Is Instagram Too Toxic For Our Own Good?

As I find myself stuck in an endless Instagram scroll through an unbelievably gorgeous model’s page, double-tapping on each and every classic beach bikini photo, fruit breakfast on a balcony with a view and candids, I feel bad.

Somehow, and for some reason, I can feel absolutely horrible about myself and my appearance, just by scrolling through someone’s page. Ella, you shouldn’t compare people’s lives. Obviously, this is something we all know to avoid but it doesn’t stop it happening. It doesn’t stop adults, and it definitely doesn’t stop teens, from comparing and contrasting every little detail in our own lives to that of a 200k-followed goddess.

This is often when I know I need to close Instagram and do something different. Instagram is, unfortunately, a perfect tool for procrastination, happily eating away at our boredom. That is what makes it so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of comparison. However, it is so important to know when to stop and walk away.

Also, my form of comparison may be the examples I have used, but, it equally works for artists, musicians and other people alike. Your talents, looks, and personality all shine through in their own way and overusing Instagram can be way too toxic for our own good.

Now, I’m not doubting the clear advantages to Instagram. It is, undeniably, a great social media platform in many aspects. It allows those with a creative flair to showcase their work, for bloggers and influencers to interact with others, to be a personal photo diary and more. However, with all great things, there are the disadvantages that have to be addressed.

There are countless reports on the detrimental effects of overusing Instagram on people’s mental health and honestly, I don’t think it stops there. Young people, especially, can vouch for friendships and relationships being tested by a partner’s choice to like certain photos, for example. Friendships can be damaged by others feeling left out too. When I was doing some research for this post I saw countless articles on “how to see what your boyfriend has liked” and advice articles about “what to do when your significant other isn’t liking your photos”. Obviously, this isn’t healthy and doesn’t lead to happy relationships.

None of this is something that should be taken lightly. Any negative impact on someone’s mental health should be discussed and it should potentially start with addressing our unhealthy addiction to social media, particularly Instagram. For example, “The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement surveyed nearly 1,500 people ages 14 to 24 about how social networking sites and apps impact their mental health, including anxiety, depression, self-identity, and body image, and found that Instagram has the “most detrimental” effect on young people” (Vogue 2017).

Now that doesn’t look great.

Undoubtedly, this is all about finding a balance and learning to look behind a photo. Try to avoid spending countless hours flicking through photos of your ex-best mate who is now buddies with your current best mate, comparing your figure to personal trainers or Victoria’s Secret models, or even feeling jealous over someone’s material possessions. We all know that none of these actions have happy consequences. So, first things first:

  • Learn to unfollow the people that bring you more sadness than goodness. If you’re worried that you might offend someone, just message them if needs be (the unfollowing on social media debacle is a whole other blog post).
  • Their skin probably isn’t that smooth, their tummy that taut and their body that flawless. That is just what the photo is showing you. Heck, if it is, good on you pal, I’d show it off too.
  • They might be posting that amazing summer holiday photo while they’re in bed in pjs and scruffy hair. There are two sides to every photo!

And, thankfully, there are some people that show us that Instagram isn’t to always be taken at face value. There has recently been a huge influx of various different models posting reality photos in comparison with the edited or heavily posed ones they may normally post. This is the type of normality that I really appreciate in influencers and I’m sure others do to. There is nothing wrong with aspirational photos of great abs and killer legs but I also want to see that other people don’t have washboard stomachs when they sit down. It is just relatable. And, more often than not, what we need to be able to decipher between Instagram and reality. You may have come across Essena O’Neill, for example, who recaptioned all of her photos with the behind the scenes reality (news story here) or fitness model, Imre Çeçen, who shared posed v reality shots of her figure (news story here) – both I totally recommend checking out.

I don’t want any of these thoughts to suggest that I don’t love Instagram, because I do. I love seeing other people’s photos and sharing my own, and that is what makes it such a successful platform. However, I want to encourage everybody to remember to put your mental health first and sometimes have a break from the pitfalls of social media. Teen Vogue phrased it perfectly, “Look, at the end of the day, it’s simple: if makeup makes you feel good, wear it. If you think it’s fun to apply and play with and test new techniques, by all means, do so. But double-tapping a photo on Instagram and thinking your life would be better if you looked like a girl thousands of miles away doesn’t have anything to do with the makeup that’s on her face” (Teen Vogue 2015).

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6 Comments

  1. January 22, 2018 / 7:19 am

    I definitely have a love hate relationship with Instagram – it is such a great place to go to get inspired, see what my friends are up to, etc., but it definitely does fuel our tendency to compare ourselves to others. However, it’s important to go on there remembering that a super ‘candid’ photo on the beach may have taken hours to set up, photograph and edit. And of course, taking a break is sometimes a must to manage our mental health. Such a great post as always!

  2. January 25, 2018 / 8:19 pm

    Loved this! I think it is all about balance like you said and not getting sucked into the insta vortex, but also being realistic about what is being posted. People may only post their vacation pictures, or it usually takes a hundred pictures to get the perfect one. Like all social media, it really is what the poster wants to portray. I love it from a photography stand point, as well as a blogging promotional one. Also it definitely does not have as much drama as other social media outlets have. As you wrote it really is about surrounding yourself with good people. <3

  3. January 30, 2018 / 8:04 pm

    Amen to this. I don’t find myself normally physically comparing myself to others but definitely comparing my lifestyle – it looks like some people are always flying to amazing countries and eating at incredible restaurants when this probably isn’t the case. You only share the good parts of your life not the bad parts. I’m loving the honesty movement at the moment where people are posting honest captions alongside unflattering photos and showing the truth behind their posts. xx

    • ellamaygarrett
      Author
      February 14, 2018 / 5:44 pm

      That’s something that I totally compare on too, you’re not alone there! Most of the photos are probably reposts from one insane trip, it is so easy to make it appear as though you are on one constant holiday (which some people are lucky enough to be able to do!) I really love it too! Exactly why I had to mention it xx

  4. February 6, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    I really try to see and use Instagram as a place for inspiration but nothing more. It’s hard to don’t feel bad when you look at all these “perfect” lifes. I’m just really into photography lately and love to see different photos and stuff like that xx

    • ellamaygarrett
      Author
      February 14, 2018 / 5:42 pm

      Totally agree with you. Insta is such a perfect inspiration and ‘catch up’ platform that I totally love. I think we all have to be careful, like you said, not to get bogged down in how it can negatively affect us and appreciate it for all the good bits! x

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