According to recent research, most of us check our phones every 15 minutes or less and many of us check into social media apps more than 50 times per day. We spend more time on social media than we do eating, socializing, doing house chores, grooming, and other daily activities. While social media platforms can have their benefits, using them too frequently can make us feel increasingly unhappy and isolated in the long run. The unhappiness and isolation may stem from the comparison of ourselves to others. We compare our looks, our relationships, our social activities and even our number of likes. We compare ourselves to hundreds of people that we follow on social media every day. We may sometimes feel like we are not as good as others and might come to believe that we are falling behind in life.
Different surveys have deduced that Instagram is the number one social media network that is most likely to affect our mental health in a negative way. This photo-based platform is praised by many who feel that they can express themselves and their identities through such a platform. However, it has also been heavily criticized because many users report having higher levels of anxiety, depression, bullying, and a higher level of FOMO (fear of missing out) when using Instagram. In fact, studies have been showing that people who quit Instagram and other social media platforms for a while or who reduced the time spent on these apps reported feeling a higher increase of happiness and peace of mind.
Unlike twitter or other social platforms, Instagram is not text-based. Pictures are generally more impactful than words, and browsing through seemingly looking perfect photos every single day might give us the impression that some people actually have a perfect life and that this is easily achievable. Since there are usually only short captions or hashtags attached to the photos and not much of a description, these ‘insta moments’ can be interpreted very loosely. This means that we might not be able to bring to our awareness the fact that a great photo posted by an influencer is generally planned, staged and edited. It might take hours to get the right picture and thus, does not reflect the person’s true experience of that particular moment. We might then find ourselves comparing our days and lives to others’ and wishing that we are leading a different, and fancier life.
While you don’t necessarily have to quit using Instagram and other social media platforms for good, allocating some social media-free time during the day (especially when you feel bogged down by it) might allow you the time to put things into perspective and to give yourself a pep talk when you find yourself having unrealistic goals. Time away from social media also means that you’ll have more free time which you can invest in different activities that are good for your mental health and wellbeing.
Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on email@example.com or call us on 79291817.