It’s no surprise that Instagram has become one of the most influential sources of information in the past years. Thousands of people became really famous by selling their brand, their body, their lifestyle. The better your life looks on the outside, the more followers you get. For some reason, we like to look at other people’s perfect lives and compare it with our own. We like to look up to people and we hope we will someday be like them. Because if we are more like them, maybe we will also be worshipped and loved.
And so through the years, Instagram has raised the bar for about anything. It has unintentionally created standards for everything in life. Standards that can never be met. No one can live up to that photoshopped picture or that fake scene.
According to this Huffington Post article, a study has shown that Instagram is the worst social media app for young people’s mental health. “Part of the reason Instagram scored the worst in wellbeing is because of the app’s reported effect on body image. The practice of editing photos contributes to “a generation of young people with poor body image and body confidence,” the authors explained.” (You can find the report here.)
Striving for worth
I once came across this powerful quote:
I think this one says it all; all we see and worship is fake, and no human being will ever be able to look like that. But we want to SO bad. We want to be and look perfect because that’s today’s norm.
Why do we have such an overpowering desire to impress others? Why do we want others to think we are successful, or really good at something? Why is it so important to win, why do we worship famous singers and actors and why do we dedicate shows to finding people with certain talents? I’ve been searching the entire internet for the answer to these questions, and I didn’t really found the key answer. So here’s what I think. I think this goes back to the fear of being abandoned and alone (read more about that here). We want to be important. Because being important means we will be loved and we will not end up alone. Being adored makes us worthy. We just want to have worth in a world of comparison, judgment and rejection.
The evilness of Instagram
Instagram has become an instant measuring tool for your worth. You post something of yourself, and others can rate your content by liking it. And through Instagram goggles this means: they evaluate you as a person. The more likes, the more worthy you are. Do you have many followers? By Instagram rules this means a lot of people are interested in your daily life because it looks so awesome. Don’t have that many followers? By Instagram rules this means you’re not so cool. So we massively follow the cool people to strive for what we think they have. Instagram is an evil medium that basically tells you one of these things:
- A: Little likes and/or followers mean you are not successful or skinny or talented enough and therefore not worthy.
- B: The things that have nothing to do with who you as a person are very important. Your outside is all that matters and nobody gives a shit about who you really are and how you feel.
I think this is the saddest thing ever.
It’s not even real
The online world has become a huge part of our social lives and it’s the example of what you should be like these days. When I was in high school, you could look for certain images on Google and you could find information for your project. That was the internet and it was awesome. Photoshop hardly existed, and social media didn’t exist at all. I can’t even imagine how today’s kids are overwhelmed with expectations they can never live up to.
Because really, most of what you see isn’t as good as it looks. To get the most followers and likes, some people only show the best bits, or they make it look better than it is. When you remove the make-up, the filters, the Photoshop brushes and turn the camera 180 degrees, these people are just like us. I’ve heard so many times that even the most successful Instagrammers are often miserable and depressed.
Imagine that your dayjob is to strive for perfection. You HAVE to be perfect, or you will lose followers and income. Imagine that you have to pretend to be somebody else for a living.. Someone you are not. There is no room for real feelings; you feel like shit? Well too bad, you have to smile. What a miserable life.
And then there is this
There is another danger to Instagram that I would like to mention. I think this mostly comes down to the corner of mental health issues. When you are in deep shit, you follow other people who are in deep shit so you don’t feel so alone. Among these people, you find acceptance and sometimes even respect for the things you do. In the darkest corners, people often use coping mechanisms like cutting or anorexia. Especially in the world of anorexia, being thin can be a silent competition. Seeying others who starve or cut can be a trigger for some people to do it too, or better.
At some point I really had to make the choice to stop following anorexia accounts. It’s like alcohol; once you know what it feels like to lose yourself in it, you have to stay away from it. I have had relapses after watching tv series about anorexia, and after I read a diary of someone’s recovery journey. I felt what I was missing and I wanted it back.
Following accounts of people with the same problems that you have can keep you down when you actually want to go up. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t follow such accounts. It can be very helpful to have a community of people with the same issues. Just keep an eye on yourself; if it’s holding you back, stop following these people and follow the people that are in front of you, so they can pull you up!
The good side of Instagram
However, not everything on Instagram is bad. It can be a good start for your brand and whatever (weird) hobby you have, there are others with the same interests as you. And there are awesome positivity communities on Instagram. These people show us real bodies, real lives, real struggles. They show us how pictures are manipulated so people look better than they are. Or they show us that you can never be happy all the time. That everyone has struggles and life isn’t perfect. THESE are the accounts we need to follow people! It really helps me to see happy people who have my body type and totally rock it. But the real importance here is the example we set for our children. Let’s raise a generation of kind people who look after each other, and who practice normal standards.
When I was searching the internet for this topic, I came across an article about Essena O’Neill, who was 18 years old when she quit Instagram three years ago, at the point where she had half a million followers. I am impressed with what she did. I found her pictures on BoredPanda, which are not on Instagram anymore, so I plucked them from their website because they are awesome. Please read her captions. She also made a Youtube video about it. It’s a bit long, but just listen to her for a few minutes and remember her important message.
All images by boredpanda.com
You are a unique person, please don’t change yourself to look like someone else.
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