Aimlessly scrolling through Instagram might be causing you more harm than you think. Take it from someone who downloaded the app at age 11 without parental permission. For many of us, the act of checking our Instagram feed is almost an impulse, but have you ever thought about how it impacts your mood and choices?
Once 2020 hit and I was saturated with an overwhelming number of New Year party pictures, I realized I needed to take a break from Instagram. Every picture I viewed seemed to be so inauthentic that it made me sick. I quit all social media for a week and started limiting my time afterward. It soon made me realize how toxic Instagram is.
Most of us will agree that when we post on Instagram, we are trying to brag about our lives. We want people to acknowledge that we are having fun and enjoying life, but are also inherently building a false image of ourselves for our followers by picking and choosing what we post.
Whether you run a fan page for your favorite celebrity, try to go viral as an influencer or use Instagram as an average college kid, you are getting some kind of validation from other users’ interactions with your posts.
The more this validation cycle continues, the more it can harm your mental health. Instagram was even ranked the worst app for young people’s mental health. The attention your posts get may make you feel noticed and good about yourself, but don’t let this become your basis of self-worth.
Although Instagram has begun experimenting with the removal of the number of likes, the culture around posts getting attention is a crucial part of social media use for many users. For years, I have listened to friends debate about the best time to post to get the most likes, or how someone “posted and deleted” when their picture flopped.
The concept of keeping up with an aesthetic and moving to other apps such as VSCO to post pictures that aren’t worthy for an Instagram feed has left me baffled. Instagram personas are dictating the self-expression of young people.
To make up for the lack of self-expression on their regular Instagram page, people create “finstas,” secondary Instagram accounts meant for sharing more private life details. After jumping on this bandwagon during my first semester of college, I enjoyed the idea of posting weird pictures and stories about my life until I realized — who cares? What was my underlying intent behind all of this, when I could just communicate to the people I cared about?
Sure, sharing quirky things is fun, but after being immersed in finsta culture, I could not help but think about how everyone I was following was compensating for their loneliness to a few followers instead of actually talking to their friends.
The constant assortment of ads and celebrity endorsements has also contributed to my disdain for Instagram. We are so saturated with ads that seeing the gimmicks on Instagram has become disheartening. Companies like Flat Tummy Tea use celebrity endorsements that cause controversy due to the problematic messages they are sending to their audiences. Not only are these ads promoting unhealthy and ineffective methods of weight loss, but consumers of the tea reported having severe cramps, irregular menstruation and digestive issues.
It’s painstakingly obvious that when influencers tell me to drink tea to lose weight or take a special gummy bear pill to make my hair grow it is unhealthy. Yet it is content many of us are exposed to on a daily basis. These ads only contribute to the endless stream of falsehoods that dominate Instagram.
Next time you check your Instagram, consider assessing how it makes you feel. Think about what you are viewing and evaluate what would happen if you took a break from it all. Although it will cause you to miss posts from your friends and family, logging off for a bit can help you reexamine your priorities in life — whose opinions really matter to you?
Call your family and friends from home, try something creative such as drawing, journaling or painting, or get ahead on planning your future. You are able to get more out of life when you are choosing what to do and explore with people you care about.