You may have heard this week that things are changing with Instagram. The social platform will be trialing hiding likes on photos. Personally? I’m a huge fan. Instagram started out as a place to share images with friends and family, but now has become a huge numbers game. I wrote a blog post about this a few months ago when Kanye West was shouting about it, which you can read here. And I wrote another post this week about how the hiding of likes may affect influencer marketing, which you can read here.
Another change Instagram is making is the availability to shop within the app. This will save users having to leave the site via affiliate or ‘swipe-up’ links and instead, be able to place their order and purchase within the app itself. It sounds like a great idea if it works. Often I’ll see an item of clothing that I like but won’t go to the bother of leaving the app to go and find it. But if the option is there to click and buy straight away then the only loser in this situation in this case is my bank account. But will this also increase fast fashion and consumerism? Maybe it might not be a great thing after all.
I was watching Good Morning Britain before work on Wednesday and they were talking about the hiding likes situation and of course Piers Morgan was shouting about young people needing to wise up and toughen up, but there is a serious mental health issue with social media. It can be an extremely unhealthy space for some people and at times, I wish it didn’t exist.
Are we addicted to sharing?
Take this for example: I was at Anfield last week watching Liverpool play Huddersfield and in the row in front of me was a girl around 12 years of age who was there with her family. For the majority of the first half, this young girl sat on her phone perfecting her Snapchat and Instagram stories with colourful writing, adding gifs and drawing on her videos. All the while, the match was being played. Here she was at the game, but with more focus on her social media stories than actually living in the moment.
But were social media not to exist, would this girl instead have been engrossed in the game and taking everything in? Rather than being able to show off to her friends that she was at the Liverpool game? Is everything we do nowadays just to show off and be able to put on our social media?
Watching this made me wish that at sometimes, social media didn’t exist. Wouldn’t the world be better off without it? Wouldn’t the younger generation be better off without it? Maybe we’d be less self-obsessed, there’d be a reduction in people buying Kim K packages so that their face is contoured just for Instagram and we’d stop comparing ourselves to everyone else and feeling worse about our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, social media can be great for connecting, sharing and creating but there are certain elements that I just dislike.
1. We wouldn’t be in competition with everyone
When we see people doing well and succeeding in life, the natural instinct should be to be happy for them, right? So why is it when I see people jetting off to live in Australia or landing amazing jobs or buying their first house, I can’t help but feel jealous and feel like I’m falling behind?
If I didn’t have social media, I wouldn’t know that an old classmate of mine’s sister got engaged, or that Sally down the road that I see once a year was on holiday in the Maldives or that someone in the year below me that I haven’t spoken one word to my entire life just bought her own house. And if I didn’t know these things, would I be any worse off? Absolutely not. I honestly couldn’t care less because these people aren’t close friends or family but here I am worried that I’m still single, not going on holiday anywhere past London and potentially going to be renting for the rest of my life.
Most of the things I see on social media via Facebook statuses, Instagram stories and Snapchat are things that I’m not really any better off from watching and reading. But I can’t help but compare my life to Sally’s from down the road even though she’s 40 with three kids and has lived in my town since she was born. We are at totally different points in our lives but because of social media, I want to have that holiday in the Maldives and I’d like to be jetting off tomorrow.
2. We’d stop comparing ourselves with unrealistic ideals of beauty
I’m not going to get started on the fitness area of Instagram as I try and avoid that like the plague. But, when all of these people with amazing figures are posting photos and stories every day of the week of their abs, I can’t help but feel like crap and like I’ll never be able to achieve the standard that they’ve set.
Plus, the majority of images we see on Instagram have been filtered beyond belief. Lines blurred out here, waist tucked in a bit, cheeks made to look more hollow and teeth blindingly white. But yet we see these images as raw and natural. We begin to think that these people naturally look like this when they don’t and it makes us feel horrible.
When you see so many of these ‘Insta girls’ on the explore page, your self-worth just plummets. This is why the younger generation can now make themselves look 10 years older with makeup (thanks to YouTube tutorials), are opting for botox and fillers at just 18 and striving to look a certain way to fit in with the Instagram aesthetic. It’s incredibly damaging and in my eyes, more so than having skinny models on the covers of magazines or on the runways.
3. There would be less temptation to cheat
I have many strong opinions on this and I guess it’s time to voice them. I would also love for your thoughts on this in particular and if you think social media has any effect on relationships in today’s society.
The way I look at it, my generation can’t be trusted. There doesn’t seem to be any loyalty anymore. Social media has just made it too easy to cheat. Sliding into DMs, sending a Snapchat that can disappear after 5 seconds and creating multiple profiles. How many times have you heard about someone who’s in a relationship texting or DMing someone else, has been spotted on Tinder or been known to send Snapchats when they’re drunk?
These days, people break-up because their boyfriend has been liking some other girl’s pictures on Instagram. That’s not an exaggeration – you wouldn’t believe the amount of arguments that this has started. How would you feel if your boyfriend was liking a picture of some girl in her bikini or dolled up? How would that make you feel when you’re sat beside him in your pyjamas?
I know people that have their boyfriend’s social media passwords and regularly check up on what they’ve been doing and liking. I know girls that make their boyfriends unfollow and unfriend certain girls so they can’t interact with their posts. But if social media didn’t exist, would there be more loyalty in relationships? Would there be less cheating? Would people stop thinking the grass was greener through a filter on Instagram?
I could honestly write an entire blog post (maybe a book) dedicated to cheating and social media. Is it just all too easy now? Is monogomy soon going to go out the window?
4. I would stop wasting so much of my time
If social media didn’t exist, what would I do with my time? What would I do when I wasn’t scrolling or tapping through Instagram stories? When I wasn’t glued to my Twitter timeline or Snapchatting my entire night out? Would I have more memories, better memories even? Would I live in the moment rather than live behind the camera? And would I be more productive, would I have learnt another language or would I just have found something else as time-wasting to occupy me?
The only thing with social media is that it has created numerous new jobs and allowed influencers to content create on a full-time basis. I work with social media and don’t know where I’d be without it. But for some things which I have previously mentioned, it can be a negative space. Remember Ask.FM? Need I say more?
However, there are ways to better use your time on the platform. Rid yourself of all of the accounts that make you feel bad. Follow people that inspire you and motivate you to be a better person. Fill your timeline with positivity, not images of people you wish you looked like and know you never will. Have a conversation with your significant other about social media and what troubles you about it. Share your fears, issues and maybe even negotiate on some rules.
Use it less or use it better. If it’s for business, then understandably you’ll need to be on it a lot. But make sure you stick to what you are there to do and don’t get sidetracked by the explore page. If anything, avoid the explore page at all costs. If it’s just for personal use, don’t spend your life on it. Look up from your phone, live in the moment and even I’ve learnt to stop filming my entire night out every weekend. No one wants to see that.
5. I’d feel a lot better about myself
I’ve recently unfollowed a lot of the accounts that were making me feel worse about myself. The girls that owned things I couldn’t afford, posted pictures of their abs every day or that didn’t seem to have a single flaw in their looks. Seeing all of this every single day made me feel like utter crap, so I got rid of it.
Instead, I follow my friends and family and people that inspire me. Yes I still follow fitness bloggers, but ones that show that it’s ok to eat a chocolate bar once in a while or give great tips on how to lose fat or say that it’s ok to not feel like going to the gym every single day. I also follow fashion bloggers that sometimes post expensive items, but most of the fashion accounts I follow all shop from the high street which is what I can relate to. I also follow travel bloggers that don’t seem to have a permanent address, but that show that they budget like crazy and show you how you can do the same as them, if you just bought that plane ticket.
How social media effects your mental health depends on how you use it. What conversations do you get involved in? What accounts do you follow? What are you sharing with the public? Be real on social media and follow people that you relate to or inspire you. Follow people that help make you a better person and that you can learn from.
Stop stalking your ex, stop following thinspo and stop scrolling through the Explore page on Instagram. Stop doing all of the things that you know are making you feel worse and instead, engage in social media activity that can benefit you and your mind. If you need to take a detox, take one. If you need to delete apps from your phone, delete them (I’ve deleted the Facebook app). And if you find yourself addicted, think of everything you’re missing when you have your head stuck in your phone.