Instagram is a social media app that almost everyone uses. If you are anywhere between the age of 11 to 50, there is a good chance that you have it. Ever since it gained popularity, Instagram has been chastised for using tactics to make people spend unhealthy amounts of time on it. A lot of people struggle with Instagram addiction. And honestly, that’s scary.
Perhaps what makes Instagram and everything that happens on it is so consequential, is that it has become part of almost every aspect of our life. To be socially active, to increase the reach of our business/company, to build a platform to express our unique talents, perhaps even to earn money, we need Instagram one way or the other. Even if you want to let go of it, it’s possible that you can’t due to one of these reasons. And either way, it is not that easy to remove yourself from the face of Instagram because that might make you feel left out.
But Instagram is harming you in ways you might not even realize. And one of the biggest ways is by worsening your mental health.
The Toxic Need for Likes and Comments
Let’s be real; Instagram has not cultivated an environment that allows you to be real. Most people use it to document the most beautiful moments of their life, not the worse. They use it to show off the trendy clothes they are wearing and the aesthetic food they are having. There is nothing wrong with sharing that, except that they are doing it for all the wrong reasons.
If you use Instagram socially, you probably know of the subtle competition that exists. You see someone else having tons of fun with friends (seemingly), you instantly feel the need to do it yourself. Not because you want to, but so that you can record it and put it up for everyone else to see. That is obviously not a healthy motivation. But we are all so sucked into it that we have normalized this feeling. We feel pressure to be liked, quite literally. Often, people are judged for the number of likes and comments on their posts. This pressure creates a toxic environment, making people more eager to be well-liked.
Moreover, Instagram does not feed you reality. This affects everyone differently. While some may not be easily triggered, others with body image issues, anxiety, and low self-esteem will get impacted deeply. When you subject yourself to a fake reality that looks glamorized, you wonder why your life doesn’t look like that.
And that is exactly where the problem comes in.
Real Life is Not Aesthetic!
The creators of Instagram made the app so that you feel the pressure to look a certain way. Most filters distort the features of your face- plumping your lips, contouring your cheeks, making your hair look sleek, widening your eyes, clearing any marks or bumps on your skin, sharpening your nose. They completely change your appearance, convincing people that that is the only way to look beautiful.
There is also a pressure to make everything on Instagram look “aesthetic.” Real-life, naturally, isn’t like that. And if we try to force every element of our body and life to fit into that box, the line between reality and social media will become blurry. There is constant pressure to pass the threshold of Instagram perfection and show yourself as someone you are not so that people accept you.
Most people who post on Instagram, whether famous or not, use some editing tool to enhance their picture. We look at that picture, not realizing that there might be heavy editing involved, and instantly feel bad about ourselves. So we try to click pictures that match the standards of Instagram. Other people see it, feel self-conscious, and the cycle continues.
Why The Lives of Instagram Influencers Seem Perfect
Instagram is an important platform for celebrities and influencers because it helps them earn and promote the work they are doing. Part of that is to maintain an image in front of people so that they follow them and aspire to be like them. A way of doing that is to portray themselves as people who conform to conventional beauty standards. Even if they have a bad day, they project an image that shows their life as perfect and problem-free.
We don’t notice the small imperfections or flaws in such people because they are hidden behind the façade of filters and edits. It doesn’t mean they don’t have them. Also, it doesn’t make us any lesser than them. It is important to consciously remember the fact that the reason influencers always look so perfect and happy, is because it is their job to display that kind of lifestyle.
It is not fair to compare your life to the lives of people you see online. Everyone on social media is trying to show their best selves, it doesn’t mean they don’t have another side. It does us no good to feel bad about ourselves because of a picture someone else posted.
Thankfully, these days people are trying to be more real. They tell people what their reality looks like, that things are not as they seem. This makes them more relatable. It serves as a reminder that life is much more than just that small grid of photos on Instagram.
Don’t Give In to the Pressure of Instagram
You don’t have to be a part of the toxic environment Instagram has created. You can be your own self and let others celebrate you for your uniqueness. That doesn’t mean using filters or creating a specific “aesthetic” for your pictures is a bad thing. If you are doing it, you need to be doing it for yourself and not with the purpose of creating a false image so that people admire you.
Naturally, all of this is easier said than done. We can’t just one day stop believing everything we have been taught, especially because Instagram is designed in a way that will inevitably make you feel bad about yourself. But we can start somewhere. And the first step is self-awareness. To stop the way Instagram controls you, you need to be aware that it is happening in the first place.