Juliana Blanc, a 20-year-old girl from America, in the interview said that during the weekend after gets up and then she will lie in the bed and opens the Instagram. She gazes the screen through messy hair and slides the screen ceaseless. Although last night she slept very late, she wants to know how many likes she got after one night. She found that she got fewer likes than her friend, although they posted the same photos. She said she felt very sad, and spend more time on Instagram that day. Juliana told me that it is not the first time she pays much attention to the likes amount, she thinks the most important thing is not to post what kind of images or write what content, but how many likes and the comment she can get after that. Sometimes, when she found the likes is too little, she will feel very nervous, and then she will delete that post.
There are countless people like Juliana Blanc that spend plenty of time on social media such as Instagram. Users found that after they browse the post, which published by their follows, they still can find new posts that they are interested in the recommended part according to Evening Standard [Link]. On the recommendations, Instagram will accord to the people that users followed and what kind of content can get users ‘like’ to recommend a new post. Moreover, more posts that users browse the more accurate post will be recommended to users.
It is not difficult to understand why there is so many people indulge in Instagram. The change of algorithm, which also called ‘ranked’ feed presents this kind of change according to Evening Standard [Link]. Before the pre-algorithm, users only can catch less than 50 percent of posts from users’ interests or familiar people, but with the pre-algorithm, users can see over 90 percent of videos or images from their friends. Moreover, for Instagram, the most important thing is to increase the time that users spend on the platform. Jimmy Cooper in the interview said that he found as he spends more time on the platform, more ads he can see, and he thinks Instagram can get more benefits from these ads.
Why there are so many people cannot control the time of using social media platforms? Many web designers worry about they do not have enough fresh content for users according to the Psychologist [link]. There are many users prefer sources of new and stimulating information. Therefore, in addition to regular updates, social media sites are usually updating their design to get users’ attention every couple of months. For users, the main labor of social media is to add new connections. However, sometimes people cannot connect with everyone equally. For example, if users want to follow another user on Instagram, they need to wait for other people to allow that requirement. Moreover, other users may not follow back. Therefore, sometimes it is rewarded, and sometimes it is not, which means people may spend more time, and continue to engage in it. Yun Lee said once he found his high school classmate’s Instagram, and then he decided to follow this person. But after two weeks he found that his classmates did not follow back, although this person updates new photo during this period. There are some functions that also lead users to click the application more frequently. For example, every time people get a new message, or a friend request accepted, the notification icon will show that signal to users. That is social media websites encourage people to check the message, and open the application.
Overindulge in Instagram may influence mental health. The app encourages users to present an attractive and upbeat image that could mislead others according to The Guardian [Link]. When users use Instagram, the posts that recommended to users always get a certain like, and these images make users worry that everyone is perfect except themselves. Therefore, many celebrities get hundreds of new nasty messages when they refresh their page, and some message even contained malicious death threats. In 2017, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) made a wide survey for people from 14 olds to 24 olds in the UK, and they found that Instagram effect on body image, sleep, and Fomo. Moreover, RSPH maintains that ‘endless scrolling without much interaction will not lead to much of a positive impact on mental health.’ Users also cannot control what they are seeing, which damage to youth especially.
For Instagram and users, it is hard to distinguish which side promotes which side. It is more like they have interacted with each other. Yun Lee said he found his classmate’s Instagram from the system recommendation. The system found they have many same follows and followers, but the algorithm did not know Yun’s classmate did not follow back. Because this person did not follow back, Yun almost every day checks the follower list, and click into this people’s home page and see what new images this person posted. After that Yun found his post also be affected by his classmate, when his classmate posts some positive images, he will post more positive photos. The problem with Instagram is that users share content that is meant to reflect positively on themselves. Even though users are bitter about the unreal life that they follow, they still share their unreal lives according to The Guardian [Link]. Instagram changed from a friendly platform, where most people posted food images, into a competitive social environment. Everyone filters out tough things to represent a life that does not exist.
What changed Instagram, and trigger such a strong response? In mid-2016 Instagram had experienced the largest changes to the platform. Instead of providing users with a cross-section of what they follow were up to at any given moment, Instagram began to populate the feed with the most noteworthy posts from these accounts. From that service start to promote a curated, Instagram began obtaining an unrealistic version of an already curated, unrealistic feed according to The Guardian [Link]. Moreover, there are many users on Instagram rely on ads and sponsorship to make a living. These unscrupulous creators though buying likes, followers and comments try to fool the algorithm. Sam Soeurs said she found her follows list have many people that she did not follow before, and she removes these people. But after a few weeks, there appeared other users again that she did not follow.
To sum up, Instagram enriched people’s lives in some ways, but it also made some people excessive indulgence on this platform, which influenced users’ mental health to some degree. There are many people who are overindulging Instagram and waste their sleep and study time. The algorithm of the recommendation is the contributing factor, but users themselves also are the contributing factor. If they can control themselves, their mental health will not be affected.