Instagram & Mental Wellness
In a recent report Instagram has been bestowed a rather ominous title; the most harmful social media network for mental health. Yikes. This news might move some to delete their accounts, or at least ponder doing so. But could there be a way to have a healthy experience within the IG community without taking massive hit to your self-esteem and self-worth? I think so. However, in order to take control of your feed you must exercise self awareness, thoughtfulness and selectivity.
Pinpoint Your Sore Spots
We’ve all seen those feeds; gorgeous, fashionable people, stunning travel adventures, flawless decor or just those all-around enviable lifestyles. We are attracted to the beauty of it all but can be slammed with despair, self-loathing, etc upon seeing them – especially ad nauseum on our IG feeds. We all have a particular sore spot. Perhaps it’s body-image; and you feel riddled with shame when you see those phenomenally fit women and men that dominate your feed. Or perhaps, financially or logistically, it is not possible for you to remotely work and travel the world in a never-ending adventure – and you’re filled with heartbreaking envy – especially when there appears to be a never ending parade of those that can do it.
So what’s the answer? Limit the number of people/brands that you follow that hit your sore spot. Don’t let those images congest your feed. Social networks were not created with the intent to be harmful; take control and curate your feed to suit your needs.
That said, images on Instagram can be quite inspiring and give us food for thought and inspire us into action. Plus, there is no denying that as humans we are attracted to beauty, (although not that it needs to be so narrow a term; as the media dictates). Nonetheless, a stunningly crafted layout, whatever it is, makes us stop and take notice.
Take time to note which images catch your attention and the kinds of feelings they invoke. Do you feel uplifted and inspired to create a new piece of your own reality? Or do you feel like the unattainable is being dangled out of reach and forces you to feel a sense of inferiority?
If it’s the latter – hit the unfollow button. Trust me – it’ll feels empowering. Fill you feed with content that makes you feel good. It’s as simple as that.
Aspiration is another tenet to evaluate on your IG feed cleanse. Some individuals find a good deal of motivation through public or private figures on Instagram that are living a certain kind of lifestyle or have reached a particular goal that they themselves wish to achieve. The best of these types of accounts are ones whose tone is both motivational and supportive – with a side of reality checks. (AKA: everything is not always what it appears to be on IG.) Choose to follow people that create a natural enthusiasm that drives you to reach your personal goals – not those that give you sense that you need to ‘keep up.’ You’re the only one living your life. Make it your own.
Find Your Communities
There are are a multitude of communities within Instagram that foster wonderful channels of support, collaboration and pure fun! Scope them out. There are some fabulous accounts that focus on mental illness, but there are also those that tackle the subject of parenting, veganism, human rights activism, environmental issues and some that are just down right funny. The choices often seem endless. Additionally, if you are a small business owner or a start-up taking part in the festivities, an IG pod might introduce you to some wonderful people and might present potential for collaboration both online and off.
Bottom line? Find your tribe(s).
Keep it Social
It is easy to become a voyeur with social media. The opportunity is there to scroll endlessly whilst ‘liking’ the errant image without pause. But as they say: “Keep the social in social media”. Comment, ask questions, and interact with the individuals that are throwing these images and their sentiments into the virtual void to find their own voice with others. That is the idea behind all social media.
Naturally, your fave celebrity or IG influencer may not respond back due to the massive influx of comments and messages the receive, but there are even more people like yourself on Instagram that are looking to connect on some level with others that share their interests, ideas, concerns and dreams. Take a leap and connect to account feeds that make a positive impact on you and you’ll reap the benefits that are at the heart of the best intents of social media.
We can’t talk about monitoring our own mental health without pointing out an often overlooked darkside to all social media. Keep in mind that there are a multitude of apps and/or programs that help tweak and perfect a majority of images you’re exposed to on social media–especially on Instagram. Often these ‘ideal’ shoots are the product of numerous attempts to capture the most flattering angle or have been arraigned and cropped to produce a fetching layout. Again, these images are trying to catch your eye – but it’s also a bit of smoke-and-mirror. Remember, just as those you follow may may curate the content they share, you likewise can curate who you follow. Take time to cultivate a social climate that suits you and you can have a positive impact on your mental well-being. Believe it or not, it can happen.
Don’t believe me?
Chew on this finding: Nearly 70% of respondents reported that they received emotional support on social media when times were tough, and many said their accounts offered a forum for positive self-expression. They were also able to create and maintain relationships online.
Go ahead, and delete your account. In the end it’s all about choice and the state of your mental health. When it comes to that you have to do what’s best for YOU!