How does Instagram make you feel about your life?
“Does watching other people’s Instagram stories make anyone else feel shit about your life?’”
I recently saw this statement pop up on someone’s Instagram story, and it got me thinking. Admittedly, I spend a lot of time on Instagram. I don’t do Twitter, I don’t love Facebook, but I am totally and utterly enthralled by Instagram and Youtube. I am very specific about the type of content I go for, and sometimes I forget that Instagram is made up of more than coffee shops, product design, interior decor, wanderlust travels, writers and creative artistic accounts. When I flick through someone else’s Instagram feed, my attention span lasts a whole 20 seconds, and I’m not interested in anything that pops up. My feed, however…it’s the first thing I look at in the morning when my alarm goes off at 6am. I browse through Instagram story and photo updates every 30 minutes at work. I love it.
Am I “addicted”? Depends on how you interpret it. The way I like to look at everything these days, is to ask the question, is this element of my life (whether it is a habit, behaviour, activity, interest, relationship, thought process, etc), is it serving me, is it serving my life in a positive way? If not, then see ya later. It either gets the boot, or something about it needs to change.
I’m not daft, and can clearly recognise how ingrained Instagram is into my everyday life. So, I recently decided to consider what aspects of Instagram have a negative impact on my mood, what parts of the platform I really appreciate and benefit from, and how I could maybe use it better.
The question “Does watching people’s Instagram stories make you feel shit about your life?’ prompted me to write this post and to open up a dialogue around this topic, because social media platforms are only going to grow and continue to play a large part in shaping our lives and perception of the world around us, whether we like it or not – and whether we use them or not, either.
Instagram and FOMO
People sometimes think that they need to use Instagram (especially Stories) as a way of trying to show and “prove” that they are filling their days with activities, that they have things to do, people to hang out with, places to be. “If it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen,” is a popular expression. This hails from the Snapchat era (do people still use Snapchat? I haven’t had the app on my phone in about a year).
I don’t really follow friend or acquaintance accounts on Instagram (apart from those who are “content creators” and post consistent, niche specific content, on purpose, which relates to my interests and is similar to other accounts I follow) Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re not into creating content for Instagram, maybe it’s just not your thing or you’re not passionate about it. I’m just not really interested in spending time looking at bouncing clips from a concert, photos of groups of random people, a story reel of drunken antics, or pictures of someone’s dog or newborn niece. That’s not what I use Instagram for (and if you do, that’s obviously fine too!). For me though, Instagram is meant to be a story-telling platform, to share experiences and lifestyles, a form of self-expression, imagination and escape.
I rarely put anything on my Instagram story to do with social events/outings/time spent with friends, because who cares? Sure, if I’m in a really nice cafe or if something attracts my eye in that situation to photograph, something aesthetically interesting or engaging, then I’ll stick it on my story. But beyond that, we shouldn’t need to use Instagram as a way of showing or “proving” that yes, in fact, I have something to do today, and am not at home alone on the couch or in bed, doing nothing, god forbid.
So the most important thing to do if you feel that Instagram is making you unhappy, or if you feel you are having a negative experience using it, is to look at and reevaluate the accounts you are following. And this applies to all of them, whether you know the person or creator personally or not. What’s their message? Do they have one? Is it in line with your own values and interests? Do you compare your own personal offerings to the world of Insta-stories to your friend’s? Do you feel that you need to show and broadcast a constant stream of fun socialising in order to feel adequate, and do you feel inadequate when you see someone else doing the same?
Identify what exactly about Instagram makes you feel shit
Take a minute to step back and figure out, what content or aspect of Instagram generates or triggers those negative or uncomfortable emotions and responses. Once you’ve nailed it down, either remove the culprit, or challenge it. Is it jealousy of someone else’s life which is making you feel shit about your own?
Jealousy is definitely an issue when it comes to any content sharing platform. But this isn’t always a negative thing. Ask yourself, are you jealous because that person is living the life you believe you should be living? Does it make you feel shit that someone else is living your dream? If someone else’s Instagram story is making you feel bad about your life, maybe it’s a nudge to ask yourself are you really happy, are you living your true purpose, are you confident in your decisions, are you staying faithful to the go-getter you believe yourself to be.
It’s up to every individual to create and paint their own lives, and decide what activities or routines fill each day. Whether we show clips of it on social media or not. So jealousy can be a great motivator, to challenge you to live your best life. The faces behind these amazing Instagram lives are all just human beings – consider yourself as equal, and if they are out there doing cool shit, why can’t you? (And on a side note, everyone’s idea of “cool shit” is different too. So ask yourself whether you would actually really like to be living that particular Instagram idol’s lifestyle everyday.)
However, if something particular on Instagram is giving you the sad feels and you know it’s a harmful influence, then get rid of it. There’s nothing wrong with using others as motivation and inspiration to improve and challenge yourself, but there is of course a dangerous amount of negative content and messaging on Instagram which just isn’t going to serve you. So unfollow, remove.
Follow content that inspires you
I know by now what content is going to have a positive effect on my mood, what will motivate me, what inspires me, and what I enjoy engaging with. So I follow those accounts. For example, when I first joined Instagram, I followed exclusively vegan breakfast art accounts, and wasn’t interested in any faces or people or places. My interests and the accounts I follow have shifted since then, and is still shifting, as I veer towards new creations – and the same goes for the type of visuals I post myself. My tip would be to really leverage Instagram as an inspirational platform, as a way of connecting with your interests and learning more about them.
Connections & Novelty
What I love about Instagram is the potential for connection. Be bold, take risks, step out of your comfort zone, and reach out. This is the first time in the history of the earth that we have had such phenomenal access to a plethora of personalities and individuals, who are unapologetically doing their thing. Instagram can influence your hobbies, your passions, and introduce you to new concepts and ideas.
Platforms like Instagram are extremely powerful because they are what we make of them. We are the creators. We can tell our story, shape and share our message and how we express ourselves, and use it to have a positive impact on other people’s lives. The world is becoming increasingly personalised, and the craving for real connection is there, and possible.
The truth is, making the most out of social media platforms to enhance our lives takes a great deal of guts, confidence and self-awareness. We can talk about whatever the hell we want, and we don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone in particular (I like to compare expressing yourself on platforms like Instagram and Youtube to living in New York – you can be whoever in the world you want and no one cares or bats an eyelid).
You will never be able to please and appeal to every single individual on the internet or in real life, but you will definitely be able to establish major and powerful connections, no matter how many. At least a couple hundred faces out there in this big universe gets your vibe, and we have never had such access to the world’s most inspirational and actionable stories.