historical-selfies

Slate added to the wheelhouse of Facebook-makes-you-selfish-and-lonely articles that seem to be littering the online atmosphere these days. And, while we would position our argument a little more towards the preexisting tendency to navel-gaze, the diagnosis for what social media makes us think is no less true for it.

But Slate makes the argument here that Instagram–that handsome friendzone we know and love, with those scrolling, squared filtered funshots–is actually a war app, where we battle our friends’ self-images with selfies of our own, and all the while lose ourselves more quickly than we would with Facebook. Slate, per usual, sounds a bit morose about it all, but they’ve got a point: the images of friends, coupled with the semi-valueless “Likes” we are expected to give and expected to expect, lead to a perverse self-image that is checked and rechecked with little payoff. Besides, the simple prettiness of the whole production is a bit misleading to experiences–awkward conversation, farts, inner-tensions. As for whether or not you can use Instagram without feeling this way, I suggest asking Jessica Winter (ht AC):

tumblr_inline_mklb76kQLe1qznyfeInstagram distills the most crazy-making aspects of the Facebook experience. So far, academic studies of Instagram’s effects on our emotional states are scarce. But it’s tempting to extrapolate those effects from the Facebook studies, because out of the many activities Facebook offers, the three things that correlate most strongly with a self-loathing screen hangover are basically the three things that Instagram is currently for: loitering around others’ photos, perfunctory like-ing, and “broadcasting” to a relatively amorphous group. “I would venture to say that photographs, likes, and comments are the aspects of the Facebook experience that are most important in driving the self-esteem effects, and that photos are maybe the biggest driver of those effects,” says Catalina Toma of the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “You could say that Instagram purifies this one aspect of Facebook.”

Instagram is exclusively image-driven, and images will crack your mirror. “You get more explicit and implicit cues of people being happy, rich, and successful from a photo than from a status update,” says Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University Berlin, co-author of the study on Facebook and envy. “A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority. You don’t envy a news story.”

Celebrities-Taking-Selfies-PicturesKrasnova’s research has led her to define what she calls an “envy spiral” peculiar to social media. “If you see beautiful photos of your friend on Instagram,” she says, “one way to compensate is to self-present with even better photos, and then your friend sees your photos and posts even better photos. Self-promotion triggers more self-promotion, and the world on social media gets further and further from reality.” Granted, an envy spiral can unspool just as easily on Facebook or Twitter. But for a truly gladiatorial battle of the selfies, Instagram is the only rightful Colosseum. 

Instagram messes more with your sense of time. “You spend so much time creating flattering, idealized images of yourself, sorting through hundreds of images for that one perfect picture, but you don’t necessarily grasp that everybody else is spending a lot of time doing the same thing.” Toma says. Then, after spending lots of time carefully curating and filtering your images, you spend even more time staring at other people’s carefully curated and filtered images that you assume they didn’t spend much time on. And the more you do that, Toma says, “the more distorted your perception is that their lives are happier and more meaningful than yours.” Again, this happens all the time on Facebook, but because Instagram is image-based, it creates a purer reality-distortion field.