This is a question I have often asked myself. As someone that suffers from social anxiety you would think that there are many aspects of Instagram, and social media in general, that would exacerbate my anxieties, but they don’t. In fact, I have learnt to use platforms like Instagram to help me with my anxiety & depression.
But this hasn’t always been the case. I have had a love/hate relationship with Instagram for as long as I can remember. I would go through periods of loving the interaction, posting everyday, doing lots of stories and generally embracing everything Instagram has to offer. Other days however I would feel like I was addicted to it. Constantly checking my likes and comments on new posts, wondering why a certain post didn’t get as many likes as previous posts. I would spend an eternity trying to take the ‘perfect’ photo and get frustrated when it inevitably didn’t happen. I would start to doubt whether it was worth my time & energy trying to get more followers and I’d ask myself ‘what’s the point?’. So definitely a love/hate relationship.
So what changed?
Well, my mindset changed. My attitude towards Instagram changed. My expectations & goals changed. There were two main aspects I had to confront and change…
- Stop comparing myself to others. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ as the saying goes. And with Instagram, comparison can very quickly lead to self-doubt, anxiety & a feeling of uselessness and failure. It’s easy to forget that Instagram is a ‘shop window’ to someones life. Most people only show what they want you to see, so in effect, you are comparing yourself to a lie. I follow many different people from many different backgrounds, and I love the fact that everyone is different! Everyone has different lives, different attitudes, different outlooks. I’ve used the word ‘different’ a few times there on purpose. Everyone’s life is different, not necessarily better, or worse, just different.
- Forgetting about the stats and focus on interaction. Instagram is about interaction. It’s about likes, comments, chatting, making friends, providing help & support, keeping in touch and so much more. I used to purely look at how many followers I had (or lost) and how many likes I was receiving, which is all well & good if those numbers are in a upwards trend but that’s not always going to be the case. Inevitably the numbers aren’t going to meet your expectations and that’s when the self-doubt kicks in and you start asking yourself questions. These days I focus on chatting to people, interacting on posts, building up good relationships with people. And you’ll find that if you put the effort into interacting with people, your numbers will look after themselves.
The above points don’t happen overnight. It took a long time to change my mindset and even now I will sometimes feel myself slipping back into how I used to feel. But through practice and experience I’ve learnt to notice the early signs and make sure they don’t continue to grow.
Now it’s all well and good trying not to compare yourself to other accounts but sometimes it’s almost impossible to do! In these cases you need to be true to yourself and unfollow accounts that make you feel this way! This may mean having a cleanse of accounts that make you feel down and accounts that have no positive benefit to you. The whole idea is that you follow accounts that you enjoy looking at. Maybe you have something in common, maybe you really like the photos they post, maybe they make you laugh. Accounts that are irrelevant and have the potential to make you anxious of self conscious are no good to anyone so ditch them! This will also make your interactions a lot more meaningful!
Why I use Instagram
I use Instagram as a therapy tool. A way of expressing myself and my feelings. In real life I have many traits of an introvert. I find social situations exhausting and uncomfortable. I find it hard talking to people if I believe that they won’t really understand me, or empathise with me. But online, I can connect to thousands of people via a phone screen and still feel in complete control because they’re not all standing in front of me. The people that don’t understand, or don’t care, will probably ignore it but the few that do will interact with me and they are the important ones. The few that say, ‘I understand’, or ‘I feel the same’, they are the ones that make it worthwhile.
Instagram has given me a platform to talk about my mental health. Again, I feel comfortable being open & honest because I’m talking to people via a screen. Talking helps me and I have received many messages from other people thanking me for my honesty and openness, so it helps other people too. Imagine it as a therapy session of like minded people but instead of a few people sitting in a room, there are potentially thousands of people who know exactly where you’re coming from and can understand!
I love Instagram now. I know why I use it and what I get out of it. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. Instagram can be many things for different people so it’s important to know what it is for you.
Happy scrolling everyone