Instagram is arguably the most used social media platform today. Yet what are the consequences of our casual obsession with Instagram on our mental health?
Why is Instagram useful?
Instagram is useful for several reasons. From that one app we can stay in the loop with friends, keep up with fashion trends, follow our favourite celebs and even grow our own platform. The limits are endless when it comes to Instagram, that’s why we tend to not get bored with the app compared to others.
Over recent years, Instagram has become a useful tool to those trying to gain a large following on a social platform. The use of hashtags and the aspect of the explore page allows users to come across new accounts. Many people are now reliant on Instagram to grow and maintain their following.
Fashion trends often emerge from Instagram, as the biggest ‘influencers’ provide daily content on the new directions fashion is going. But now let’s think behind the scenes of these pictures. Instagram ‘influencers’ use their large following to promote trends. However, many of us may not realise the large amount of thought behind each picture. From lighting and shadows, ‘product placement‘, what you are wearing and the pose. All these factors affect the picture.
Behind the scenes
To perfect a picture, people often turn to editing. Instagram has always had it’s own filters, which focuses on changing colours, highlights/shadows and the contrast. Yet, other photo-editing apps have recently been on the rise, allowing further and more concentrated edits. For example, apps like Photoshop and Facetune allow people to completely modify what they look like. From whitening a background in a picture to thinning out the face and body, anything is easily accessible.
A good way to use Instagram is to recognise and acknowledge that most influencers do enhance their pictures. It is most likely that your favourite influencers either whiten their teeth, add a tan to their skin or even slim their waist. The more you recognise these patterns through most influencers, the less pressure you may put on yourself to be the same.
No one shows their bad days
The last thing you want to do is to display all over social media that you’ve stayed in bed all day. Instead you might focus on other days, such as being out with friends or watching a sunset. Instagram focuses on the highlights of our days and lives and it’s important to recognise this. Do not conform to the idea of buying designer items every week or going on holiday to a different country every month. This should not be acknowledged as a norm for the average person (and it’s very expensive)!
Instagram and mental health
Sadly, from the unrealistic editing of photos and the high level of consumerism promoted on the app, it does not only leave influencers themselves feeling the pressure, but also the rest of us.
A current issue within the Instagram community is struggles with body image. There are several reasons for this. First relates to the fashion field and how we analyse how other people look in clothes in comparison to ourselves. These feelings are only natural, to think such things as ‘I wish that would suit me as much as them’ or ‘I wish that would fit me like it does them’. Yet, these feelings are heightened on Instagram where it goes to the extremes. It becomes ‘My legs would not look the same as theirs’ or ‘ My waist is not as small as theirs’. We are constantly hacking away at our self-esteem without realising it. But what makes their body the ideal norm which we should conform to? What’s wrong with some belly fat and cellulite? There really is nothing!
Second is the affects photo-editing has on users. Those who are not so aware of photo-editing apps and techniques, may go about their days seeing ‘perfect’ skin and slim bodies thinking they are real. When in-fact, majority will edit their picture in some way to achieve this. It should also be acknowledged that some influencers are not transparent about plastic surgery. This is just another factor which is damaging to some app-users’s mental health. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious mental health issues. Anxiety from the pressure of conforming to how others look. Depression from not feeling good enough about your body or to wear specific clothes. Yet the most common is now Body Dysmorphia.
These invasive thoughts can lead to extreme dieting, further mental health issues and eating disorders. The most important thing you should take from this, is that when thoughts about body image and comparison to another person’s body become invasive, it can take over your everyday life. Instagram should not be used to compare your body to others, it should be to celebrate your own.
To read more into Instagram and mental health, and the cause of body image issues read here.
How to use Instagram to your own advantage
Instagram is a useful social media platform to have and use. It does not have to be a place where you feel drained from constant comparison. There are several ways you can use Instagram to your own advantage:
- Unfollow accounts that don’t make you feel good – make Instagram a nice place to visit! Follow friends, family and positive influencers
- Know your limits – don’t feel required to go on Instagram as much as your friends, visit the app as much as you want too
- Follow diverse pages – whether this is inclusive fashion brands, influencers who are transparent about editing or are happy to show their flaws
Recognise and overlook
I will leave you with the words recognise and overlook. Recognise that Instagram is full of people fabricating their lives. Overlook this, do not feel required to live up to or to compare yourself to this. Be kind to yourself!