We are in 2018 where smartphones and social media go hand and hand, literally and figuratively. One of the biggest social media applications today is Instagram with a whopping 1 billion users, increasing to 200 million from 800 million in 2017. Instagram is widely used by people of all ages for various reasons. The app is used for both good and bad, showcasing both positives and negatives in today’s society.

So what is Instagram for those of you who don’t know? “Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social networking service. The app allows users to upload photos and videos to a service, which can be edited with various filters, and organized with tags and location information. An account’s posts can be shared publicly or with pre-approved followers. Users can browse other users’ content by tags and locations, and view trending content. Users can “like” photos, and follow other users to add their content to a feed” (Wikipedia). Additionally followers have the ability to comment and begin a dialogue the user who “posts” photos and/or videos.

Instagram was created and founded by Kevin Systromand and Mike Krieger. In October of 2010, Instagram was exclusively launched on IOS. and a year and a half later on the Android app store. Ever since then the app took the world by storm even by winning 2011 App Store App of The Year. After two years of the app being out there for the world to use, Facebook bought Instagram for 1 billion dollars in April of 2012. According to Forbes.com, one of the many reasons Facebook purchased Instagram, according to techie Robert Scoble, “Instagram has a better idea of what users are doing and what they like. Facebook’s databases needs this info to optimize the media it will bring to you.” By Facebook buying Instagram it gives Instagram a bigger platform for more people to take notice of the app and creates more potential users for the app.

Through the use of Instagram there are some beneficial factors that include, introducing people whether through mutual friends or by mutual interests, promoting new or existing businesses, building the confidence of users when liking or sharing content, and learning about topics that you may have never been exposed to, i.e. travel, cooking, wellness. For example in terms of Instagram helping businesses; Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante who founded MVMT with the idea of selling stylish, inexpensive watches to Millennials direct to consumers through the Internet. Within five years, they built a business with $80 million in sales as a digital-only brand. “They started in 2013 with a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, which helped MVMT gain consumer recognition and $1 million in sales in its first year. Then Kassan and LaPlante started using Instagram, where MVMT now has nearly 1 million followers, sharing user-generated content under the hashtag #jointhemvmt and paying Instagram influencers to, subtly, push the brand at a time when the concept was still relatively unknown” (Forbes). By solely using Instagram, MVMT’s in year two was over 2 million dollars which is a substantial amount for a company’s first two years.

Another benefit from using Instagram is that it is a vehicle to introduce people that would have never met in the “traditional” way. In April of 2017, Roberto Forgione released after posting an Instagram story that someone who has “ghosted” him looked at his story he posted. After reaching out to Anthea Fisher through Instagram direct messaging, Forgione asked Fisher if she’d like hang out. Fisher viewed Forgione’s posts and noticed that she and Forgione had similar interests. Two years later they still go on dates, attend weddings together and spend Thanksgiving together (New York Times). Another couple; Bethany Olson and Cory Staudache met each other through Instagram (Huffington Post UK). Both photographers, Bethany Olson started to following Cory Staudache, first formally met at a music festival in Seattle which then turned into a road trip. Cory Staudache proposed one year later. They invited a bunch of their mutual friends, where many of them met in Instagram to the wedding in 2016. Olson and Staudache meeting on Instagram shows how Instagram can be a way for people to meet each other and even build connections through other people who have met on Instagram as well.

Through Instagram there are a lot of positive accounts that help promote being comfortable in your own skin no matter your size, color, gender or sexuality. Instagram has so many features for editing photos which can make one better looking than they may actually be and does not show one’s true looks. For example the American Eagle brand Aerie promotes self confidence and being comfortable when posting photos. Aerie post unedited photos with girls in their swimsuits and they encourage more people to post their true self regardless of what one may look like. There are many accounts like Aerie including: Bodyposipanda, SwimsuitsForAll,TessHoliday and MyPaleSkinBlog. All of these Instagram pages all have a different meaning mostly towards women. Bodyposipanda is a page that promotes body positive quotes to prevent body shaming and women that are anorexic. SwimsuitsForAll goal is that no matter what color you are everyone can fit into a swimsuit and be confident with themselves. TessHoliday’s page is for plus size women to post pictures of himself and received good comments in order for them to be more confident. With MyPaleSkinBlog; Em Ford post tutorials of how to put make-up and blogs about her battle with ance to show other women that it’s ok to have not perfect skin. These five Instagram account shows how Instagram can be a huge positive influence for people struggling with confidence issues because they’re not considered perfect. Even though one may see models all over Instagram these influential accounts also show that you can be whoever you want and still have the space to show the world your true self through Instagram.

Although Instagram has its positives that come with the app, there are many negatives that stem from the app as well. Some negatives include cyberbullying and  beauty and body shaming, which has a huge effect on the youths and their mental health. In May of 2017, The Royal Society For Public Health conducted a survey about which is the worst social media app for mental health. The survey was taken by 1,500 people, ranging in age from 14 to 24 living in the the United Kingdom. All had voted Instagram as the worst social media app for mental health. Mary, a 13-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, said that relentless bullying on Instagram by a former friend gave her the first-ever panic attack she suffered. It started, Mary said, after she made the cheer team and her former friend did not. “She would DM me, or when I was with my friends, if they posted me on their Story, she would [respond] and say mean stuff about me since she knew I would see it since I’m with them,” Mary said. “She would never do it on her own Story; she’d make it seem like she wasn’t doing anything” (The Atlantic). By Mary being bullied and harassed through Instagram proves Instagram’s negative effect on users shows the potential consequences that result from viewing Instagram. With Instagram being a platform for anyone to post, comment, or message, a case like Mary’s shows how she was taking a moment she was proud of and her peers i bullying her because they appeared to be jealous. A second example of bullying and harassment through Instagram is about a 14 year old boy named Quentin Espinoza committed suicide in November of 2017 due to consistent bullying. “Furko said she and police have found postings on Quentin’s Instagram account, both before and after his death, suggesting he was being taunted by other teens “… “the Instagram posts by a group of mostly girls were found on Quentin’s phone after his death. She paraphrased one from before his death as saying “I hope you die” and another after as saying, “I’m glad you’re gone because I don’t have to look at your ugly face anymore” (Journal Sentinel). With that being said it is evident that Quentin was a victim of cyberbullying through Instagram and unfortunately it came to the worst possible outcome; taking his own life.

With Instagram and in today’s society most things are a competition when it comes to likes, comments and how your photo looks. With the ability to edit photos with filters it gives your followers the perception that one may look prettier or better than they actually are.  “…that exposure to manipulated Instagram photos directly led to lower body image. Especially, girls with higher social comparison tendencies were negatively affected by exposure to the manipulated photos” (Taylor and Francis Online). With the example of photo editing shows that people who post edited posts, (happen to mostly be girls in this situation) think of themselves less because they’re all compared to the “best” or prettiest photo” which can lower one’s self esteem and effect how they feel about themselves and others.

Through my research I was able to analyze the positives and negatives to formulate an idea about the direction Instagram is going and it’s users and its effects on today’s society. Although there are many positives and negatives through Instagram use, with the negatives being so extreme, Instagram still seems to be on an upward trend as of now. That is because of the younger generation being brought up in today’s technology dependent society. Instagram still has improvements to make, to make sure all of its users feel safe and comfortable but some things like editing photos and people feeling bad about themselves because they are not model status will stay the same because Instagram cannot control that. But I look forward seeing Instagram in 5 to 10 years and what it’s users think of it as well.