How Instagram Gave Me a Kidney Stone

Two years ago, flying home to New York

after having spent my first semester of college studying in London, I found myself in an unfamiliar position: I was uncomfortable. Living abroad had breathed new life into me;

it had given me a thirst for adventure that I had not previously possessed, or perhaps, hadn’t realized I possessed whilst living in a stagnant and sheltered environment. Living in a foreign city satiated that thirst daily, and so my return to normalcy in the U.S. fed my lust for adventure in a different way. I had had a taste of what I considered to be real life, real excitement and uncertainty, and I was nowhere near ready to settle back into the dull patterns of school and life at home. This sense of adventure soon transformed into something uglier, more desperate,

and so I became restless, reckless, and anxious. I felt so strongly that I had found my purpose in life, that I was always meant to be traveling and exploring, and so sitting in a small dorm room in upstate New York with snow falling outside, I felt trapped.


While I was physically unable to travel the world, I immersed myself in the world of Instagram, using it as a means to lift myself out of ordinary living and into foreign and exotic fantasies of my own creation.

Through Instagram I was able to watch the sun set in Maui, eat fresh mozzarella in Capri, and see the Aurora Borealis in Reykjavík.


It never occurred to me that my near desperate longing to be Elswhere could cause me more harm than good.


I became obsessed with the photos of tropical beaches and crumbled ruins I regularly scrolled through on Instagram. I became, not only obsessed with, but dependent on the daydreams I attached to each scenic shot. My fanatic behavior became all-consuming and, admittedly, stressful. I had constant stomach pains and headaches, I was unable to eat, I was achy all over; I was seen by numerous doctors, and each one tried to figure out why I was constantly ill with seemingly no explanation. It wasn’t until one morning at 5:42 a.m. that my symptoms came to a head and I was rushed to the hospital with inexplicable and excruciating pain in my lower back.

4 hours later I had my second kidney stone in just under a year surgically removed. After having my first kidney stone, which happened to be the size of a jellybean, surgically removed, my urologist informed me that the stone had formed due to excessive salt intake, and so I made the necessary adjustments to my diet so that I would never have to live through that kind of pain again. So, having cut down on my sodium intake tremendously, how had I formed this second stone?

“Stress.”

My reliance on Instagram had both soothed and exacerbated my wanderlust. The anxiety I developed over being in Saratoga Springs as opposed to being literally anywhere else made me sick, and being sick made me dehydrated, and being dehydrated made me develop the second of the three kidney stones I would come to pass.

The seemingly non-threatening Instagram had suddenly become detrimental to my health, mostly because of my addictive personality type, but also in part due to the competitive nature of social media. Many Instagram users are so concerned with presenting their lives in such a way that inspires jealousy within their audience, that that same audience forgets to take into account the performance aspect of social media. Just because I’m bored doesn’t mean the Instagram user I follow that posts photos of her vacations isn’t also bored. Firsthand, I learned the extent of the influence of mass media, and now keeping healthy isn’t just about cutting down on sodium, but it’s also keeping a digital diet.

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