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Oct 30 2016
by Meghan Field

The Psychology Behind the Addiction to Instagram

By Meghan Field - Oct 30 2016
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Okay, just admit it. You use some, or most, of your precious free time to check Instagram multiple times a day. There is no hiding that one. But there is a legitimate reason that you feel compelled to check out what others are doing constantly, I swear. We are in a day and age where people share interesting tidbits or every little detail in their lives on a regular basis through social media. In years past, people shared certain information and pictures with just the people they wanted to share with those precious memories with. Now, there is easy access for anyone following you on Instagram to check out your pictures and videos when you post them, and even scroll through your feed at points. But why? Why do people take the time or feel the need to publicize their lives for others to see? What is the point? Gratification? Reassurance? Feeling rewarded? All of those aspects help explain why Instagram is so addictive.

Now that Instagram is offering many new appealing features, such as video sharing and the ability to zoom in on others photos, the app is boosting in popularity. More and more users are joining on a regular basis.

Statistically, as of June 21st, 2016, Instagram has had 500 million active monthly users and 300 million active daily users.

For many users, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work to posting the so-called perfect Instagram photo. The process is fairly simple, yet time consuming. First, someone needs to figure out what photo they are going to take. Is it going to be a shot of your Starbucks coffee or food from a tiny, secluded café? Is it going to be a picture of themselves and their significant other during a super cute date night? Is it going to be a #ThrowbackThursday picture to the beach last summer? Is it going to be a picture of a girl and all of her new friends living it up their freshman year of college? The point is, there are so many different avenues one can take when trying to decide on what is post worthy and what is not. After actually narrowing down your picture choices to the one you want to post, the next part is the fun part where each person's individuality and creativeness comes out: the editing phase.

First, you pick a filter. The filters range from Normal to Sepia to Black and White to practically anything else you could think of. Now, onto the edits. On any picture, you are able to adjust the brightness, contrast, structure, warmth, saturation, color, fade, highlights, shadows, vignette, tilt shift and sharpness. All of these edits can work together to make the photo more appealing to the eye.

After making sure the photo is perfect, the next step is adding a location, tagging people and thinking of a clever caption. The entire, lengthy process can take quite a bit of time. Occasionally, sometimes after a person posts a photo, he or she decides to delete the photo if they end up not liking the changes they made to it. Thankfully Instagram now has a caption editing function.

What is the point of going through all of this trouble and why do people do it? The answer is more complex than you think. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concludes that taking pictures of a certain event can actually make the person remember the event more, thus making them happier if the event was an enjoyable one. Having a photo to look back at as a reminder of a specific time causes the temporal lobes in your brain to activate, helping you remember the memory. Those that took photos of various experiences reported feeling more engaged in the actual activity they were doing at that time, no matter how significant or insignificant the event was. It also works in the reverse, too. If one sees a photo from a negative experience, all of the terrible memories rush back to them which heightens unhappiness.

We check Instagram constantly for two other huge reasons: to check how many likes/comments we are getting on our photos as well as keeping up with everyone else for fear of missing out. After all of the hard work someone had put into a photo, it is gratifying to receive like after like after like. When someone gets a like, it releases the serotonin in their brain, which is also known as the "happy chemical." Because of this, Instagram users will check the social media platform often and make their Instagram page the best it can be. The addiction also comes from the fact that users don't want to miss out on what other users are doing. In reality, people don't need to see another selfie of a girl with perfect makeup or yet another photo of someone's dog, yet the feeling of being in the loop is addicting.

Also, with around 544 million posts a day you can never get bored. There is always something new to look at, especially with the search part of Instagram and recommended photos based on your likes and who you follow.

So next time you find yourself spending hours on this one social media outlet, learn to take some time for yourself. You don’t need to constantly try to impress people with your staged photos – just remember to have fun with it.

Lead Image Credit: Meghan Field

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Meghan Field - Pennsylvania State University

Meghan is a sophomore at Penn State - University Park. She's from Hershey, PA. She is going to major in Biobehavioral Health and Psychology with a minor in Global Health. She has been dancing her whole life and has always had an interest in writing and anything science related. Instagram is @meghanfield.

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