By Giuseppe Riva and Clelia Malighetti*

Instagram is definitely one of the most popular photo and video sharing social networks. Images are its peculiar feature. The platform allows you to create real virtual diaries through which you can tell about yourself.

Based on the results of a study published in an international journal, which we conducted with the aim of investigating how the body was represented on Instagram, we realized the importance of telling what were the psychological processes involved in using this social network. Digital education is essential to promote a responsible and safe use of the platform. Instagram is a daily pastime in the life of adolescents and is intertwined with some fundamental aspects of their development, such as self-discovery, identity building, and body development.

Instagram, which has become the main means of socialization, has produced a series of changes at social level: from the fusion between the "Online" world of social networks and the "Offline" world of everyday life, to the increase in the number of "friends" and interactions, which has led at the same time to a reduction in the quality of the interactions themselves, with possible consequences such as loneliness and depression.

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is marked by the achievement of self-awareness. To date, the search for balance of self no longer takes place within physical communities, such as the oratory or the park, but takes place in digital communities, created by the social networks themselves. Looking for one's own definition within these digital contexts can influence both the way teenagers experience the world and the emotions they feel, and the role they play within these digital communities of which they are part. The research looks more closely into these changes, especially with respect to the construction of a personal identity, the recognition of emotions and the construction of a social identity, now far from the concept of "being" and increasingly close to the concept of "being there".   

Instagram also offers many opportunities. Used in a conscious way, it is a perfect virtual laboratory to experience a personal empowerment process. It is an effective showcase to learn how to tell and promote yourself and express your creativity. However, a problematic use of this application can affect the psychological well-being of its users. The fusion between online and offline life has in fact caused a multiplication of identities with repercussions on personal and social relationships: from emotional illiteracy, to issues related to self-esteem and body acceptance, up to dynamics such as sexting or grooming.

* Respectively Professor of Communication Psychology and PhD student in Communication Psychology