Many people see social media as a fantastic way to share their life experiences with other people and to remain in contact with friends from across the globe. While this is certainly one aspect of social media, the unfortunate reality is that the average social media user gets far more than they bargain for when they’re using these platforms.
People who use social media – especially platforms like Instagram – extensively, become more likely to develop issues with depression, anxiety, and low self-worth.
Unfortunately, since the use of these platforms is so normalized and many people who interact with each other also use the same social media platforms, it becomes hard to recognize the mental health problems that these programs can cause. Instead of recognizing the depression that they’re developing, people may tend to compare themselves to other Instagram users who have similar depression and choose to label it as normal.
That’s the main issue with mental health and Instagram – comparisons. Instagram isn’t just a platform to share your experiences with others. It’s a platform that many people use to compare (consciously or unconsciously) themselves with others.
In this article we’ll explain several of the theories that explain why Instagram is considered the worst social media platforms for a person’s mental health, and why their users can be more prone to issues like depression rather than people who are free from social media.
How Instagram Affects the Brain
There are some serious effects that Instagram can have on the human brain.
Creating a Dopamine Rush
Instagram works on a feedback system. You share something, and other people like it – or don’t like it. The first few times that you do this, you’ll naturally be excited and enthralled that other people are proud or fond of your activities or your postings. This leads to a brief rush of dopamine in the brain – you feel happy, connected, and content. It essentially controls your brain.
However, any activity that causes a rush of dopamine like this can become addictive. Unfortunately, since Instagram is normalized and seems relatively harmless, the reality of the dopamine addiction caused by the platform is often unacknowledged.
Instagram users often go from simply enjoying a few ‘likes’ here and there to experiencing a greater need for these likes. They may become disappointed if their posts don’t garner the amount of likes that they hope they do. If people continually don’t like their posts, they may actually start to think that these people dislike them.
The neurology of this is very real. When dopamine is released in the mesolimbic reward pathway of the brain, we respond with feelings of pleasure. When the dopamine stimulus is repeated, we become ‘tolerant’ to it. This can be seen in addictions of all sorts: drug addiction, sex addiction, and gambling addiction all results in the addicts becoming tolerant and needing more – more drugs, more sex, or more gambling.
The same is true of Instagram. Instagram users soon find that they need more likes, more shares, and more followers to achieve the same degree of satisfaction. If they don’t get them, they can become depressed and lethargic – much like a sex addict becomes unhappy if they can’t find sexual partners, or a drug addict experiences withdrawal when they can’t get their drugs.
Instagram may seem relatively harmless, but the damage it does to the human body is real. Unfortunately, most Instagram users don’t recognize the threat that the application poses. If you are struggling with an Instagram addiction, consider speaking to a trained therapist in your area, or online. Addiction is considered a serious mental health issue, no matter the type.