As Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, I am sure I don’t have to explain what it is. But many things have changed since the app was introduced. The platform has transformed into a place where the most perfect, staged, curated highlight reels of our lives are shared. Including many photos of houses, meals and bodies that can make us envious. Countless articles can be found online on how Instagram shapes our body images, our relationships, our mental health, and truthfully our realities (*). It’s become increasingly important to protect your mental health from social media.
Over the years I have definitely felt some envy towards some of those photos and the people who have shared them. But I have learned a couple of tricks and mindsets to turn Instagram back into what it’s supposed to be. In my head at least. I have found this to be a much healthier way to still use the platform without so many negative feelings.
I recently read an article where they had 2 groups of girls. One group would take 1 picture and post it unedited. The other group could take countless selfies and edit them as much as they liked before posting. Afterwards, they were asked how they felt about their picture. I was shocked when I read that some girls asked whether someone liked their picture before deciding how they felt about it. We’re letting our images and confidence be so dependent on others, it’s bound to go wrong at some point.
Of course, you can go along with it and start using filters and editing apps to change your face, your body, your background, your teeth, whatever. But that’s not really healthy. So let’s look at some ways we can protect your mental health from social media and enjoy being on Instagram!
Go through the people you’re following.
One of the easiest ways to protect your mental health from social media is to take a good look at your feed. Is anyone of the people you’re following annoying you, making you feel insecure or bad about yourself, are they negative, is their content giving you jealousy? It’s time to unfollow them.
I make a point of only following people whose content I enjoy and makes me feel positive. I only follow 60 people, and I am happy with that number. They are positive, sharing nice things in their lives, but also when bad things happen. They’re real. The good and the bad get shared and that is real life. Not everything always looks picture-perfect, and it’s nice to see people who are just living their lives.
Mute stories and/or posts
Then again, sometimes there are people who you’re following who seem to post their whole life on their stories. As in, watching their stories takes you about 10 minutes a day. If you have that time and enjoy the content, great! If you don’t, you can mute the story. I feel like not a lot of people know this, but it’s possible to mute someone’s stories, their posts, or both. This way, you can only watch the stories of people you really care about and just see the posts of others. It can save you a lot of time. This is also great for people who have a lot of ads in their stories but they have good posts.
See it as inspiration
Not competition. I started feeling so much better once I flipped my mindset this way. I used to see girls on Instagram and think; Oh, I want that too! Oh, their lives, how amazing that must be. The car, the house, the body, face, hair, clothes, everything. Some of the things I was seeing made me so envious.
Then one day I switched my thinking to: If she can do that, I can do that! Obviously I can’t steal their faces, I was referring to their lives. The clothing style. The hairstyle. I started seeing them as inspiration. If she can have that life and have that job, then why couldn’t I? Look at it as a magazine. You’re being inspired by the pictures. You like that dress, so maybe you want to look for something similar for yourself? Enjoy the recipes that are there. Enjoy the memes. I think Instagram can be such an enjoyable app once we change the jealousy and envy into inspiration and joy.
They are only people
Another simple tip to protect your mental health from social media is to realize that their lives didn’t come around just like that. They’re not lazy girls chilling on the couch all day, taking a cute picture every now and then. Understand that these are people who have turned their social media into a full time and they are putting a lot of time into creating their content, just like you do with your job. It might seem like a dream life, but they’re not living in a dream world. They’re living in the same world you and I do, and it is not perfect. Bad things happen to them too, whether they share it or not.
Remember it’s a platform for sharing life
I love that nowadays Instagram seems to be going back to that less-than-perfect aesthetic and that people are posting more spontaneous pictures. It is a place to share, not to boast. There are so many communities on Instagram of people supporting each other and I think that is one of the best things about the app and that should definitely be a main focus. To get in contact with people, share things that happen in your life, and get to know other people around the world with the same interests as you. I think that is a beautiful thing and it can definitely be achieved through the app if used the right way.
Reach out to someone. I will admit I’m too shy to do this but I think it’s a great way to use the app in a healthy way. React to someone’s story. Tell them if you like their content. Promote positivity and kindness. Construct your Instagram feed to reflect who you are, what you like and the things you want in your life.
I hope these tips have helped you to be a little less impacted by Instagram and protect your mental health from social media. If you’re still a bit anxious, take a look at my tips for anxiety here. As I said, I think the app has some great purposes and can be such an asset but it is not being used in the right way by many people. For your own wellbeing, it is so important to protect your mental health from social media and really filter what comes through. Remember there’s always a time limit if you get overwhelmed, and make sure your feed makes you feel good. You may also find my article on the best secret to being happy here.