Why I Decided to Get Back on Instagram

In my previous article, How Social Media Encourages Social Anxiety, I talked about how in my sophomore year, I decided to delete my Instagram. I was sixteen years old, insecure, and constantly worrying about how other people perceived me. At that time in my life, deleting my account was the right thing for me to do, and I’m still proud of myself for doing it. These four years without social media helped me to realize that the number of followers, likes, and comments I may or may not have don’t define me. I made loads of friends and had tons of new experiences without feeling the need to show the world how much fun I was having. But four years later, I’m a different person, and I’m proud of that too.

My decision to get back on Instagram wasn’t an easy one. My freshman year here at Kenyon, I was always a little sad that I couldn’t post a cute picture my friends and I had taken, or see what my old high school friends were up to. My friends would always say, “Maddie, I wish you had an Instagram so I could tag you in this post.” I’m not gonna lie, I had some pretty serious FOMO. But I also remembered what the anxiety was like the last time I was on Instagram, so I tried not to think about missing out. Finally, this past summer, my sister said to me, “Madeline, you can’t live your life scared.” And she was right. I needed some time in my life off of social media so that I could find my identity and confidence without it, but deep down I was still scared of something that I shouldn’t have been. There were so many positive aspects of social media that I wasn’t getting to experience because I was letting fear get in the way, and I didn’t want to live my life scared.

Before I made a new account, I asked my friends for their advice on coping with anxiety about social media. Two pieces of advice have stuck with me, and I think more people should know about them. The first was to post what made me happy. The minute you start posting what you think other people want to see, it becomes about impressing them and not about enjoying yourself. It starts the downward spiral of obsessing over likes and followers, and then soon enough you are posting so much for the approval of others that your account doesn’t even look like you anymore. The second piece of advice applies to social media as well as life in general: don’t compare yourself. There are always going to be those people on social media who seem to live perfect, airbrushed lives with thousands of likes and followers. Remember that you only see one small part of their real lives. No one takes a selfie after they’ve been dumped and posts it on social media. Comparing that one small window into someone’s life to your whole experience is a recipe for disaster, so don’t do it. You’ll be much better off enjoying your own life than fantasizing about someone else’s.

This definitely doesn’t mean I’ve overcome all of my fears of social media. I still have days where I focus a little too much on how many followers I have or spend too much time wishing I could look like some Insta-famous model. But I’m not scared of it anymore. Instead, I can enjoy posting silly pictures of me and my friends, and sending stupid memes back and forth when I’m supposed to be doing homework. While this might not be the most productive use of my time, it makes me smile, and that’s what matters.

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2, 3