By Caroline Best, Student Intern
Instagram is such a huge part of our culture. There’s no way around it.
I can guarantee you know at least one person with an account. This popular app is used for photo sharing. Newsfeeds filled with photos from family, friends, peers, and even strangers. Looking at pictures of people’s dinner, or dog, or a party seems fun, and definitely harmless. However, a new consideration with the rise of popularity with this app is how looking at these photos impacts our mental health.
If you’re like me you scroll through your newsfeed before you go to bed (or when you wake up, or on your lunch break, ect.) almost daily. Checking social media accounts easily becomes part of a routine.
I know I’ve definitely had uncomfortable feelings while doing this. Moments where I’m lying around doing absolutely nothing looking at photos where everyone looks fantastic and is out doing fun things in fun places. And it doesn’t feel great. This sort of discomfort is a real and studied thing. Researchers at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota found a direct connection between regular Instagram use and lowered self esteem/ body image in women in their teens.
So let’s talk about WHY something seemingly harmless and even enjoyable – scrolling through Instagram for 10 minutes when you’re relaxing – can actually have such negative effects.
Think about it- I know when I post a photo it’s the best photo from whatever event I’m sharing. The photo with the best lighting. Where I look like I’m having the most fun. I think many people follow this selection process.Some natural thoughts that might pop up at a conscious or unconscious level as you scroll through lots of posted photos like “Does X look this good every day??” “Her skin, hair, make-up, ect. always looks so good.” “Did everyone I know do something fun today as worked all day on a report?”. You might not literally think these exact things as you’re looking at pictures. Instead you might feel a strange discomfort. You might find your mood lowered after your supposedly relaxing social media break. And you’re not alone, this is a really common reaction.
Think about it like this. You see your life the way a documentary is filmed- the good, bad, and the boring is all in there. Instagram and social media in general is another person’s highlight reel.
The most polished, best looking bits only. It’s a very real reaction to start to compare your everything to everyone’s highlight reel, which of course, will probably not leave a person feeling great. As a nutrition student I follow lots of food blogs, and whenever I see amazing posts my brain sometimes goes: “Wow this person is so pulled together, they have the time and organization to make amazing food all the time. I wish.”
When I feel like this, I take a minute to put it all in perspective.
Keep reminding yourself: highlight reel, highlight reel, highlight reel. I was lying on the couch with my roommate the other Sunday morning- doing nothing. As we were doing this, she shared a picture of her at brunch the previous weekend- she was smiling, and was surrounded by tasty food and friends. This is a great example of my point. People show their “best” moments, and their “best” moments only. Not day to day life. Not their struggling moments.
Social media – and Instagram in particular-can be a fun and easy way to keep up with friends and family or even to just see some pictures that are nice (I follow lots of accounts that post cute animal pictures.). However- do a mental check and remind yourself to approach social media with a grain of salt. Anytime you start to feel a little uncomfortable, take a breath, remind yourself that you are looking at everyone’s best moments and not their entire life. And please don’t let Instagram lead to you feeling like you’re any less of the wonderful person that you are.
Top 7 Happiest Instagrams to Follow to Brighten Up Your Newsfeed
- @Campingwithdogs, honestly my favorite account of all time. It features lots of cute dogs sitting in hammocks in the sunshine. Enough said.
- . @rupikaur_ is absolutely amazing poetry that delves into important topics like self-love and body acceptance.
- @bodyposipanda has such a happy instagram filled with positivity and so much body love.
- @humansofny is a a great follow, ever day the photographer posts a different person and their story/thoughts, and its an incredible little window into humanity.
- @happsters is an account dedicated entirely to providing you a little boost of inspiration and a smile throughout your day, we love it.
- @positivelypresent is so colorful and each post has an uplifting message.
- @empoweredeating_, We love our posts and try to keep them positive and inspiring 🙂
If you have any questions at all about social media, body image, self love, or anything else, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, we would love to speak with you