* This story was contributed by Amanda H. Cronin, my own Digital Daughter.
A few days ago, I was scrolling through my camera roll when I came upon a photo that I had taken about a year ago. I was supposed to be doing my homework, but it was #throwbackthursday so I simply needed to post something. Seven minutes had passed and I was still cropping, brightening, and saturating the image to look vivid and professional. By the time I hit the “share” button (after spending a minute or so coming up with a clever caption and location), I had spent fifteen minutes posting a picture on Instagram. And I was proud of it.
Do you have an Instagram account? Odds are, yes − and you are one of the 75 million people that use the app daily. According to recent stories from CBS News, techcrunch.com, and TIME Magazine, Instagram is the most popular form of social media and is gaining popularity every day. There are myriad reasons for its wild success, but there’s one clear frontrunner: the connection users feel to others.
Isabella, an 11th grader at my high school remarks, “Instagram is my favorite form of social media because I love seeing other people’s pictures, especially celebrities.”
So Instagram is great! You post a picture, get some likes, maybe some comments, and move on with your life, right? Wrong. Hidden behind the endless deluge of photos are the crazy social expectations of the teenage world. If these implicit requirements are not conformed to in your tiny square picture, you will feel the lonely bite of the bitter popularity game. The account should really come with a survival guide. There are strict unspoken guidelines on Instagram. The fact that your post must include a clever, cute (not to mention fake) location. Or that the picture itself needs to be outlined by a crisp white frame. Why do we subject ourselves to these silly, frivolous rules of social media?
Yes, it is true that it can be fun. There is a certain sense of community that comes with having an Instagram. However, we cannot glaze over the bad stuff. A new trend, for example, has popped up over the last couple months and they are called “finstagrams,” a fake Instagram which is used to show bad or funny pictures of someone because other people would find it funny. This new form of social entertainment can be looked at through two different lenses, the first being that this is a form of cyberbullying, and the second being that this is a harmless way to joke between friends. Jen, a fellow sophomore, had a “finsta” made for her and is often the target of many jokes and comments at her expense. Her opinion? “I think it’s totally fine that these accounts exist, but if they get too out-of-hand then they should stop. Usually people have friends make their finstas, but some people make their own, so it really would only become a problem if your friends post something that truly isn’t nice.”
We have seen before the consequences of abusing our rights on social media. The cruelty committed on both the website Ask.fm and the app YikYak led to their banishment from the computers and phones of Greeley students. We have more influence on the internet than we think, and we need to be careful not hurt each other’s feelings.
That being said, issues on social media are often caused by miscommunication. We’re at the age when we’re trying to figure ourselves out, and that includes learning what boundaries to push. My Digital Daughter sister, Claire, also the subject of a “finsta” said, “I think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself.” I agree, and in the case of “finstas” and Instagram as a whole, we need to step back and recognize social media for what it truly is: another way to communicate and socialize with friends. We should not take it as seriously as we do, or use it as an opportunity to be unkind. So the next time you go to post a picture on Instagram, forget all the expectations and meaningless consequences. You’re here to share a photo. Go do that.