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Instagram, Revisited: Why I Started From Scratch & How It’s Helped My Mental Health

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Ok, so confession time. I was in a really unhealthy relationship in high school. She was toxic, manipulative, judgemental, and addictive. Her name was Instagram.

I never cared much about being popular in school, but for some reason, social media felt different. It felt personal. Like if I didn’t get over 100 likes on my pictures, I was actual garbage. Those first twenty seconds after posting a picture, as I waited for people to engage with it, felt like a torturous eternity. It was unhealthy. When the pandemic shut down school and I graduated a few months later, I decided to officially end things. I deleted the app and I did not miss it.

Fast-forward about two and a half years. It was the end of my sophomore year of college, I had just finished a semester working in Walt Disney World as part of the Disney College Program, and I was feeling good. I met some amazing people during the semester, and I really wanted to stay connected with my new friends (who came from all over the country). I started contemplating re-downloading Instagram as a way to keep in touch with all my new pals and stay up to date on their lives. Part of me was hesitant, though. I knew how toxic the app had been for me in the past, and I debated whether disturbing my inner peace was worth it. I was realizing, though, that although Instagram is definitely not essential (at least for me), it can absolutely be useful, especially when it comes to staying connected to friends. I decided to take the plunge and re-download the app. I instantly regretted it.

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My entire feed was people I hadn’t spoken to since high school and even middle school. It’s not to say that I didn’t want to see the pictures of those people, but the thought of sharing pictures of myself with this throwback crew made me feel extremely self-conscious. Not only that, but my own profile wasn’t even me anymore. Over the past two years, I have grown and changed so much, and since the account had been sitting dormant, none of that growth could be seen on my account. I hated it.

So, what to do? I wanted to stay in touch with my Disney College Program pals, and have a way to connect with my friends at UMass, but my own Instagram profile didn’t feel like a safe space to me. I felt pretty frustrated until my boyfriend suggested making a new profile to use going forward. Let’s give him a big round of applause because this idea completely changed the way I felt about social media.

I let my friends know that I was making a new account, and then I got down to business. Immediately, I felt an ease and freedom that I had never felt when using Instagram before. I started requesting people that I genuinely felt safe and comfortable posting for, and whose content I was genuinely excited to see. I immediately turned off the like count for my profile. I made my account private. I did everything I could to make it a safe little bubble of all my favorite peeps. When I had pictures to post, I did so freely, happily, and with little thought. It was like a whole new world.

I’ve had this new profile for a little over a month now. Having a space on social media where I feel comfortable being my real, authentic self has been so good for my self-confidence. Surrounding myself (virtually) with people I know will only lift me up has made me realize how positive social media can be. The whole ordeal has made me realize that social media apps like Instagram are what you make them out to be. If you treat your Instagram profile like a comparative, numbers-focused competition, then it will be. If you treat it like a laid-back stream of consciousness, then it will be. You can use it however you like. All I did was start using the app in a way that would lift me up, rather than drag me down.

If you’ve ever had difficulties with social media like the ones I had in high school, it might be time for a profile revamp. As with anything, make sure the social media you give your time and energy to is also energizing you. After all, it’s your account, and it can be whatever you want it to be.

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Hanna Jane Kilduff

U Mass Amherst '24

When Hanna Jane isn't writing for Her Campus, you'll find her wandering aimlessly through thrift stores, listening to her color-coded playlists, or curled up under a blanket with her cat.