I used to dream of chucking my phone in a lake like the last scene from Titanic. I hated social media, but I loathed Instagram the most. I wanted to watch my phone’s screen — lit up from my friend’s Insta story of her dog — grow fainter beneath the surface. The bubbles would rise. My anguish would disappear.
But mere seconds later, I’d remember I can use Instagram on my computer. Then I’d realize I need a new phone.
I’m sure many of you have felt the same about Instagram. You log on, scroll mindlessly through your feed. Hours pass before you realize that you’re comparing yourself to a bikini model in Australia or a drop-shipping millionaire in Singapore.
In a recent study, Instagram was ranked worst for young adult’s mental health. The app is associated with high levels of FOMO, anxiety, and depression.
“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing — both platforms are very image-focused, and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.” described Shirley Cramer, CEO of Royal Society for Public Health.
With 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram isn’t going anywhere. While the answer may seem obvious — use Instagram less — , there will still be times when you scroll through your feed.
Instagram isn’t all bad; there’s power to teach, inspire, keep in contact with friends, and watch endless amounts of puppy videos. The key is to be conscious of how you consume Instagram.
Here’s what keeps me sane while using Istagram:
Unfollow Accounts That Aim To Sell
Influencers influence. That’s how the game works.
Their goal is to make you feel like you need something. Whether that be to lose weight, buy their online course, or purchase the latest adaptogenic collagen tea, influencers want you to buy.
To feel a need, you have to feel a lack in your life. Continuous beliefs that your life isn’t enough will make you feel unfulfilled and sad.
Follow Accounts That Inspire/Teach
There are plenty of motivational, poetic, and inspiring accounts on Instagram. If you want to improve your mood, filling your feed with positive texts is the way to go.
Accounts also exist that aim to teach. @Nasa posts space photos that will remind you how small you are on this planet. @HistoryPhotographed shares photos from the past that you most likely never saw. There are even accounts to help you learn almost any language.
Tone Down Your Ego
People post their highlight reels on Instagram and then refresh their notifications to track the likes. They create an online persona and determine their value off the attention it receives. That’s a lot of stress to put on yourself.
Sharing your vacation highlights with friends and family is one thing, flaunting your luxuries for likes is another. Tying your ego into Instagram is a tricky game.
Your worth is not equated to your like, comment, or share count on Instagram. In fact, your value is inherent and utterly unrelated to any social media app.
We’re all humans trying to figure out this thing called life. Don’t let filtered photos you curate for Instagram make you think you’re better than others.
Limit Your Usage
There is a nifty feature on Instagram where an alert pops up to let you know you’ve been on the app for whatever amount of time you decide.
This feature was eye-opening. I always thought of myself as a casual Insta user. Going on in the morning, right before bed, and sporadically throughout the day. Well, that added up to a whopping four hours of my day. I was shocked.
Set a limit on your app and decrease it week by week. After all, life is happening outside of your phone. A reminder of that won’t hurt.
Aim To Be Authentic
I have a friend that uses no social media. He explained how apps like Instagram are driven so heavily by ego. We don’t talk about a flat tire we had that day, we post about giving a sandwich to a homeless man. He just doesn’t want to be apart of that world.
People post the good, never the bad. This perpetuates these perfect portrayals on Instagram, continuing the cycle of comparison, shame, loneliness, and depression.
But there’s no such thing as perfect; not even for people with millions of followers. They have shitty days, bad luck, and struggle just like the rest of us.
So instead of aiming to be perfect, try being authentic. Be a breath of fresh air that people can relate to; not someone instilling more jealousy in others.
The concepts are pretty simple:
- Don’t follow people that make you feel bad about yourself
- Fill your feed with content that makes you happy
- Tone down your ego
- Limit your time on the app
- Show your authentic self