Megabucks breed mega insecurity: just ask the Rich Kids of Instagram

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

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On the internet, it is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone unable to admire someone else must be jealous of them. So please excuse what follows as the bitter delusions of someone yet to arrive at the self-awareness that characterises all social media interaction.

But I cannot look upon the works of the Rich Kids of Instagram without feeling pity for the eponymous Rich Kids. For those unfamiliar with them, they are a mostly self-identifying tribe of super-rich youngsters who post frequent pictures of their mandatorily enviable lifestyles. This basically translates as a lot of snaps of them posing on super yachts, or on private jets, or in their drive-through shoe cupboards and whatnot.

What Sex, Food, And Selfies Have To Do With Effective Social Marketing

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In 2010, researchers found that 80% of social media posts were announcements about people’s immediate experiences–Facebook status updates like Joe’s “OMG that is A LOT of snow” are the norm in social feeds. So in 2012, two researchers at Harvard were curious about this and decided to see how self-disclosure affects the brain.

It turns out that talking about our own thoughts and experiences activates the rewards system of the brain, providing that same shot of dopamine we get from sex, food, and exercise. The reward activity in the brain is also much greater when people get to share their thoughts with others.

Simply put, Joe’s wake-up tweet gave his brain pleasure.

Selfie-Loathing

Joyful woman in bikini runs to the sea

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The Human–Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon has found that your “passive consumption” of your friends’ feeds and your own “broadcasts to wider audiences” on Facebook correlate with feelings of loneliness and even depression. Earlier this year, two German universities showed that “passive following” on Facebook triggers states of envy and resentment in many users, with vacation photos standing out as a prime trigger. Yet another study, this one of 425 undergrads in Utah, carried the self-explanatory title “ ‘They Are Happier and Having Better Lives Than I Am’: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives.” Even the positive effects of Facebook can be double-edged: Viewing your profile can increase your self-esteem, but it also lowers your ability to ace a serial subtraction task.

The Happiest Countries In The World (On Instagram)

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Jetpac is a clever app that analyzes Instagram photos to create city guides. By identifying markers like how much lipstick people are wearing, or the number of mustaches showing, it rates places as, say, “bars women love” or “hipster hangouts” (a mustache indicating hipsterism in some cities).

Now, Jetpac has turned its technology to happiness. Crunching through 150 million images, and awarding “smile scores” based on the incidence and strength of smiling, it gives us a ranking of the world’s happiest places. You may be surprised by the results.