Selfie-Loathing: Instagram May Be the Most Depressing Form of Social Media Yet

Source: Pinterest/unknown

Source: Pinterest/unknown

They say jealousy hurts, and comparison kills. 

Lately I've been thinking about how social media and blogging have drastically changed the way we live our lives. We have talked about social media burnout on SL before, and encouraged each other to put the phone down, disconnect, spend time outdoors, reconnect with real life, etc etc etc. What we haven’t touched on, is how comparison-driven social media, particularly Instagram, is, and how comparison truly is the thief of joy.

These days, you don’t need to drive through the fancy neighborhood, sit next to the impossibly fresh natural blonde next to you on the airplane, or walk into an empty Burberry store and get dirty looks from the salespeople to wonder if you fit in enough in this world. 

No. All you have to do is look at your phone. 

Your phone that sleeps next to you, that lives in your house, that interrupts your dinner, that you look at on impulse anytime your friend leaves to use the bathroom. Our phone that has become a 5th limb and the modern-day High School mean girl. 

Social media is a black hole of comparison and consumerism. We’ve all heard the expression “mindless scrolling”. You know it well: You are laying in bed, click on Instagram with the intention of spending only a few minutes on the app, but begin to scroll, scroll, scroll, like, like, like, scroll, scroll, scroll… 30 minutes later you have a headache from holding your phone thisclose to your face, and feel bad about your house, your kitchen, your bad lighting, your ugly photos, your stupid older model iPhone, your uncool job, and end the night feeling completely inadequate and ungrateful. 

We get down on ourselves when we compare our real life to the highlight reel of someone else’s. Like anyone else, while I may look like I don’t have problems, I do. And they are not displayed in my little squares. You may see one glamorous second of my day, but you didn’t see the tough conversation I had with my husband earlier. You didn’t see the hurt I felt from a falling out with my best friend, the frustration when my story got scratched, the panic I lived when my dog was in the hospital, and the stories told around the fire about the friend we once lost.

You only saw a pretty kitchen.

We only see the pretty and the shiny, and we want to be part of it. So we, then, also start posting only pretty and shiny. Then we get comments on how pretty and shiny that is, and we feel good about ourselves. Only to see the prettier and shinier thing next to us, and feel like we’re not as pretty and shiny. Now you have to make more money and spend more money so you can win at social media. 

Think of all the pretty and shiny things I can post! Everyone will die!! 

I am exhausted of the sameness, of the fakeness, and of the perpetual need for everyone to become more visible, get more attention, get more sponsors, make more money, and ultimately become more sucked into a world entirely driven by image.

Then come the experts giving lessons on how to grow your following based on authenticity, when they themselves paid $29.99 for a few thousand followers. We see others showing how real they are, baring their flaws and all in the most self-deprecating, humble-bragging kind of way, so that all the comments below are applauding, complimenting, and building them up, thus achieving the whole point of the post. Something that was supposed to be empowering to the viewer, is used as a building block for the poster’s own self-esteem, at the cost of your feeling bad about yourself. 

I believe that social media has become a useful and important tool for our work and I use it myself. Without it, you might not be reading this. And of course I edit my photos, and put thought into what I post. I think anyone who uses any online platform should take pride in what they put out into the world. 

But there should be a limit to our “editing”, or we edit our real life straight out of our social media life. We edit out the people we love most because pictures of kids cost you followers, pictures of family get-togethers cost you followers, and clips of your dog lose you followers (okay not really, people love dogs). 

Only extra white, extra edited, extra overexposed, extra styled pics please, and make sure to include your Starbucks cup and your Hunter boots or we are all unfollowing immediately.

People like pretty photos because they make them feel good, and that’s a good thing - we can and should use this to guide our marketing and our branding. And Hunter boots are cute and Starbucks is delicious.

The problem takes root when you start to beat yourself up for not having as pretty of a gallery as the totally perfect blogger next door, and start convincing yourself you are not as good as her. When you find yourself having thoughts like “it’s not fair, my pictures are way prettier than hers, why does she have that many followers?”, “if only I had a pretty house I could be just as big”, and “why doesn’t anybody like me, am I not as cool?.”

It makes me worry for these young girls who are growing up in a world where they don’t know any different. It’s scary to think what some of these babies are measuring themselves up to at such a young age, and what the daily dose of comparison is doing to their self-esteem.

I’m tired. Tired of seeing it, tired of being it, tired of encouraging it.

What’s the antidote, I wonder? I think we need to ask ourselves some questions.

Why?

What’s our motivation? And more importantly, do we love what we do? If we do, we should strive to protect it. This overwhelmingly creative world actually sucks the creativity out of us, which sounds contradictory, but just think: when you spend 30 mins interacting on Instagram in an effort to connect with people and to promote your work, you are probably left feeling exhausted, annoyed, and not at all #authentic.

That mindless scrolling doesn’t stimulate any part of your brain that you can utilize later. It simply numbs it. Like watching TV, your brain is practically sleeping, but it’s taking in all the spoon-fed material. It doesn’t have to work to receive it, like when you read a book or work on a problem. Because of its format of bite-size visual info, we eat it up like potato chips! We can’t stop, won’t stop.

There are wonderful sides to social media we can all benefit from. I’ve met great people and have had amazing opportunities through blogging and the internet in general. But in all honestly, this shiny world of material consumerism is losing its appeal to many of us millennials. Many are feeling jaded, dull, and tired. Some day (and that might be soon), it will all go away, and you can’t leave your Instagram account to your children. Or blog posts. Or views. 

So instead, let's build something outside of social media that we can share with our families, and use Instagram as a window into our world. Show what you are proud of, your happiest moments, and your greatest accomplishments, but don’t live backwards thinking of what you can post that looks pretty. Live a pretty, full, and well lived life, and then post about it if you still want to. 

When we die, no one is digging up pictures of flowers in our sinks to remember us by.


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