Kaia Gerber and Gigi Hadid, two of the most requested models in the world, get hundreds of thousands of likes on almost every photo they post on Instagram. Occasionally, their selfies also come with a warning: “Social networks seriously harm your mental health.”
The phrase, printed on the back of a transparent cell phone case, appears occasionally, usually on your mirror selfies or when you are photographed holding your phone. They are not alone: multiple models and influencers have been photographed with the case, including Madison Beer, Hailey Bieber, Delilah Belle and dozens of other Instagram users who are tagged with the case each month.
Multiple studies have found that prolonged use of social networks is related to depression and loneliness, and relieving the pressures of constant connectivity has been a focus of attention of large technology companies in recent years. The popularity of this case suggests that not only typical users feel the effects of platforms: the most beautiful people in the world who have millions of followers and whose careers depend on Instagram to amplify their appearance also care about the effect that social networks They have in their brains and their self-esteem. .
“It’s just a constant reminder in my stories that we only do it for the tastes,” says Petra Vukotic, an Italian model with almost 25,000 followers who sometimes poses with the case. “I see it as a reminder to me that tastes and social networks are a drug. It is addictive. It’s a form of validation that is worth it. ”
The mental health warning phone case comes from Urban Sophistication, a four-year brand that specializes in clothing and accessories with self-referential and ironic marks and phrases. The team launched the $ 35 case in December 2017, and is still a bestseller that has become a signifier for aspiring influencers and Instagram users who regularly post on social media.
“We can’t say we expected that, but that was the best scenario we had in mind,” says Elad Yam, 23, owner of Urban Sophistication with her sister Neta, 21.
The irony of sharing his message through the medium against which he warns is intentional, and the case probably resonates with advanced Instagram users because it physically manifests the complicated relationship they have with the application. One of Instagram’s biggest obstacles, possibly the most important one today, is to build an uplifting space that doesn’t lead its most successful users to spirals of despair.
Christina D’Alessandro, who has almost 8,500 followers, says the case communicates how she feels about her relationship with Instagram. “Even though I would receive all these compliments … at the end of the day I felt alone,” says DM on Instagram.
People noticed her scoliosis in the photos, says D’Alessandro, which made her feel self-conscious. “When I regained my confidence, it was at the same time that I discovered this case, and I wanted people to know that, whether good or bad, social networks will affect you!”
Neta and Elad said they felt a tension between creating for Instagram and at the same time considering their products and messages. Net says it occasionally deletes the application from your phone, even only for hours at a time. “I think that inspires the idea because that’s how we feel,” she says. “But also, you can’t be without [Instagram], so they are very mixed feelings.”
They are linked to Instagram, like it or not. For their benefit, Neta and Elad know how to capitalize on it. The duo wanted their mental health message to reach as many people as possible, so they decided on a case because people carry their phones with them all the time. That means that the case appears in photos routinely, unlike a shirt that someone only wears from time to time. A phone case is ready to go viral.
“What is a better place to receive this warning than in social networks, on our Instagram?”, Asks Elad. “Then, when you scroll through your feed from time to time, you see this warning.”
The brothers began to make T-shirts and took their rest when they met Kardashian family friend Jonathan Cheban on a flight. (He was later photographed using his work, as well as Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian). But their products resonated on Instagram once they presented their phone cases. The case of mental health, in particular, came to life. Elad says that most people find the case in a photo and then look for it themselves, although celebrity stylists sometimes also look for their clients.
Starting your business four years ago meant taking advantage of the tools provided by Instagram. The brothers labeled the people, hoping they would see their products, and sent messages to influential people seeking an answer. “At some point, you see some celebrities read their DMs,” says Neta. “We saw that Instagram makes the world so small. You understand that everything is accessible. ”
In addition, the Instagram algorithm took advantage of the viral nature of the case and distributed it on the Explore pages and at the top of people’s feeds. The models that posed with him drove him even more.
But as their brand grew, Neta and Elad faced the same pressures as influencers to continue producing related content. “You enter this field of content, content, content, when it is supposed to be what that content is about,” says Elad.
All the women I talked to about their cases say the same thing: they use Instagram, they are good at it and it gives them a platform, but it also makes them feel bad.
Maria Gabriela Santos, who has about 7,700 followers, says it’s easy to forget that social networks present the way we want to be seen online, and not who we really are. “I hope everyone realizes how social networks change our minds and the way we see each other,” says on Instagram DM. “Our appearance on social networks is not our true personality.”
“The irony is that we all know that” consuming “too many social networks is bad for our mental health, and we still do,” she says. “Like smoking, you become addicted!”
Instagram has recognized that its application can foster negative behaviors and thoughts, and has begun to experience ways to remedy the problem. The company began testing a feature earlier this year that hides the count of similar posts, so people can “focus on photos and videos.” He also implemented multiple functions to address online stalkers. Apple and Google have designed time management tools so that people can limit the use of their applications, and all these changes occurred only in the last two years.
Instagram launched the Elad and Neta business and allowed them to sell their cases. He gave his carcass shoppers a platform to share their photos and grow their own brands. However, all that reach and desire to attract an audience of millions does not come without compensation. When you tangle your life in an application that makes you feel bad, the only option other than quitting is to stick it to the platform with a phone case that says it all.