Okay ladies, now let’s get in-formation. *shameless Beyoncé*
Now, if you’re a millennial (or frankly any age) you will know what Instagram is. And it’s great…in some ways. So, on average 4.2 billion posts are liked on Instagram every day. That’s a lot. And I would guess-timate that 80% of those likes are on posts by celebrities or “Instagram Famous” people. These likes aren’t just “likes” though, they can lead to jealousy, FoMo (fear of missing out), and self-loathing.
Don’t get me wrong, I use Instagram and I’m a huge advocate for doing anything you want with social media – post whatever you want; it is, after all, your account. BE INDIVIDUAL. And that’s what I love about social media as a whole, that, even with all the crap it can cause, it indiscriminately allows individuality regardless of size, race, belief, etc.
The Royal Society for Public Health conducted a survey earlier this year which showed that Instagram has the worst effect on people’s mental health. Now, although statistically this may be true, that is not to say that all users should delete Instagram immediately. Not at all.
But I want to talk about this.
So, naturally, I turned to my friends tonight and asked them for their opinions. Now, this is a group of young women, well-educated but by no means claiming to be the wisest nor the smartest on earth. I asked whether they believed Instagram made them feel worse about themselves and, for the most part, they said that it doesn’t and that it can even be motivational at times. Yes, sometimes they look at others’ pictures and may feel slightly worse about themselves but they bounce back. However, these are smart young ladies, women I hope to see in great places one day, and so they are able to remind themselves that, often, what they see is not reality. These smart friends of mine are also strong. And that’s where the issue lies.
Not everyone has a strong enough brain to tell themselves that a photo does not tell the full story, ever. Heck, I definitely don’t. And that’s not a weakness, per se. You could be hugely successful and seemingly content with your life but still be knocked by the photos you see on Instagram. Because if that “Instagram Famous” girl posts an amazing photo of herself looking tanned in a beautiful location and you’re lying in bed alone scrolling through your feed instead of sleeping, your life can seem inferior or even worthless in comparison. But remember, you don’t know what happened three seconds before that photo or three seconds after.
Thinking about all the times I’ve seen a photo or video on Instagram that made me feel worse about my own life led me to ask the question, why do we take photos? And why do we share them on Instagram (or any other social media) rather than say, keeping them private? Maybe it’s to prove we have friends in times of loneliness, as though we feel the need to remind others we are sociable – because obviously my generation does not have a problem with screen addiction… BESIDES THE POINT. Perhaps it is simply because, as one of my friends put it, we’re feelin’ ourselves. *Yoncé at it again* Or is it to maintain a social status? Is there a necessity to chart events in our lives? Do we have to make our entire life seem exciting and interesting? Nobody’s life is permanently exciting and interesting; we all have to do dull things sometimes, whether that’s adulting by sorting out tax returns or revising for school exams. Honestly, I don’t know why we post photos. I know we take them for memories; photography and videography has been around far longer than social media. But why do my friends and I now have to say, “Memories not social media”, whenever we’re taking photos without make up or looking “rough”? Heaven forbid somebody might post a photo of us not looking our absolute best.
But that’s exactly it, people care so much about what they put out there that it can take hundreds of photos, full of fat rolls and bloated stomachs or unshaved legs and closed eyes, before finding the perfect one. And even then, often that photo will go onto FaceTune or any other editing app to “fix my thighs” or “whiten my teeth”. So why, despite us all knowing the struggle to find an Instagram worthy photo, do we tell ourselves that others have this perfect life based on one photo? Or even based on a whole account of photos? These are frozen moments which capture one second in an entire lifetime; the person uploading the photo has chosen one still element of their life to publish.
I sometimes look at someone on Instagram, Tammy Hembrow for example, and wish so much that I could be her. It can get me so down because I tell myself she has this idyllic life – two beautiful children, a very attractive fiancé and a killer body all before she’s even halfway to 50. But the reality is she has two children under the age of three, who cry and poo and have to be supervised, which cannot be easy 24/7. She will argue with her fiancé from time to time. And she’ll get down herself sometimes. That is all in human nature. Human emotions work such that they are fluid and can change to many extremes. So, yeah, maybe she is smiling and looking great in that photo, but that isn’t a permanent state.
Now, Fitness accounts. They motivate me so much to get into the gym and keep fit. But look deeper, all these people not only work out regularly but they also track their macros and micros (something I have no clue about, and don’t really plan to learn about any time soon). So, obviously you won’t get that toned, magazine-ready body by just going to the gym once a week.
But also, they pose. They admit it themselves. I love the accounts that show reality vs. posed, like GraceFitUK. I love seeing the posed photos because frankly those girls look fiiiine as, but I also want to see reality so that I don’t forget that everyone has some fat on them – that’s called being healthy.
Now, let’s go back to what I said about individuality. Instagram should be a forum where people can express themselves in whatever way that is; whether that’s taking scenic photos in the country or body progress photos in the gym. So why do people feel the need to comment nasty things about how others present themselves? If I want to post a booty pic, whether I have a booty or not, you should damn well support me because that’s what empowerment is all about – making others feel stronger and more confident in themselves.
So, yeah. Instagram is great, as long as you always remember that you’re seeing a fragment of a life. You are not always seeing reality. Remind yourself that nobody is perfect and nobody has a perfect life, fantastic though they may seem. Just appreciate the photos and videos posted, be nice to others, encourage them and always let yourself laugh at funny memes.