The Battle Between Instagram and Your Mental Health

Recent neuroscience studies have discovered the adverse effects different social medias have on mental health- and Instagram may just be your worst enemy.

By Alison Kirsch

In recent decades the rate of technological advances being introduced into society has grown tremendously. We now have cars that can steer themselves, anti-aging drugs, quantum supremacy, and a continent-connecting internet. Along with the development of the internet soon followed a wave of social media. The idea of a platform with nearly 3.725 billion active users who have wide-open opportunities to fuel and develop their own self-expression, self-identity, and community wasn’t even a concept thirty years ago. Despite these advantages, Instagram may be the worst social media for mental health, and here’s why. 

On average, we check our phones between 85 and 101 times daily. In 2020, we spent a global average of two hours 25 minutes every day on social media – a significant portion of which was taken up solely by Instagram. This seemingly addictive photo-liking app is so ingrained in modern day life that around 40% of people say they use it to ‘fill up time’. Many of us hear the moral panic presented from others (mainly parents) which states that social media will turn our brains into mush and furthermore be the downfall of society as we know it. These types of ridiculous statements are the kind that we shrug off, understanding that their exasperation comes from a place of ignorance. But how far from the truth is this really? 

In a recent survey among teens and young adults, individuals ranked different social media platforms on their health and well-being factors. YouTube came in first with highest marks, followed by Twitter, then Facebook and Snapchat, and lastly Instagram. The fact of the matter is that the same people who noted the self-expression, self-awareness, and community building advantages of Instagram also experienced the negative effects of poor body image, bullying, and depression. When we think of our poor mental health, social media can be considered as public enemy #1. Especially to young people.  

One aspect most people know about Instagram is that it increases the amount of dopamine in our brains. No matter how wonderful this may sound, an increase of dopamine entices people to click, like, and scroll endlessly until it becomes somewhat of an addiction. So, on top of being especially destructive to mental health, Instagram is also extremely neurologically damaging. Tempted to put your phone down yet? Hold on, there’s more. 

In fact, it’s no accident Instagram increases our dopamine. It’s meant to, and that’s what keeps us on the platform. Social media was created in order to fulfil certain human needs such as vanity, social interaction, and social acceptance. However, in doing so, Instagram has also heightened the worst parts of humanity: mean thoughts become trolling, bullying becomes cyberbullying. As a direct result of this, social anxiety and depression are magnified through Instagram. These negative feelings are ravaging our mental health and destroying our relationships.  

So how do we fix this ever-growing problem? The answer is unclear. Some swear by the old rule of using social media in increments and being sure to set boundaries on such platforms. In fact, a report made by the Royal Society recommends the introduction of a pop-up “heavy usage” warning within the app—a notion 71% of respondents said they would support. This way of thinking may just be the way to survive social media; a dilemma no one had ever expected. 


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