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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Irvine chapter.

I spend more time than I should on social media, but I would say that this is the case for most of my fellow Gen Zers. While I am not necessarily proud that all these social media apps essentially have control over my life, I would honestly say that Instagram has the most effect on my wellbeing. They say the first step of recovery is admitting that you have a problem, so here it goes. Hi, my name is Kayla, and I am an Instagram addict. I get my daily fix through Instagram stories and scrolling on the explore page. It is often one of the first apps that I check in the morning. I find myself unconsciously opening the app seconds after I close it, and I admittedly take more breaks from working to refresh my feed than I should.

Instagram and I have a love and hate relationship. At the end of a long stressful day, Instagram acts as a stress relief for me. I enjoy being entertained by funny memes, cute dog pictures, and keeping up with the latest trends and news. I love living vicariously through others while I comfortably watch the latest Harry Styles tour videos, like Zendaya’s newest post, and indulge in content related to my current obsessions. It can bring much-needed laughter to my day. During the pandemic, I turned to Instagram more for comfort in a time of uncertainty. The positive interactions that I have with friends and acquaintances online come with a sense of validation and belonging, and truthfully, it did alleviate some of my affliction.

On the other hand, Instagram can be draining and discouraging to me. I often need to remind myself that it’s an illusion full of edited pictures and simple snapshots that does not reflect reality. I could never relate to the lifestyles portrayed by influencers or to the Eurocentric standards of beauty that society celebrates. Comparison became my biggest enemy. Returning to school this year had increased these effects. I often had to log off because seeing how wonderful the college experience looks through the lens of others makes me feel as if I am not good enough or not trying hard enough. My FOMO (fear of missing out) has been raised to new heights, as I see others broadcasting their daily adventures while I am at home staring at my computer screen. I know social media does not depict the truth, but it still has the power to consume my day and cloud my judgment. This often leaves me feeling inadequate with my own life, when in reality, I have so much to be thankful for. 

Sometimes I wish that I could go back to my childhood before I downloaded social media apps. I remember spending most of my time reading novels and watching Disney Channel reruns.  My biggest worry used to be getting my homework done before the High School Musical Sing-A-Long came on. Nowadays, I seek validation from strangers, overanalyzing every picture, and relying on filters to be beautiful. Admittedly, this is an unhealthy cycle, so I decided to break it.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “Kayla, did you delete the app?” The simple answer is no. I envy those who live without social media, but that is not a step in my recovery process that I have taken yet. In my defense, I love indulging in drama, and Taylor Swift just dropped her version of the Red album. I needed to know why we all collectively hate Jake Gyllenhall. Then, Brittney Spears got freed from her conservatorship, and I was too invested in it all to quit so suddenly.

Even though I still use social media, my perspective has really changed. I am becoming more mindful of my Instagram use, and I’ve begun to ask myself, “Do I actually care?” Do I care about the opinions of those who know nothing about me, except for how strong my selfie game is? Do I care enough to keep up with what others are doing when it doesn’t concern or affect me at all? The answer is simply no. I will not allow an app to come at the expense of my mental health. Deleting the app for a duration of time might be a strategy I try in the future, but for now, I am finding a healthy balance by placing limits on my daily use and moving the app from my homepage. If I want to post something, then I will post it because I want to, but not to please others. I am following more positive and diverse accounts that produce more of the content that I want to see. Instagram can be fun, but it can also come with some challenges. I have learned to truly value real-life connection and quality time more than anything that’s portrayed online. Today, I’m making it a point to be more present and authentic without trying to live a life that is considered “Instagram worthy.”

Kayla Atkinson

UC Irvine '23

Hello everyone! My name is Kayla Atkinson and I am psychology and sociology double major. In my free time, I enjoy listening to music, binging Netflix and reading a good book. I hope you enjoy my work!