Why Instagram could be ruining your day

09 Mar 2020
By Sharna Y, Student at De Montfort University

Instagram is one of the most popular social media apps for young people and it’s easy to see why. Not only can we connect with people around us and beyond, but we can easily portray our lives however we want.

This gives us the chance to appear more ‘fun’, ‘interesting’ or ‘perfect’ than in reality, and who wouldn’t want to control the way we’re perceived?

But the endless feed of unrealistic pictures and the control over which parts of our lives we share with our followers can impact self-esteem. One example of this is the explosion of Instagram models. The popularity of these accounts maintain an idea of beauty that society and magazines seem to celebrate over the more natural and varied look of the real world. 

When we see these (often edited) pictures, which are normally accompanied by lots of praise, it pushes the idea of an ‘ideal’ but unrealistic beauty. This then becomes the standard many of us feel we have to live up to.

The result is raised expectations of ourselves as we compare our faces, bodies and worth to the images on our phones. Living in the digital age, we’re constantly vulnerable to feeling second best when scrolling past popular models and influencers on our Instagram feeds. This can impact our daily lives, studies, physical health and social life.

Seeing other people’s achievements on Instagram can also impact us, making us question our own self-worth and successes. For example, other people’s holiday snaps can look pretty cool, but a sense of envy can quickly creep up about how our lives compare. Even positive posts about personal achievements can make us feel bad, like maybe we aren’t motivated enough.

Yet, people never seem to show bad hair days or poor grades on social media. We’re living in an age where communication on the phone is considered just as (if not more) important as face-to-face contact. Because of that, it’s difficult to recognise how realistic these pictures are as we spend hours scrolling through in a day.

That’s not to say Instagram is always a bad thing. Seeing other people do well can make us feel proud or motivated to make changes to our own lifestyle, and it’s handy for hanging onto memories. Yet most of Instagram shows a ‘perfect’ life free from acne or ‘boring’ nights staying in because we can’t afford anything else. It’s sometimes hard to remember, but with every good day on Instagram, the people we follow also have bad days.

So how do we keep ourselves from allowing Instagram to ruin our day?

Firstly, you could mute Instagram notifications or even sign out of the app altogether. Allowing yourself to step away from edited pictures is an effective way to stop Instagram from impacting your mental health. By muting alerts and reducing mindless scrolling, you can keep Instagram from being in your face all of the time.

You could also pick and choose the times you decide to log into Instagram, which will help stop you from being on your phone so much and allow you to enjoy the real world instead. For example, try just once a day for 10 minutes and see how it feels. It may allow you to focus on your studies or hang out with friends without comparing your life with what you see on Instagram.

Another step you can take to make sure Instagram isn’t impacting you negatively is to unfollow accounts that make you feel bad. The accounts may not be toxic, but if you’re beginning to feel stressed or unworthy every time you scroll past them, it may be best to unfollow. The hope is that by curating your Instagram feed, you’ll only be following accounts that make you feel good and inspire healthy feelings.

It’s also important to step back from your own posts. We’ve all sat by our phones waiting for comments whenever we post a good selfie, but sometimes relying on other people’s opinions can be more harmful than happy. Our worth is not measured by comments or numbers of hearts by our pictures, but by our own opinions and those of the people around us in our real lives.

Ultimately, you just need to remember that not every picture you see on Instagram is reality. Everyone – even models, celebrities or our friends – has bad days. We just don’t see it on an app where we only project the best versions of ourselves.

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I'm a film studies student in Leicester who enjoys writing.