I feel like one of those 80-year-olds who doesn’t use a cellphone because they claim “they’re always listening.”
There’s nothing like the flood of fear when your Instagram gets hacked. When this happened to me back in March, at first I thought Instagram was just “reporting a hacking attempt” because I was using Instagram on my computer at the time (an unknown device), so I was annoyed. I felt like my posts were a cumulative timeline of my experience in college. I began in Rome as a spring scholar, moved to New Orleans, had posts from summer with high school friends, then back to school to be reunited with my Tulane friends. While all of this is a fabricated, specific version of my life, I did like my Instagram to an extent. I felt a little pathetic for missing it, but decided it would be good to reset, and assumed the block on my account would eventually be lifted.
A week later, I discovered my account actually was hacked. I did some investigating and realized I put my personal information in the wrong hands (so 100% my fault). Unsure of what this hacking entailed, I only imagined the worst: whoever was in control of my account could be direct messaging people I didn’t know, posting bizarre content, and maybe even gaining access to my camera roll. Who knows. All of these ideas left me with the unsettling, underlying thought that any content presented on this account is linked to my name, and I would have no control of it.
I don’t go on Instagram that often. I’ll delete the app for days, then redownload to see if anything new has happened. With this routine, I’ve come to a profound observation: nothing ever actually happens. Does scrolling for hours to see people’s staged images tell us anything new about them? Usually not besides who they’re spending time with that day, what new place they traveled to, or if they dyed their hair.
I’ve always found social media quite meaningless, but still enjoyed seeing what my friends were up to. However when your account gets hacked, and you cannot even attempt to delete your account because you no longer have access to it, social media becomes more meaningful.
For one of my classes I did a survey about social media and body image. It was sent to my Tulane friends, home friends, and Tulane sororities. I had a total of 46 responses. When asked, “Do you ever post on social media to demonstrate your attractiveness?” 41.3% responded “usually”, and 41.3% responded “sometimes”. When asked, “How often do you compare yourselves to models in advertisements or on social media?” 74% of participants responded “always” or “usually”. When asked about discussing someone a participant does not know, “Do you ever look up their profile to see what they look like?” 62.2% responded “always.”
As much as we like to pretend that social media doesn’t define our understanding of others, it often does. This realization induces even more concern for my inability to access or delete my account.
I am studying communications and advertising, so media usage is prevalent in my classes. I don’t love social media, and I hate sitting through commercials. So, why am I studying this? To understand how the media affects us in its almost addictive nature, but also to learn how to make it better.
In my study, 28.3% of participants responded that they “never feel better after going on social media”, and 69.6% responded “only sometimes.”
It makes me wonder, why do we dedicate so much time to social media? I have friends who save photos, going back and forth on whether or not to post for DAYS (!), and for what? Realistically, do people really care if you went to that dinner? No. Are they still going to examine it, comment, and like it? Probably.
I end this with the message to question how much time you spend on social media, and how it affects your day. Put the benefits and drawbacks into perspective, and see what you can change. Be wary of the internet as to what you’re clicking, and sometimes it’s good to validate those old people who are afraid of technology. Sometimes they’re right.
Cover Photo: article19.org