Instagram reveals our cultural values

Ethan Uslabar


Instagram is, I think, the one social media outlet that stands out. Not because it’s better in some way, or is less of a waste of time than others, but because of what messages Instagram conveys.

Instagram tells us about what our culture values.

Instagram does this through appearing to be the social media taken most seriously. The most production goes into creating posts for Instagram, the most critical selection is taken into account when preparing a post and only the most idealistic, perfect and attractive images make the cut. I think frequently our real-life selves aren’t even recognizable compared to our Instagram fabrications.

It’s the quintessential social media for the online alter-ego.

By looking at what posts are the most toothsome, I think we can find out what is valued in our desperate consumer culture. And we choose, or at least think we choose, these values.

We love beauty. We love money. We love “very fine” clothes and we’re willing to shell out absurd amounts for them. We love celebrities, fame and feeling important. That’s all pretty obvious.

We also love “justice,” but only to the point where we can associate ourselves with its virtue.

We value spending time with our families, as long as we can take from that moment an image that will garner an adequate amount of likes and reinforce the picture we painted of who we are. We’re patriotic on the Fourth of July, and we’re pious on Easter. Whatever’s trending, right?

I think it has deeper negative effects. Do we only value friendships that fit our Instagram persona? Our self-esteem can take a big hit from Instagram, too. How does it feel to only get 25 likes on your best selfie? Bad? Well, buy some over-priced beauty products (post a picture of that while you’re at it) and try again.

It’s hard to think your life is interesting when you’re constantly comparing it to other people’s highly-curated selections from their lives. The truth of the matter is that life isn’t a highlight reel. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes you’d rather not post a picture of it.

And so I think it’s time to stop, to no longer allow your self-worth be decided by strangers you were once acquainted with at a party, some random Russian dude who’s been “following” you for the past two years or your “friends” who don’t even know your favorite kind of pasta.

Instead, invest that effort into bettering your actual self, the one that is a student trying their best. The one that likes playing basketball. The one that dreams of having a family.

The one that, like the rest of us, is mortal.