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Is Instagram Bad For Your Mental Health?

by Charlie Zhang

What’s the verdict in 2021?

Image Source: Mr Porter

It is our duty as marketers to be aware of our contributions to the digital world. We live in a time where social media has become a regular part of everyday life, and we’re seeing it evolve at a pace that can sometimes be overwhelming. The impact that social media has on our mental health has been hotly debated over the last few years, and we’re still trying to wrap our heads around the extent to which it’s affecting us. Just like anything in life, there are pros and cons, but concerns seem to be rising more and more each day.

According to Wall Street Journal, Facebook leaked documents that show how Instagram can be toxic for teenage girls: approximately 32% of teenage girls who felt bad about their bodies felt worse after using Instagram. We don’t have to look very far to see reports like this flooding the web. You’re probably reading this article as one of the results of your search queries. If you were in fact Googling, you might have scrolled through many results about how Instagram amplifies our anxieties.

Image Source: Wall Street Journal


But just like all things in life, there are pros and cons. Firstly, Instagram can be an excellent tool for brands to market themselves. It can be cost-effective and it can get you the kind of attention your business deserves. The in-app data that Instagram provides is detailed enough to help you make good branding decisions. Instagram can facilitate engagement and enthusiasm by making it easy for people to participate in content. The platform can help elevate the social element of a physical pop up or event, just as EQ did for Pepsico's event. Imagine you’re the owner of a yoga brand and you want to host a yoga session. You invite friends, media, press and influencers. The event goes smoothly and everyone enjoys it. After the event, you open up Instagram and see hundreds of likes, comments and follows flooding your notifications. Everyone at the event tagged your brand and each other. Thousands of people who weren’t even there are now seeing your brand and engaging with your account’s profile. All of this is the magic of Instagram and is why the platform is prerequisite for any event. If used correctly, it can make your brand known and bring you new customers.

Image Source: Instagram


According to reports, in March 2020, one staff member posted on Facebook’s internal message board, “comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.” The post was soon taken down, but screenshots were taken and have since been widely circulated. Besides this instance, it’s been heavily reported that Instagram does in fact affect mental health, especially for young people. There’s a correlation between time spent on Instagram and mental distress. Most of the research around this topic points to the fact that establishing a healthy balance between going on and offline can help alleviate the anxiety induced from social media. Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed he is “aware” of such studies with no formal solutions offered.

Image Source: Vicky Leta / Mashable

Looking from the outside, what we see is minimal effort from Facebook to address the issues, going further to “play them down in public,” says Wall Street Journal. This appears to be a strategic move on Facebook's part as more than 30% of Instagram’s users are under the age of 22. The issues remain and brands are keen to target the young demographic. But what does this mean for brands who want to provide value to their customers? What’s the real cost of marketing on Instagram? The questions are nevertheless tough and we ought to continue our search for the right solutions. 

In case you missed it, check out our round-up of top branding Instagram accounts every creative should follow.

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