Keeping Up with Instagram
How Social Media Impacts Our Mindset
Last week I deleted the Instagram app from my phone. My creativity was declining, my anxiety was rising, and I felt like I was losing my self-identity, my purpose with every swipe. I started thinking, where do I fit into this big world with so many perfect, successful people?
Instead of agonizing over what to post and viewing stats, I spent my days focused on being present in the moment. I reflected on my self-doubt, my fears, and why Instagram was crushing my creativity.
My thoughts came in a deluge. It originated with my realization that an Instagram user that I follow was using filters. It may have been naïve, but I always thought her flawless skin was natural. It had made me wonder what I am doing wrong with mine. Is it something I am eating, am I not using the right products, or do I have bad genes? When she made an offhand comment in a reel about a filter making her look tan, I was shocked. I immediately started scrolling through her posts, and they all appeared so perfect. I enjoyed watching her decorate a cake, but if she is concealing what she looks like, what else is fake? I started looking at all the accounts that I follow with fresh eyes. Had I been naïve to believe anything on Instagram was real? How could I measure up to the contrived perfection and embellished success when you can hide your face behind a filter and buy followers?
This realization took me to a dark place. I did not want to hide behind filters, and I definitely did not want to buy followers. Sure, I love the stupid little butterflies on my face, but the digital images are noticeably fake. Still, is this any different than makeup? Is that creating a false image too? My thoughts came pouring in, and I remembered getting ready at a friend's wedding and a girl commenting that I was pretty without makeup. She had been doubtful that I was pretty underneath it. Her statement was bold, and I remember contemplating whether I wore too much makeup. I concluded that her reaction was proof that I did not. I like makeup, not to hide behind, but as a form of art that I refer to as painting my face. I love green eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, and blush. Makeup has always been a form of expression, and I believe while you may not be able to tell how much a person is wearing, you can typically tell if a person is wearing makeup. Filters do not seem to offer the same warning. Should I begin to assume everyone is using one? If this is affecting me, how is this deceptive beauty impacting our youth?
Adolescence is hard enough trying to fit in; having the right clothes, the right body, the right hair, be fun but not too weird. I chose to be weird. I wore hand-me-down Abercrombie pants and then cut them into capris worn over cutoff tights. Some days I was preppy, some days goth, and other days punk. A woman once asked me if I was a boy, and other times my friends lamented how pretty I was, at which I laughed and told them they did not know anything. Acquaintances that became friends told me they thought I was stuck up because I was quiet and had nice clothes. I laughed because most of my clothes were secondhand, and I was so shy that most people would flat-out ask me if I was mute. I have never fit, so why was it bothering me now?
I think Instagram is an enigma. Instagram is about bring[ing] you closer to the people and things you love. This statement is true. It brings me closer to unlimited cake decorating reels, humans traveling the world, and an endless supply of poetry. But it also makes me feel farther away from my dreams. Instead of doing what I love, I watch others living my dreams. There is a fine line between inspiration and the compulsion to scroll.
You may be thinking that sounds great, but can you give me practical ideas? Being told to feel good may create temporary hype or self-esteem; but, if you do not believe it or understand why you should feel good, you are likely filling your head with fluff. And fluffy thoughts get blown away.
A couple of thoughts to consider when scrolling through Instagram:
How do you feel after seeing a reel or post from a particular Instagram profile? Did they provide you with new knowledge, insight into an issue, inspire you, or in some way build you up? Great, keep following them. If you feel inadequate, ugly, or you will never be capable of achieving results like them, they are not building you up. Unfollow them.
Think about what is making you feel inadequate, ugly, or unachievable. For me, the filters made me feel like I had to be perfect too. But I did not want to use filters. Once I realized that being authentic was more important than always appearing perfect, I no longer felt inadequate. Owning your truth replaces fluffy thoughts with a solid stance, not easily blown away.
Make a change. Sometimes we realize there is something that we do not like about ourselves that we can change. If you want to make a change that builds you up and aligns with your goals, then go for it! I follow a few poets on Instagram who self-publish their work. One of my goals is to publish my poetry. Thinking about why I felt bad made me realize that I was upset with myself for not working on my poetry more. Feeling bad is not always bad. Sometimes feeling bad is appropriate and is a signal that we need to make a change.
Currently, I have not reinstalled Instagram on my home screen. My compulsion to scroll has diminished. My creativity has risen, my anxiety has declined, and I feel like I can focus again on my self-identity, my purpose. I do not have to keep up with Instagram, and neither do you.
This article discusses Instagram because it is my favorite and most used social media platform. However, all social media platforms have the capability of negatively or positively impacting our mindsets. It is up to each of us to make choices about social media that are best for our mental health.
About the Creator
I want to leave kindness in my footsteps and tiny seeds of hope in your brain.
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