This summer during a visit to Russia to see my Mum’s family, I was invited by two friends to a gorgeous bar on the city’s riverside. We did what three young-adult females are likely to do in such a situation: caught up, chatted over cocktails and took photos- so, so may photos, in search of that elusive perfect Instagram post. What strikes me now is that it isn’t the beautiful scenery or our conversations that spring to mind when I think back to that summer evening, but rather our mini-photoshoot. Whilst scrolling through the many photos on my phone from that night -predominantly of myself holding a cocktail and staring candidly into the sunset (at least that was the hope), I started wondering… had I sold my soul to Instagram?
We’ve heard it all before, social media causes us to procrastinate, denies us sleep and that we’d all be better off reading a book or going for a run instead, but it was for none of these reasons that I decided to have an Instagram-hiatus.
Having suffered from anxiety and poor body image for years, I was coming to realise that all of the time I was spending on Insta was doing nothing to alleviate the problem. In fact, seeing so many photos of glamourous nights out, bikini pics and fitness models was simply causing me to compare myself to others, and brought up those pesky ‘she’s better than because of x/y/z….’, thoughts that I knew were a trigger for my anxiety. What occurred to me was that despite coming to realise what a negative effect Instagram was having on my mental health, I felt scared to delete it because everyone else seemed to use it so frequently. My FOMO was kicking in, leaving me feeling as though I’d be missing out on all the fun my friends were having if I didn’t keep myself up to date on their latest posts.
But this summer I’d finally had enough. I pushed all of my fears aside and finally hit delete. And the world didn’t go up in flames around me. The worst thing that happened was my housemates’ joking annoyance with me for not liking their posts, but to be honest, we respect each other enough in real life for the click of a button not to be a real issue! I found that once I’d broken the habit of looking at so many (maybe photoshopped, most probably carefully posed and taken at least several times) photos of others, I was so much more respectful of myself and my own body. I became passionate about embracing my individuality and looking after my wellbeing, whatever that meant for me personally, and regardless of what others were doing. Even after re-downloading the app, I find that I am much more mindful about how using it makes me feel, and less likely to scroll just for the sake of it.
While I am aware that there are lots of benefits to apps like Instagram, such as them being a platform for many great movements fighting for positive change, I am also a first-hand example of some of the drawbacks social media can bring. So, if like me you suspect that your social-media habits may be taking their toll on your mental wellbeing, don’t be afraid to take some time out. Give it a go- have a detox for a day or for a week, or simply try and be more mindful about the effect that using such apps has on your moods.
For now, I’m focusing on the real world over the digital one, and doing my best to prioritise my mental health. Life has only gotten better for it…