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I Spread Positivity on Instagram & Here’s What Happened

When I first began scrolling through Instagram with the intention of commenting on people's posts, I was surprised by how out of the ordinary it felt. But why? Do I normally just scroll through Instagram, become overwhelmed by FOMO, like a few posts (mostly of cats and motivational quotes), and waste my precious time refreshing my feed with no true purpose? Yeah, it seems that I do. Still, it was surprising that giving people compliments felt so awkward to me. As someone who cares about women's empowerment and aims to be a positive person, why do I not compliment people on Instagram more often? 

At first, I was being ridiculous, thinking, "What if people think I'm weird for randomly commenting on their photos? What if they recognize that I'm not someone who normally comments, and then think it's really weird that I'm suddenly professing my love for them?" But, of course, this was the wrong thought process. I have never received a compliment and thought, "wow, I can't believe that person likes my outfit — that's so weird." 

It became evident to me that I needed to get better at giving compliments and try using Instagram in a more positive way. So, instead of just refreshing my feed mindlessly, I commented on any photo that caught my eye, whether it was a selfie, a fashion-focused photo, a cool travel image or a piece of artwork. I approached this task with authenticity, only giving compliments that I truly meant. What I realized as I did this is that I have so many positive feelings about people that I normally keep to myself. People are so interesting and cool, creating incredible artwork, traveling the world, and looking great. Why do I not normally tell them that I think they're cool AF? I'm not sure. The photos that I commented on were photos that I would normally just "like." Likes are good too, I suppose, but they feel so much less personal than a comment, I came to realize (though I was also very like-happy during this experiment, liking almost every photo in my feed, because why not?).

Instagram gets a lot of criticism for a variety of things. One of the most common is the idea that people only post seemingly perfect moments, causing others to compare themselves based on what they see on Instagram. Instagram doesn't tell the whole story and often, it can seem pretty unauthentic and impersonal, almost making you forget about the real people behind the screen. Many of the photos I commented on were posted by people I hardly know or perhaps don't know at all beyond the social media world (I already comment on my friends' posts, so doing that wouldn't really be experiment-worthy). I follow tons of people, see what they post and become familiar with the details they choose to share with the world — yet I don't interact with them much. Most of the interactions I had were minor when I left positive comments on people's posts; people would say "thank you" or something similar. But I found that I had much more positive feelings about Instagram when I was focusing on spreading positivity, rather than focusing on perfecting my own image, worrying about what people thought of me or comparing myself to others. 

Regularly commenting on photos, even with simple messages like "love this!" or "cute outfit!," made me realize that Instagram doesn't have to be a negative bubble I get sucked into, where I think about how much fun other people are having or about how other people look so much better than I do. What is the point of using Instagram to compare myself to others? After all, though people might portray themselves a certain way on social media or seem "perfect," you don't know how they actually feel about themselves or what they're going through. Feelings of FOMO and insecurity are not unique to me and they can be difficult to avoid at times, but I found that commenting on Instagram posts with love left me feeling better than I normally do when I use the app. I hope the comments provided encouragement, empowerment or at least a bit of positivity for others too. Besides, in my daily life, I'm a big proponent of women supporting women. If I want to practice what I preach, I should be complimenting people on Instagram more often. Other women are not my competition, so if they look amazing, succeed at something or take an awesome trip, I should celebrate that — not have negative thoughts about myself (or them) because of it. 

Though Instagram can make everything seem a little too perfect sometimes, there are also many people who embrace their "imperfections," acknowledge their insecurities and seek to uplift others through their posts. When I saw posts like these, I left thoughtful comments, telling them how the post impacted me or made me think differently. When people posted about their insecurities or worries, I shared how I can relate. Instagram is social media, yet often when I use it, I find myself feeling more alone. Through positive, relatable and encouraging messaging, I hope some of these feelings can be combated.

I realize simple comments don't seem like much — that's probably the exact reason I never bothered to comment on posts before. A comment might have little to no impact sometimes. Some people might not care about the comments. Some people might've actually thought, "wow, I can't believe this girl likes my outfit — that's so weird." But so what? People will have no idea that they inspire me if I don't tell them, and though they seem incredible to other people, they might not always view themselves that way. This experiment reminded me that if I have this opportunity to spread love so easily, even if it's in a small way, I should take advantage of it. It's evident to me now that instead of thinking, she's so much more stylish than I am when I see someone sporting an amazing outfit, I should think, she's so stylish — and then tell her. 

Paige recently graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in journalism. She loves live music, coffee and hummus. When she's not reading or writing articles, she's probably fantasizing about traveling the world or laughing at her own jokes.
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