Social media sites have changed our perspective from using our account as a means to show off our lives, to living our lives as a means to post on our account.
Not everyone is tied to their social media in this way, but speaking from experience, I have worried about why my life doesn’t produce perfectly captured moments on camera, like the photos posted by my peers.
The more I wondered why my summer wasn’t full of photoshoots and cute candids, the more pressure I felt to take photographic evidence every time I hung out with someone. If I didn’t, I felt the excursion was all for nothing.
According to Time.com, “Instagram is the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing” as found in a study composed of 1,500 young people in the UK titled #StatusOfMind. Instagram is associated with high levels of anxiety, depression and fear-of-missing-out (or "FOMO").
As a generation, Gen-Z are some of the heaviest users of social media and have virtually (pun intended) grown up with Snapchat and Instagram accounts. For those of us who suffer from FOMO even without social media, the ability to see what everyone else is doing on a Friday night amplifies the experience to an uncomfortable level.
Going somewhere with a goal in mind to take a picture to post on social media is absurd if you take the idea out of context. The most important part of an experience is just that – actually experiencing it and being in the moment, wherever you may be.
Laying on the beach and soaking up the sun would be much more relaxing had you not just spent 30 minutes trying to find the right lighting and pose for your Instagram summer photo dump. But now you have to think about how that one picture showed your cellulite or how all the other bikini photos you saw on your feed were taken in Hawaii while you are at the Congaree River.
Constant comparison of ourselves to others will be our downfall.
A study performed by researchers out of Federation University in Australia found that “since Facebook and Instagram users are likely to share positive and idealistic portrayals of themselves, teenagers may feel they are ‘missing out’ or ‘everyone is doing better’ than them,” and “those who used Facebook for longer, and who followed more strangers, agreed more that others had better lives.”
Let your Instagram be a representation of you, because if you try to manufacture a feed of amazing experiences without actually living them, what are you actually getting out if it? And what if you go through all that work and the number of likes doesn’t meet your expectation? Stop letting an app control your happiness and start using it as a tool to show off what makes you happy.
New York Times writer Geoffrey Morrison suggests unfollowing accounts that affect you negatively or muting those you don’t want to unfollow to help with FOMO and negative comparison habits.
Start following Instagram accounts that spread messages of positivity and inclusiveness to make your feed a healthy place. Try following accounts that share in the goal to represent real life.
Be present in the moments you do share with those around you: I promise that will make you happier than taking a good picture. Remember that you control your presence online, and if it isn’t affecting you in a positive way, taking a break is always an option.