Influence of Social Media

Lisa Clair ’21, Life & Style Editor

Social media is something that is so popularized at this point, it is perceived as abnormal among our peers to not have an online presence. Snapchat and Instagram are now considered essential to a college student’s social status and are necessary forms of communication. Though useful and innovative, social media also has a dark side: by constantly exposing ourselves to everyone via these apps on our phones, it is really easy to fall into social media’s trap of conformity and urgency. Both Instagram and Snapchat, iconic apps of our time, affect our general mental health in different ways. 

Instagram is the more permanent app of the two, meaning that what goes up on Instagram stays on it. Even Instagram’s stories can be saved in order to display to all of your followers through “highlights” (and speaking of followers, activity on Instagram is usually shared with everyone). Since these photos can be accessed and viewed as long/much as someone desires, it is considered important that these photos are clustered together with a certain aesthetic that reflects how one wants to be perceived. Naturally, this aesthetic becomes less like a casual collection of photos and more like a “brand”. Users of Instagram often fall into the trap of feeling pressured into creating a “brand” for them that reflects how they want their personality and lifestyle to be viewed by others. Every picture, caption and story must fit the aesthetic desired by both the user and the peers of the user. The more “mainstream” the brand of the social media page is, the more likes the page gets. The permanence of these photos and pressure of likes per photo urges students to continuously brand themselves to fit an aesthetic desired despite the user’s mood. 

Snapchat, unlike Instagram, does give users a brief sense of relief in the fact that there is not a permanence to the app; everything disappears after 24 hours. Additionally, users can send snaps to certain individuals, meaning that not everything has to be perfect. Unlike Instagram, Snapchat lacks formality and invites sharing information that does not necessarily have to make user’s lives look “ideal”. However, even through Snapchat is more lenient on pressuring users to “brand” themselves, it can still be toxic to users because it invites urgency and responsiveness– meaning, that users feel pressured to have to constantly be snapchatting and share everything they see around campus. Additionally, the “streaks” feature on Snapchat act as daily reminders to use the app and update people of your whereabouts, anecdotes and facial expressions. 

With all this being said, I really should point out that I am being 100% hypocritical when writing this article. I hold multiple snap streaks, keep both my Insta and Snap stories updated and hold three Instagram accounts (one is a joint account) that are all neatly branded just the way I want them to be. However, I am also working to recognize the ways that social media creates within users and anxiety to conform to a certain kind of public presence, and am working to break free of the norms or aesthetic requirements social media expects out of me. With social media becoming such a prevalent/invasive part of our lives, it is important to break down it’s concepts, analyze it and recognize how it effects our daily lives, our judgement of others, and our mental health.