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It wasn’t too long ago that the world’s relationship with Instagram was new, fresh, and so innocently blissful. It was collages with thick white borders, orange and brown-toned filters straight from the app, and that rush of dopamine when your best friend hits the little heart in the bottom left corner. But this all feels like such a distant memory; like the switch from childhood to becoming a teen. Once a little kid brimming with opportunity and excitement, Instagram grew up to be mean, judgemental, and just not so nice.

Now, we’re so haunted by the way Instagram grew up around us. The app has become so much more than just posting pictures. It has shaped how we see ourselves, how we portray our bodies, how we think of each other. It doesn’t take a scientist to know why so many young girls struggle with body image, or why rates of depression and anxiety are increasing every day.

So, what can be done? We can all sit around and sulk in the toxicity that is social media and society’s attachment to it – and we will. But this won’t do anything about the problem. I’m no trained professional, but I’ve decided to use my knowledge as a teenager in the age of social media to share some changes in my relationship with Instagram that have made me a whole lot happier.

  1. No one cares as much as you think they do.

Think about the way you scroll through Instagram. Unless it’s a best friend, a crush, or maybe an enemy, you will probably take a good .75 seconds to look at someone’s picture before deciding whether to double click and move on, or just move on. And your picture is no different. This isn’t to say you are any less special than the next person. But it is to say that the people scrolling through Instagram and seeing your picture are not going to put too much thought into even a fraction of what you notice.

  1. Instagram can be a tool for creativity and self-expression.

A recent trend I’ve seen, often dubbed “make Insta casual again,” supports posting candid, yet beautifully individualized pictures of your life. It can seem a little contradictory to put effort towards making something casual (because is it really casual if you might be trying harder to make it this way?), but it’s still beneficial to the mind. It takes snapshots of our unfiltered, random lives and encourages the appreciation of each little moment.

  1. Stop posting for the male gaze.

Force yourself to see a picture as beautiful because of your smile, or the people you’re with. From my own experience, it can almost seem odd to post a picture that doesn’t fit the exact beauty mold, because then what am I showing off? Well, it turns out that showing off the friends I love, the views that make me appreciate life, or the moments that make me laugh is just as good. Bring yourself back to that fresh, innocent age of Instagram where that selfie of you sticking your tongue out with your sister was enough.

  1. Turn off likes.

This is the most obvious tip I have. It simply takes away the pressure of reaching a certain number of likes, as well as keeping you from looking at the likes on other’s posts. Disclaimer: this doesn’t stop the subconscious addiction we have to getting approval in the form of likes and comments. Unfortunately, that’s up to you to slowly detach from if you wish.

  1. Don’t determine an experience’s worth based on whether you got a good pic for Instagram.

Sometimes we have a really good experience, and when we check our camera roll later, there is no photo proof to back up those feelings. That’s okay. Instagram shouldn’t create pressure for you to get the perfect picture, and then get upset if you don’t achieve it. Instagram should be there if you want to share a part of your life, and still there even if you don’t.

Your relationship with Instagram and social media is up to you. Enjoy the beauty that can come from it, and realize the joy of using it for your own benefit and expression. And if none of this helps, don’t be afraid to hit that little X and let it go all together!

Alicia Newman

Bucknell '24

Hi! I'm Alicia, a Sophomore at Bucknell studying Sociology and Pre-Law. When I'm not reading or writing, you'll probably find me eating lots and lots of guilty free carbs :)
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