My name is Rebecca and I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. Instagram has somehow changed from being a fun way to share what's happening in my life into a chore.

According to Time Health, "studies have suggested that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are more likely to report psychological distress." While it seems to be a general trend that all social media promotes negative mental health, to me and the rest of the world, Instagram stands out in particular.

As a few months ago, in May, a study published by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement announced that Instagram was ranked worst social media platform for young people's mental health and this didn't come as a shock to me.

Why Instagram Is Ruining My Life and Why I'm Kind of Okay With It

Why wasn't I surprised? In my own life, I have been seeing the mental strain that comes along with social media, experiencing it on almost a daily basis. I've been constantly feeling mixed emotions about it. I love it, but at other times I completely hate it what it's doing to me.

A while ago, I tweeted out something about my mixed feelings for Instagram and it seemed that a lot of other people felt the same way. 

Seeing that I wasn't the only one in the midst of an intense battle of love vs. hate over Instagram, I decided to give each side their moment and explain the pros and cons. General consensus seems to be that yeah, sometimes Instagram makes me feel terrible about my life, but at the same time, I'm a) totally addicted and b) love the positive benefits of Instagram in my life. 

WHY INSTAGRAM IS RUINING MY LIFE

I struggle with the fear of missing out. 

The fear of missing out is literally exactly how it sounds. Looking at social media, you see the lives of other people and you see that they're having fun. Without you. This spurs, you guessed it, the fear of missing out on all of the fun. For me, this is most difficult when I see my friends and/or people that I know in person on social media going to social events that maybe I a) wasn't invited to, b) decided not to go to, or c) is so completely amazing that I would never even imagine going to.

It's most difficult in these situations for me personally because with social media influencers, I know that their lives will always be exciting on social media because that's their job. However, with people that I know personally, they're more like me. I know where they went to school and what classes they're taking. They're people that I can relate to more based on what I already know about them. I feel that connection with them and I know that we're somewhat similar.

However, knowing that these people are just like me, seeing posts online of them doing extraordinary things or going to fantastic events makes me feel like I'm a) slacking in my life or b) just pathetic and not cool. If we're all supposed to be in about the same place, we're about the same age, we have similar skills, we maybe even took some of the same classes and went to the same school, but here they are, doing more than me.


Instagram amplifies my fear of being left behind by almost showing me proof of it, spurring the fear of missing out.

While some of this is can be positive, like when I saw someone that I know personally give a speech at a major event (surprise: I was jealous), which positively spurred "I should actually do more with my life" motivation, some of it is self-induced and completely unnecessary, like seeing people I know at a party. Even though I know that I probably would have hated it at that party, I still feel bad about not being there, like maybe somehow I'm missing out on the fun. Instagram instills that fear in me. While I could actually be having fun or doing incredible things, I'm too worried about what other people are doing.


Related: The Fear of Missing Out and If You Didn't Post it On Social Media, Did it Really Happen?


It gives me unnecessary stress.

"Should I post this?" I frantically text my friends, sending them a picture to approve. I sit there, impatiently waiting for their responses. When they finally give me the green light, the next thing that I text is, "Someone give me a caption," and then ponder over the best caption option for the picture, vetoing some and considering others. But sometimes, I like none of the options they give me and I'm stuck stressing even more, having no idea of the perfect caption. It needs to be cute, yet witty. It needs to be me, yet relatable.

I can't tell you how many times that I've gotten caught up stressing about a single post on Instagram. Sometimes I worry about the little things, like the caption, or the time of day that I post, but sometimes I worry about the holistic view of my Instagram, like my feed's aesthetic. The point is, there's always something to stress about with Instagram. I worry about keeping up and posting in order to stay active. I worry about whether I should use the C1 filter or the A6 filter. If you added up all the time that I've spent stressing over social media instead of actually doing what I want with my life, it would be way too much.

Building off of the fear of missing out, social media is constantly stressing me out. Whether it's me stressing about my own feed or stressing about someone else's, I waste too much of my life worrying about it. Maybe I could actually be creating something amazing with my life, but instead, I'm staring at my phone still debating between whether I should use the sun emoji or the flower emoji in my caption. And I'm totally sick of it.


Related: The Pressure of Social Media


I'm trying to become like other people.

When it finally becomes my turn to do amazing things, looking at social media makes me think about all the things that everyone else has done successfully and how I can do the same. The problem with that is that I'm often finding myself trying to recreate other people's versions of success. Whether it's something small, like a successful well-liked Instagram post, or it's with bigger things, such as my ambitions and life goals, I'm letting other people's lives influence mine, trying to make mine more like someone else's.

I see now why it's called the "follow" button, you follow their life updates, but you're also compelled to follow after their life choices.

Social media makes me want to follow other people. Not just on their social media platforms, but also in life. I see now why it's called the "follow" button, you follow their life updates, but you're also compelled to follow after their life choices. Seeing someone's perfect life makes you want to recreate it for yourself and soon enough you're following someone else's life direction instead of paving your own.

It encourages insanely high expectations. 

It's summer and I just saw the most swoon-worthy pool party picture on Instagram. Cute bathing suits, pink flamingo pool floaties, fancy drinks, and everyone smiling and laughing. "That looks like so much fun," I think, when I see the picture. All I wish is that I could be there and be as happy as them.

So when it comes time that I go to my own pool party, I'm hyped. I'm imagining literally the exact same picture that I saw, but with me and my friends substituted in. When I get there, I see no pool floaties, fancy drinks, and quite frankly, the conversation is dull and little bit awkward. I'm so disappointed. The whole week leading towards the party, all I imagined was that Instagram picture becoming my life, it set my expectations through the roof so by the time that I get there and it is less than I expect, I'm a lot more upset than I would be if I had zero expectations.

The problem with Instagram is that it shows the best moments, and we go through our lives, expecting these moments to come true, but in reality, our lives are not a series of best hits. 

WHY I'M KIND OF OKAY WITH IT

So I've ranted a lot about how much Instagram has ruined my life. So why do I deal with it? Why do I continue using the app?


It's a place to connect with others.

This is the most obvious one. How else would I know that Grace went on a beach vacation with her family and that Sarah just graduated from UCLA? Social media, including Instagram, offers the ability to keep up with the lives of others, no matter far they are away from you, or how little you see them. I'm able to keep up with friends that I went to elementary school with. I'll see that Instagram post knowing that Anna finally got to reach her dream job that she had always talked about in elementary school. I'll see that my friend, Madison, is back in town after moving away to Japan for a couple years. Instagram lets me share my exciting moments with others and be a part of the the big moments for those that I care about.

It helps me meet new people. 

Meet new people? Online? My mother would never approve! While online scamming is a real thing, there are also all kinds of genuine people out there that are just waiting to be your future friends. Whether it's connecting with an online friend on the other side of the world that has similar interests or connecting with a friend of a friend, Instagram can help you be social with new people.

There are also a lot of times that I create a mutual acquaintance with someone online before I actually start talking to them in person. There are often people that I know of, maybe we go to the same school, and by following them on social media, we can vaguely get to know each other, so when we meet in person, I already know a little about them and they already know a little about me, which skips the awkward intros (and I'm totally for that).

It inspires me to change my life. 

Bored with your life? Check out someone else's! While looking at someone else's life can encourage envy and jealousy as well as the fear of missing out, looking at pictures that other people have posted can often encourage me to get off my butt and get going. I love living vicariously through others, but eventually there comes a time when I realize that I should stop living through others and start making my life as amazing (or dare I say more amazing?) than theirs.

CAN WE EVER FIND A HAPPY MEDIUM?

I'd like to think so. Since I'm a total hypocrite and I never follow my own advice about moving away from social media in order to avoid the negative consequences of it, I still don't really know how to have it all. I like to believe that we can, like all things in life, it requires balance. Too much can be unhealthy, but too little can make you feel another type of the fear of missing out, the fear of not being in the loop. I'm going to strive to figure out in my own life first and if I figure it out, I'll let you know. In the meantime, what are your thoughts about finding a middle ground? 

What do you think? What's the perfect balance to Instagram usage?

1 comment: