I can still hear the blood pumping in my ears. There is a tightness in my chest. I have just spent a good part of my evening creating an account for Instagram, or as the cool kids say, "The 'Gram" (but with less punctuation). Now, I consider myself to be a relatively capable person. I have a university degree, have built flat pack furniture and travelled abroad alone. So why? Why did it take me so long to create this account? Why? 😣
I think that the first glitch arose because there was no instruction booklet. Even IKEA gives an instruction booklet. It seems to be assumed that we are so used to downloading apps and creating accounts that there is no need for any real help. So, I Googled "Instagram" and clicked "Sign up". So far so good. I thought. My first hurdle was choosing a username that the rest of the planet hadn't already chosen. I had decided to base the page around my puppy and came up with the available combination, myclovercollective. After 35 minutes of right clicking, left clicking, dragging and dropping I managed to upload a profile picture. Some photos just wouldn't work. I still don't know why. Perhaps instructions would have helped 😁.
To activate my account I backed and forth-ed between my laptop and my mobile phone with secret codes and clever passwords only to receive a security message asking if I had just logged into my account from Caboolture. I do not live within a 100 km of Caboolture. The security message recommended twice more that I change my password immediately. That in itself was (a) torturous, because these new passwords I will have forgotten by tomorrow and (b) it was a real safety concern.
With my account finally set up I stared at my homepage. I had 0 followers, 0 posts and was following another puppy page and National Geographic. That's when it struck me. I really had nothing to say. I had no desire to share with or follow strangers. I have a Facebook page that I use to connect with friends and interact with several groups so those needs are met. But, I surged ahead though because I wanted to see what my students see. What was it that kept them active online? So, I posted, followed, liked and shared. I must say though, it all felt a little silly putting my posts out there to nobody. But, now I could put myself in the shoes of my students.
They are of a generation where their lives are documented daily in pictorial form through social media. Every moment is captured and recorded. What is the payoff? Most of these platforms provide feedback in the form of 'Likes'. Research is now tells us that receiving a 'like' has the same effect on the brain as eating chocolate and winning money. The prediction that the number of 'likes' can be correlated to a teen's self-esteem has been supported. Worrying is the thought of how teens feel when they don't get likes for a post, especially one that has been posed for, photo-shopped, filtered and altered to be 'their very best selves''. Experts say that users would rather remove their post entirely than have it go unnoticed.
Relying on affirmation from others in order to feel good about oneself may signal contingent self-worth, which can undermine well-being over time.
Just this month, Instagram has been testing the removal of the 'like' option. They noticed that users were becoming more concerned about the number of 'likes' a post received than the actual story telling the site was developed for. This is interesting considering teens are more likely to click 'like' on a post that has lots of likes, regardless of how they actually felt about it. I wonder if it will last and if it will catch on?
So, my final thoughts...I found the setting up and using of my Instagram account stressful and somewhat of a burden now that I need to keep posting. I don't want to let my 4 followers (yes 4 followers!) down. I am convinced though that a teen could have done it for me in less than 10 minutes. I can also see Instagram as a quick, mobile way for youth to document and share their stories. If this helps our youth stay connected with each other in a world when so many feel alone, that is a good thing. I suppose this is the new version of writing a diary, but one without a lock.
End note: I now have have 54 perfect strangers following myclovercollective (and I feel a little bit good about it!).