The Right Picture, the Right Filter, and the Right Representation

One of the largest social media networks on the market is Instagram. Instagram started in October 2010 and became a quick sensation for its ability for users to take a picture and upload it onto their profile. Unlike other social media networks, Instagram allowed users to place filters, edit, and adjust settings on the image so that it would fit the taste of the user uploading the image. On Instagram, images varied from “selfies” to pictures of specific moments to pictures of food and culture. User-generated content started to explode on Instagram and this social media became the sensation we know of today.

However, there are many psychological impacts from uploading to Instagram. While we may think that we inadvertently decide to upload an image with random settings, our mind undergoes a long process to assess the image, make necessary changes to our liking, and approve it before uploading it onto the internet. This long process happens in moments and Instagram users do not recognize this immediately. This screening process developed over time as users became known to others and as users attempted to get likes and support from others. The aim to get more likes has impacted the way users see themselves and how they want to portray themselves to others, which resulted with a stronger screening process to make sure that the image being uploaded was the right picture, the right filter, and the right representation of the user.

This topic of self-perception and the way one places him- or herself on the internet was studied by Kelsey Sunstrom, as she published an article on PsychCentral, a blog website based on psychological studies and findings. Her article, titled “How Social Media Affects Our Self-Perception” looked deeply into the way people think of themselves both in the outside world and online. Her point of emphasis in the article was the term “smiling depression” and how it impacted people online. She defined “smiling depression” as a “term used to describe people who are depressed but do not appear so” and her link between “smiling depression” and social media was the fact that “one factor for the high rates of depression seen in social media-friendly people is the inconsistency they observe between their ideal cyber self and their self-image.” This discrepancy between how users view themselves in real life and how they want to be viewed online impacts their mental health and this has caused many mental health cases worldwide, as users seek more attention online and try to build their social-media-self.

Are users being led into a pit of evil, where they are left stranded to find their own identity to survive by finding likes? Are users forced to change their self-image online to get the likes they want? These are some of the questions that lead the study of mental health among sociologists and psychologists. As more users join social media, users are endangered by the competitive nature of social media and the competitive structure of getting recognition. While mental health worldwide is endangered by the use of social media, it should not scare users away from social media platforms. Social media has many benefits and gains as a network, but as most things in the world, they have some negative repercussions. In order to use social media safely and to battle depression online, Kelsey Sunstrom suggests on her article:

Here are a few ways to treat social media depression:

  • Take the time to unplug from technology and social media accounts everyday.
  • When faced with social media-induced self-loathing, confront your negative thoughts and question their origin and validity.
  • If you’re drawn to social media during times of boredom, ensure you have something to distract yourself, such as a book or fun phone app.

To read Kelsey Sunstrom’s article:




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