#FridayFive: Five Ways Instagram Negatively Affects Your Mental Health

Friday Five

I spend too much time on Instagram. I know that, you know that, the majority of my Instagram followers know that. But if I doth protest about it so much, then why do I continuously scroll or watch Instagram stories? If I know that it does me more harm than good, why can’t I stay off the god-damn thing?!

It is no secret that most social media apps are bad for our mental health – Instagram just happens to be the one that people complain about most, myself included. But why is it bad for our mental health? Aren’t we just sharing images? Sharing pictures that we like? Why does it make us feel bad about ourselves all of a sudden?

I’m starting to think social media has ruined our generation and will continue to do so with the next generations to come. We have a distorted view of beauty, everyone and their dog is now an Influencer (not even joking about the dogs) and it seems like there are now one million personal trainers on Instagram telling me that the only way I can lose weight is by signing up to their online coaching or emails.

Instagram started out as a place to share images; images of friends, of ourselves and of things we liked. We mainly followed our friends and celebrities. Now, to me, Instagram is a market place full of advertising. We’re advertising living our best lives and our best moments and we’re also being presented with tailored adverts in our feeds as well as Influencers spitting out affiliate and ‘swipe-up-to-buy’ links every five seconds. Did Instagram start out with the intention of being the social version of eBay? Or is it a place that we turn to only to make ourselves feel worse about our lives and dream of having everyone else’s?

Below are five ways that Instagram negatively affects our mental health.

1. The Explore page

Ah, the one page I try not to find myself on but somehow always do. These are usually posts and Instagram accounts tailored to you and what you’ve been searching/liking/following. Mine is mostly filled with ‘Insta-famous’ girls that are very skinny, very heavily made up, on holiday and wearing designer clothes. Aka, everything I wish I was.

The Explore page is never filled with normal, everyday people that I can relate to. Ever. It’s sole purpose seems to be to make me envious of a life I don’t have while I’m scrolling in my pyjamas with no make up on and not feeling all too glam.

2. Comparing our lives to everyone else’s

That friend that’s living in Australia, fitness Influencers that have no fixed address except a villa in Bali with their office being the local coffee shop or that friend that’s constantly on holiday while you’re sat scrolling through their pictures on your lunch break in the same office that you’ll be in for the rest of your life.

Why do they have these amazing lives and I don’t? When will my life ever be like theirs? This is the problem. You have no idea what’s going on in their actual lives. The only part you get to see are the parts that they want to share – the good parts. No one’s life is perfect and I would bet your life on it that the people you envy are probably envying someone else’s life and not happy with their own.

We are all going at our own pace in life and Instagram can lead you to believe that you’re falling behind everyone else or that your life is not on track. No you don’t need to be buying a house at 25, no you don’t need to be engaged by 27 and married at 29, no you don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at 21 and you don’t need to put every milestone of your life on social media either.

3. Filters

When I look at the Instagram models’ images, I always think, Surely that person isn’t real? Usually I’m right. We have now entered the era of lip fillers, cheek fillers, face contouring and Botox at 18 (the new series of TOWIE – if you haven’t watched it already, I wouldn’t recommend it) and not forgetting apps like FaceTune.

Gone are the days of just tweaking some lighting and contrast on an app, but you can now physically filter your face with these temporary fillers and companies are even offering ‘Kim K’ packages, shaping your entire face to look exactly like hers – the original Queen of the selfie. But these fillers are making people look the same; everyone has the same jaw line, the same huge lips and the same expressionless forehead. But are we going under the needle to make ourselves feel better or so we look good in pictures for Instagram?

I 100% feel the societal pressure to look like these Instagram models and reality TV stars, I’m not going to lie. I have my lashes done every two weeks but that’s the height of my beauty expenditure. However, if I had the money to spare, I would most likely have had lip filler, cheek filler, my nose doing and my jaw line sculpted. The before-and-after pictures of Bella Hadid, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Kylie Jenner show that they weren’t born with their looks, so how are we expected to compare or feel good about ourselves?

4. Life is now a numbers game

Why do we now value our self-worth on how many followers we have? How many likes we receive? And why do we get so caught up on these numbers?

The thing is, what happens when Instagram isn’t relevant anymore? What will you base your value on then? Right now, you should be basing your self-worth on who you are as a person. Your morals, your friends, your choices and mindset. You are not the number of likes on your most recent selfie.

In Influencer Marketing especially, likes and followers tell a lot about someone – whether they are popular, liked and most importantly, influential. If you are an Influencer, then more than likely, your numbers will control your life. How much you can charge, the brands you work with and your credibility can all depend on the number on your profile.

How would you like your life to be ruled by numbers?

5. Virtual validation

What would happen if I logged out of Instagram for one month? I’d be completely out of the loop from my friends and people I know, wouldn’t know what everyone was up to on a daily basis and wouldn’t see what my favourite Influencers and celebrities are up to. But… is that such a bad thing? If I wouldn’t know what my friends are up to without Instagram, am I really able to call them friends?

There have been scientific studies to show that we find a sense of validation in receiving likes and comments on our photos. But why should we care? And why should we get upset if our posts don’t perform well or receive less likes than we expect? People will laugh and say ‘It’s not the end of the world,’ but for some people it is.

Lack of likes or interaction make people feel less of themselves, question their friends, question their popularity and question themselves altogether. I’ve said before that I feel a need to post on social media a lot so that I stay relevant and am not forgotten about. Can you imagine it – people suddenly forgetting you exist because you haven’t posted a photo in a while? Well I can confirm that this is the case as I’ve heard many people say ‘Oh, I forgot they existed’ when someone posts for the first time in ages. And as shallow as it sounds, I just don’t want that to happen to me.

Is my generation to blame for this? Or who can I blame for making me base my self-worth and relevance on a social media app?

If I spent the time that I invest in watching other people’s lives, focusing on my own instead, would my mental health be a lot better? Absolutely. The more energy I put into watching other people’s ‘amazing’ lives, perfect selfies, constant work-outs, the more energy I could put into working on myself and improving both my mental and physical health. 

Plus I’m not even going to get started on why I think Instagram is the reason our generation can’t remain faithful. That’s a blog post all in itself. 

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