How To Use Instagram WITHOUT It Making You Feel Miserable

In a survey which ranked YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram on their impact on health and well-being of young people, it was found that YouTube had the most positive impact on mental well-being whilst Instagram was found to be the most negative.
Instagram isn't real life, as much as we try to convince ourselves that it is. It's brimming with contrived, finely-crafted, heavily edited images of people's life highlights. No one posts snaps of them having a breakdown or videos of themselves knee deep in ice cream, feeling depressed. Why? Because those things don't get likes, they don't get attention, they aren't fun or vibrant or interesting. We go on Instagram to see people frolicking in the sea on holiday, eating amazing food in fancy restaurants, meeting their favourite celebrities, celebrating graduations, winning awards, wearing elaborate clothing and buying flash cars. For many of us, it's the first thing we scroll through in the morning and the last thing we look at of night. It's what we browse when we're bored or in need of entertainment. We use Instagram so much that many of us couldn't even count the number of hours that we do.

Instagram is a great, innovative platform for anyone and everyone. No matter who you are or what you want to put out into the world, it's free for you to use. However, this social media app is directly impacting on its users happiness. In this new age of the 'blogger' and 'influencer' especially, we've become so accustomed to consuming completely fabricated images and getting sucked into this dark hole in which we endlessly compare ourselves to the 'perfect' Instagram models we follow and longing to obtain even just a slice of their lifestyles, whether that's through their new outfits in every post, lavish holidays or immaculate homes.

Let's face it, Instagram is making us MISERABLE, which is a shame, because it's such an immensely powerful platform with the ability to make people feel amazing about themselves, it shouldn't be doing the opposite.
BUT, we have a choice! Social media is everywhere and of course, you want a piece of the action. However, it doesn't have to make you feel so inadequate. It's up to you to change the way you use the platform and you can choose to utilise it properly so it impacts on you positively.

But where do I start? You may ask, well, let's start with your 'following' list. Who you follow on Instagram dictates what you see and only you have the power to change that. You are under zero obligation to follow certain people. Who cares if models and influencers have millions of followers? So what if all your friends are following them? YOU don't have to do the same. You do not need to follow people back who follow you if their images aren't going to affect you positively. You do not need to connect with people whose posts are toxic. There is nothing wrong with following bloggers, vloggers, models and celebrities and celebrating the successes of others is such a wonderful thing. However, don't let them be the only people you follow. So, go through your list of users who you follow. Don't be afraid of that 'unfollow' button. You may think it's silly and that taking two seconds to unfollow someone won't make a huge difference, however, those two seconds could change your life. Don't feel bad about disconnecting with people whose Instagram posts don't add value to your life. Remove them from your feed if they're causing your self-esteem to decline and perception of your own worth to become warped. Don't let the people you follow twist your view of what the world is actually like. The offline world is brimming with people of all shapes, sizes, colours, genders, sexualities, religions and cultures, so, allow this to be reflected in your online world. Ensure what you're seeing on your phone reflects the real world. Follow people of colour, follow people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, follow people from the LGBTQ+ community, follow people with different occupations, follow plus sized people, follow activists who are spreading important messages regarding current issues... take charge of the content you're consuming and question why you're making yourself miserable with what you're viewing. You are worth so much more than that. You deserve to enjoy using social media, especially as it isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Off the back of who you follow comes adverts and sponsored posts. Social media, Instagram particularly, has flourished into something nobody could've ever predicted it would become. It's now a source of income for many, with celebrities and influencers being paid to promote products to their followers. It's great to support other people's careers, however, be cautious of who you're following and the ads they're serving to you. Reality stars and influencers are filling people's feeds with skinny tea promotions, ads for weight loss pills and protein shakes. People with already slim bodies and toned figures as a result of their personal trainers are selling you weight loss products for a large fee with absolutely no regard for your mental well-being. These people click 'post' on a picture of themselves with a packet of weight loss tea bags before shoving those tea bags to the back of their cupboard, never to be used again, and checking how much money has gone into their bank account as a result of that post. Don't follow people who don't care about you and don't follow people who make you feel that you must change who you are. Don't follow people who perpetuate toxic diet culture and don't follow people whose intentions are not genuine. By following them and interacting with their posts, you will only be served more ads for similar products which will make you feel terrible. Question every post you like and connect with. Do you want to see more of this? Is this making you feel good about yourself?

Finally, limit the time you spend on Instagram. It's so tempting to open up the app seconds after opening your eyes in the morning and to just have one last cheeky scroll before bedtime. But you don't need to do that to yourself. Before you've even had chance to adjust to the fact that it's a new day, you don't need to be seeing posts of celebrities walking the red carpet or photos of influencers drinking cocktails in a swanky bar, wearing a designer outfit they've received for free. It starts the day off on a bad note, not to mention that ending your day with an Instagram scroll impacts on your sleep and sends you to bed with negative thoughts. It may be difficult, but do something else with your time, or don't do anything at all. Don't scroll for the sake of scrolling or if you've got nothing to do. Even set yourself a timer, if it helps, to prevent you from spending mindless hours on Instagram for no reason. Spend your hours outside instead, or with friends and family, or doing something productive. Don't get me wrong, an Instagram scroll out of boredom is fine every once in a while, but don't let it become a habit.

There is more to life than Instagram, as amazing as it is. Don't let it control your life or especially your own opinion of yourself. Use it wisely because it is your social media account. You are in full control and you deserve for it to be a fun, exciting, educational space, not one of depressive thoughts, self pity and comparison.

How do you use Instagram in a positive way?

Love, Emily

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