Think about how prevalent Instagram is in your life. Think about the few minutes you spend scrolling through the app as you wait in line for a bathroom stall to open up, as you ride in the elevator to get to your floor or as you wait outside of the lecture hall for your Econ 1 class to finally start. Think about the amount of time you spend mindlessly scrolling through your feed, passing the same photos you saw an hour before, over and over again. Think about the time you spend on Instagram’s popular page, clicking from one random post to another, scrolling through each person’s feed, clicking on the account names that are tagged in their 10th most recent post. All these seconds, minutes and even hours we spend on Instagram throughout our week add up…fast.
Now think about this: “Instagram Is The Worst Social Media For Mental Health” — a headline that is plastered all over the internet: Time, Forbes, CNN, BBC News, Fox News, ABC, The Odyssey, Refinery 29.
Before I delve deeper into why we all need an Instagram detox, I want to preface by saying that I think Instagram is one of the best inventions of our time. It is an intuitive source of multimedia, providing easy access to pictures and videos of topics I am interested in. I’ve learned how to bake vegan desserts and bullet journal from Instagram. It’s also a great way to be privy to the personal lives of my friends, family and famous celebrities. I can keep up with how my friends are doing in their first year of college, see the behind-the-scenes clips of Avengers Endgame and even see what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast. Instagram also keeps me updated on current news, trends in pop culture and popular international phenomena. What’s the update on the Mueller Report? What are the hottest looks from Korea’s Fashion Week? Instagram has all the answers.
However, this doesn’t go without saying that Instagram has its limitations, the main one being that it is detrimental to mental health. Instagram creates a false reality. It is a place where people post the most perfected versions of themselves through filters, angles and object placement. The motivation behind this idealism is our self-image.
It is human nature to want to be liked by others and to do so, we do everything in our power to boost our self-images. We define a good self-image as one that is absent of flaws. Self-image is also relative. Our self-image is dependent on the context in which our self-image is compared to: other people’s self-image. Before Instagram surfaced, it was the norm for us to compare ourselves to the celebrities that we saw on TV or in magazines. But now, because of Instagram’s current celebrity culture, we have more to compare ourselves to: everyday people. When we see normal people with perfect bodies, flawless skin and expensive clothing, we feel even worse about ourselves because these people are actually tangible. They aren’t famous for their acting or singing skills, they are sheerly famous for looking the way they do.
Instagram not only affects the way we view ourselves, but it also affects how we choose to spend our time. Because we are so focused on self-image, whenever we go somewhere exciting or spend time with close friends we focus on trying document what we are doing instead of living in the moment and focusing on the experience itself. Even if what we are doing isn’t that fun, we use our phones to capture the excitement that doesn’t exist. Instagram can be a great way to save memories, but what is the point of saving memories that are not real? Instagram takes us away from real life experiences because of it’s addictive qualities: the endless feed that we scroll through for hours, the numerous accounts we sift through in bed, the millions of clickable hashtags. All these functions take us out of the real, authentic world and throw us into a place of perfected curation and skewed reality. We waste so much time living in a virtual world that is causes us to miss out on real-life experiences and being in the moment with in-person interactions. We miss the chance to make new friends as we wait for class to start. We miss the chance to actually do the fun activities that see photos of. We miss the chance to take advantage of everything around us, thus missing out on the rich parts of life that make us feel happy and full.
This is why we need an Instagram detox. The next time you wait in line for something, try turning off your phone. Pay attention to your surroundings and notice the people around you. Maybe even start a conversation with the person next to you. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, delete the app. See what happens! Live in the moment and be present with what’s in front of you. I guarantee you will look at the world and yourself differently… in the most positive way possible.