Social Media’s Impact on Mental Health

Instagram can be a platform full of inspiration and connections, but beneath the hundreds of likes and comments is a harsh reality.

Popular Instagram models post photos of themselves that promote unrealistic beauty standards that can’t be achieved offline, leading to a negative impact on users’ mental health.

Caroline Constantinovich, a Youngstown State University alumna, said this issue comes down to not knowing what is fake or real.

“It’s easy to know that your best friend spiced up her selfie,” she said. “However, your favorite influencer? That becomes a game of will the influencer actually disclose if they edited a photo or not.”

Constantinovich said what matters most to her is her mental health, so she takes steps to unfollow those whose pictures are photoshopped.

“I personally have started deleting people who don’t inspire me,” she said. “It’s like having a toxic friend group when you follow people who make you feel bad. We’re leaving that behind in 2020.”

Constantinovich believes that although Instagram sets up women for unrealistic expectations, it is still the consumer’s responsibility to choose the content they consume.

“Get better idols, get better friends and find people online who motivate you,” she said. “It makes a world of a difference.”

A hopeful recent initiative spearheaded by Facebook and Instagram includes doing away with likes.

Last year, the two social media platforms announced they would be stepping away from their traditional “liking” model on posts to discourage online bullying and nurture better societal mental health.

The new feature is slowly being implemented through user testing, giving users different versions of the new liking system.

Facebook and Instagram users will still have the option to like posts, but instead of a number being associated with it, they will only be able to see if their mutual friends or followers also like the post. 

The platforms’ main change is showing users when someone likes their personal posts but not the number of likes other users have.

“When someone you follow has liked someone else’s photo, it will say ‘[name of Instagram account] and others’ under the post where likes would typically appear. Users can then click to see a list of the accounts who have liked the post, although they won’t be able to see a number highlighting how many people have liked it,” a CNN article explains. 

This will be a huge shift for social media influencers and many platform users who associate likes with popularity.