At this point, Instagram looks like an alternate universe. A place governed by its own laws. A place, where the ultimate creator is photo editing software.
In fact, it's so full of fake influencers, there's even a subreddit dedicated to calling them out, r/InstagramReality. "Social media is a breeding ground for Facetune and Photoshop," the online community writes on its page. "It's unbelievable how some people get away with it while others don't!"
These Internet detectives are on the quest to expose those who have taken it too far: guys who make their biceps so big, they warp the space-time continuum, women with skin so smooth, you can't tell where they chin ends and their necks begin, they're all here.
In an earlier piece on r/InstagramReality, Bored Panda spoke to Siobhan Ward, a primary therapist at Life Works, a rehabilitation center that provides treatment for addictions and eating disorders, about the scope of social media addiction in the United Kingdom.
"If you broke 'social media addiction' down into categories, it would encompass other process or behavioral addictions such as porn and gambling, as well as eating disorders, especially predominant with the likes of Instagram," Ward explained. "It may be that the addiction is not with the social media itself, but the social media has become a tool of other addictions."
The therapist thinks people can't stop faking and editing their Instagram photos (even when it's an obvious lie) because of brain chemistry. "Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that comes into play with the addict — it is what tells us that we enjoy something and therefore need to do it again as it gives us pleasure."
"If the person is taking a lot of selfies that have to be 'perfect', then maybe they are not addicts. Instead, this could be a sign of a possible narcissistic personality disorder. Also, if someone is posting pictures to get as many likes as possible, they may not be getting certain needs met in their life. They may not have the love, support, or even safety that they need now or that they needed when they grew up and therefore have had to find another way to fill that hole," Ward said.
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Interestingly, being reminded that social media is fake can also 'fill' us. In a 2019 study, researchers decided to investigate the effect 'Instagram vs. Reality' pictures (the ones containing side-by-side photographs of the same woman, one an idealized depiction and the other a more natural depiction) have on body image.
They got together 305 women aged between 18 and 30 years, the largest demographic group of Instagram users. The sample had a mean age of 25.34 years, and their mean body mass index (BMI) was 26.98, indicating a slightly overweight sample. The majority of participants identified as Caucasian (69.2%), followed by Latino/Hispanic (11.8%), African American (10.2%), Asian (6.6%), Native American (0.3%), and 'other' (2.0%). The participants were randomly assigned to view one of three sets of Instagram images over a period of time: 'Instagram vs. reality" images, the 'ideal' side alone, or the 'real' side alone.
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"[The study found that] viewing the 'Instagram vs. reality' and real images resulted in decreased body dissatisfaction relative to the ideal images," the researchers wrote. "Furthermore, the detrimental effects of appearance comparison were much less marked for the 'Instagram vs. reality' and real images than for the ideal images. It was concluded that 'Instagram vs. reality' and real posts have the potential to bolster women's body satisfaction, but more research is needed to assess their longer-term impact."
Siobhan Ward said that we need to become aware of what we believe we are getting from the Internet in order to start resisting its temptation. "By understanding why [we] turn to the Internet, [we] can start to think about healthier ways to meet these needs."
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