University students have reported experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem through using photo and video-sharing app Instagram, according to a University of Notre Dame study, the eRecord reports.
Regarded as one of the world’s most influential social media networks, Instagram's 700 million users follow trends, post "stories" and explore content contributed by the global community.
However, Notre Dame PhD researcher and tutor, Carmen Papaluca has found that the Instagram landscape isn’t all fun hashtags and cool photo filters.
In a study aimed at exploring the effects of Instagram on the wellbeing of young female university students, Ms Papaluca discovered that those in their late-teens or early-20s had vastly different reactions to Instagram images than those in their mid-twenties.
In a series of focus groups involving more than 50 students aged 18-25 years, Ms Papaluca presented a range of images on fitness, beauty, nutrition, health, travel and work.
“Students in their late-teens and early-twenties were drawn to the images of fitness and beauty. But rather than positive reactions, the images generated feelings of inadequacy and negative self-perception,” said Ms Papaluca, who decided to undertake the research to clarify the link between Instagram use and emotional wellbeing.
“While images related to fitness encouraged students to keep active, they were motivated to do so from a negative perspective to help them overcome their perceived physical shortcomings.
“However, students in their mid-20s were far more focused on work and lifestyle. They felt their lives lacked meaning in comparison to others in the same age group who had posted "selfies" working abroad, travelling to exotic destinations or showing off their enviable social lives,” she added.
Common across the entire group was a tendency for the students to manipulate their own Instagram accounts by boosting follower ratios and using fake images as a way of coping with the feelings of inadequacy and envy they experienced while using the social media platform.
As a next step, Ms Papaluca plans to use the research to inform a larger study measuring the impact of Instagram on various aspects of wellbeing among female adolescents.