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Teens Obsess over Instagram

Instagram on the iPhone absorbs many students' time. Photo by Flickr user lawergren.
Instagram on the iPhone absorbs many students’ time. Photo by Flickr user lawergren.

We are always faced with the daily dilemma of Instagram: the number of likes, the number of comments, the number of followers and everything in between. “Why am I not in your bio?” your friends ask. “What’s your ratio?” they say, meaning the ratio of the number of followers you have to the number of people you follow. “Do I look pretty in this photo?” I’ve come to realize that everybody participates in this Instagram frenzy in some way, and I am guilty as charged.

Now with 90 million users, this free app is worth $1 billion. Users used to post pictures of food, sunsets, and beautiful landscapes but now Instagram has turned into a virtual runway. Filled with selfies, group shots and posed “model” photos, Instagram is all about the compliments. When we post these photos, we are asking our friends to write, “You’re adorable!” “QT!” “Gorg!” Self worth is now measured by a number of “double taps” — also known as likes.

As crazy as it seems, Instagram also reflects a social hierarchy. Your status is determined by your “ratio.” You’re on the top of this social pyramid if you have more followers than people you follow. Most Middle Schoolers’ free time is spent obsessing over losing followers, gaining followers and deciding who to unfollow.

As contributors to this craze, how can we have a positive influence instead of a negative one? Are we capable of minimizing the competition? Even without Instagram, isn’t it in our nature to be competitive, to express ourselves and to look for positive feedback? Maybe we should all put down our phones and focus on being better friends, and talking face to face instead of on a device. Maybe we focus on being present and having fun rather than narrowing in on who is having a “better” time.