family are going through. As it sounds all positive and fun, this platform also has a lot of disadvantages. Scrolling down the app you can see thousands of other people’s pictures and much has been made over the years about how social media presents unrealistic beauty standards. It is like years back girls and women would go through magazines looking at beautiful models with perfect features and bodies thinking this is how the perfect women should look like. These days unrealistic beauty standards almost always come from Instagram as it is a really popular app for photo sharing. Instagram celebrities often post photos with bikinis, flawless makeup, “perfect” body shape. These posts create “perfect body” image everyone tries to follow. People, who do not have skinny legs, fit body or flat stomach often come to a conclusion that something is wrong with them. But some of the big companies try to change the perspective of a perfect body image.
The “Dove” is a worldwide company which wants to inspire women to feel comfortable in their own body. This company’s global research discovered that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. And this is the point where self-discrepancy theory should be explained. This theory states that individuals have their “ideal” self image in their head which they compare to “actual” self. This is not only really bad for mental health but also to physical, since sometimes it can lead to eating disorders, depression or other illness. The self-discrepancy can begin at a very young age, when someone starts seeing photos of those called “beautiful people”. It can be seen that the mechanism of this theory where body image is affected negatively is Instagram photos, which show what “perfect” body should look like (Guitton, M., 2017). Actually, in 2017 BBC poll Instagram was regarded as the worst social media platform when it comes to mental health. And the reasons behind this statement are pretty reasonable. But not many of the whole audience stop for a minute to think that these pictures they see on Instagram could be affected by surgeries or hard diets and generous amount of retouching. False representations and unrealistic standards have people wondering how they achieved such a result and it can sometimes lead to some serious unhealthy habits.In kickback on some serious Instagram beauty standards a lot of accounts showing the truth behind these “perfect” pictures were created.
One of the accounts is called “celebface”. In this account bio you can see the text which says “Welcome to reality”. This account helps people realize that not everything we see in Instagram is truth. In picture number 2 you can see reference between Khloe Kardashians Instagram photo and the one captured in person by paparazzi. This page could make a lot people feel better about themselves and realize that celebrities are not perfect and just like everyone else. The Instagram also stepped up on trying to regulate the platform. In 2019 the trend of plastic surgery filters became really popular. Augmented reality filters could change your face and make it look like you had face surgery (lips and cheek fillers, nose surgery, unrealistic cheekbones). There were even filters that drew lines over your face like cosmetic surgeon would do. From 2019 October 26 Instagram is banning all filters that represents cosmetic surgeries. To sum up, Instagram photos set a lot of beauty standarts on what being beautiful means. Girls’, women’s, boys’ and men’s beauty image is out of control, even though Instagram is moving in the right direction by banning harmful filters.
Another topic I would like to touch while talking about Instagram is marketing. It is no secret that nowadays Instagram is one of the best ways to advertise products or services. This kind of advertising is called influencer marketing. Influencers are people who built a large community and have an audience which respect their opinion. This type of marketing changed the game because real people are more relatable. It is easier to trust the person that shows you everyday life and communicates with you than advertisement on TV. This type of marketing got a 520% return on investment, according to 2018 data. While scrolling through Instagram you can see many ads in the posts, and that’s because the brands go where the audience is. And those called influencers have audience, so why do not use it as an advantage? In exchange for taking picture and writing the post about the product influencers can get free products, or if they have a lot of followers even money.
According to a study by Dana Rebecca Designs 72% of Instagram users that filled the survey have made purchase after seeing a post or photo about it on Instagram. The most purchased categories are mostly clothing, beauty products or jewellery. As there are a lot of influencers who has millions of followers companies are focusing on micro influencers since they engage more with audience and cost much less. “It’s about finding opportunities to build relationships with people who touch your potential customers in some way. These are the people who will help you achieve more, with less. If you earn their trust, you will be invited into those new audiences you crave.” (Wilkens E., 2013). That means that instead of one big celebrity a company can collaborate with hundreds of influencers around the world for the same price as working with a really popular celebrity. Today the most popular person on Instagram is football player Cristiano Ronaldo with over 190 million followers (picture 3). His one advertised post can cost almost 1 million dollars as he has insanely big reach. Study by social media firm Hopper HQ on Buzz Bingo shows that Cristiano earned 47.8 million dollars from paid Instagram posts (49 ad posts). All of these statistics show that Instagram influence over the people is huge. The return of investment for the brands which used this platform for marketing proves that influencers have a power over the audience they gathered. People are trusting their beloved influencers over the products they advertise. But the things I talked about is just a positive outcome of this new marketing strategy and there is also a negative side.
There are millions of companies all around the world and of course a lot of them produce harmful products. At the beginning I talked about Instagram influence over body image and influencer marketing can also add to this problem. There were enormous amounts of ads over the platform which encourage you to buy products which supposedly help you lose weight. Those products such as “detox teas”, “appetite suppressant lollipops” and many others make people feel the need of losing weight, which can lead to mental and physical illness. Tea company “teami” that promises weight loss was advertised by one of the most famous Instagram star Kylie Jenner (picture 4). This toxic culture of people advertising weight loss and making their audience feel conscious about their body was recognised by Instagram. That is why from 2019 September Instagram is banning ads that promote certain types of weight loss products and cosmetic procedures for people under 18 years old. Needless to say, Instagram is a great platform for companies. We understand power as a relationship and this exact relationship is seen between influencers and their audience which they can easily influence over buying products.
The popularity of social media is growing every day. I believe we all have a different opinion about social platforms and their influence over people. As Instagram is the most popular social media platform, its influence on body dissatisfaction is proved by many sources and researches. Its power of marketing has changed the advertisement industry. Nowadays the best option for successful bussines is to put your production on social media to gain a return on investment since the main audience is there. The platform itself is going in the right direction introducing positive changes to make the experience on the application more satisfying to users. However, it’s our choice whether to use it or not and what content we want to reach to.