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Wellness > Mental Health

How to Have a More Positive Experience on Instagram

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

From influencer culture to the ways our phones affect our productivity, there has been a lot of talk recently about the so-called ‘dark side’ of social media. We all know that Instagram profiles are highlight reels and can portray a false image of what someone’s life really looks like. Chances are, if you’ve been paying attention to the discourse around social media recently, you’ve been thinking about your own relationship with certain platforms. Statistically, about two out of three 18 to 29 year old adults use Instagram, and it’s regularly called out in the media for being one of the most ‘fake’ or ‘problematic’ platforms, causing a lot of stress and anxiety for women especially.


However, it doesn’t have to be that way. As most of us know, being on Instagram can sometimes be stressful, but it can also be really fun, inspiring and a great creative outlet. So in order to live our best lives and getting the best out of just being a person on social media, I’ve rounded up 6 ways to make your Instagram experience a more positive one. All of these tips are from personal experience as someone who thinks a lot about how modern technology affects our lives – I hope they’re helpful!

Make the algorithm work to your advantage

It’s been some time since Instagram completely overhauled its feed structure and changed the order of the posts you see from simply chronological (those were the days!) to “most relevant”. Nowadays, the algorithm works in a way that is designed to watch your every move on the platform: it will track what types of posts and accounts you most often look at and interact with, and then show you more of the same type of content. That means that if you keep doing things like stalking a certain person’s page, you’ll keep getting more content related to them. That’s just how the app is designed, but you can use that to your advantage. It’s simple: engage with the type of content you want to see more of. Whether that’s fashion photos, news, inspirational quotes or just more of your best friends’ pics— start looking at and giving your likes to the type of content you actively want in your life, and stop looking at all that other stuff (at least most of the time).


Unfollow accounts that create negative feelings

This second point is related to the first one, and it’s one that hits close to home for me. For the longest time, the majority of accounts I followed on Instagram were what you could call ‘aspirational’: people I envied because of their looks, lifestyle, beautiful travel content or amazing career. I thought that looking at this content would motivate me to go after my own goals, whether that meant working harder, dressing better or working out more. However, most of the time, looking at the online presence of people who just seemed to lead these dream lives (even though we know that’s not really the case) didn’t leave me feeling motivated, it just left me feeling like my own life sucked in comparison. That had to change: I took one afternoon out of my day and just started going through the list and unfollow every account that wasn’t either someone I knew or someone whose content continually made me feel positive and inspired. It left me with about half of the number of accounts I originally followed but really lessened a lot of the anxiety I felt about various areas of my life.


The truth is, not much good will come out of looking at some perfect person’s page, and it’s safe to say that this perfect person doesn’t care about me or you. Why continue to give them your time (and money, since they most likely turn a profit using their followers in some way)? Your energy is far too valuable to spend it on things or people that make you feel less-than. So unless you actively get something good out of following someone, it’s time to tell that bitch goodbye!

Use the mute function

If there’s some reason why you can’t unfollow a certain person, that doesn’t mean you have to keep engaging with their stuff. For some reason, some people we love in real life are just really really annoying on social media, but there’s no need to cause drama if you decide to keep them out of your online life. We only have a limited amount of mental energy, so using the mute button when necessary will help you focus and not fill your brain with useless content that you don’t really get anything out off. You probably won’t miss anything by not seeing what some distant acquaintance is up to every day, and you can still always check up on that person whenever you feel like it.

Don’t focus on the likes


I know this point is kind of paradoxical, since the primary currency of Instagram is the number of likes you get. However, there are a number of reasons why a post might or might not reach someone’s feed, from the time of day to the algorithm itself. The fact is that the like-to-view ratio for most posts is about 10 percent, so a post with 80 likes has reached approximately 800 people. This means that most people will see and deeply appreciate content without any visible action being taken. Therefore, likes are just some arbitrary value assigned to a post and shouldn’t be accorded too much attention. Share for the sake of it, not the result, because what you share is always valuable.


Decide why you’re in it


Instagram can make you feel as if you have to present a perfectly curated version of yourself, and a lot of time and energy can be spent taking extra care of the content you post and making sure it’s consistent with the image you’re trying to project. However, spending that time and energy is really only worth it if you’re actively trying to promote yourself or are using the platform for work opportunities. In that case, a consistent and calculated only presence is a plus. If you’re just using the app to casually keep in touch with friends and share yourself, however, a meticulously curated account isn’t really necessary, and can be a source of stress that doesn’t yield any results. Decide what path you’re on and commit to that. Knowing who you want your audience to be and what image you’re trying to project can help you get rid of some of the tension that comes with being a person on social media.


Be unapologetic

How many times have I heard some person over 50 say something along the lines of: “Oh, those young people just mindlessly scrolling on their phones, can’t focus on anything, in MY day we read books!” So many articles online are about how our phones are bad for us, making us mindless endorphin junkies or just plain stupid – and most of the time, those articles are written by people who did not grow up with technology. And honestly: forget that noise. If using Instagram (or Snapchat, Twitter, whatever) brings you enjoyment, lets you present yourself in a way that feels fun and creative and gets you the content you like to see … then there’s really no reason to feel bad about that! As Millenials/Gen Z we are the first ones to fully experience the digital age. No earlier generations lived like us, so at the end of the day, their opinion doesn’t matter all that much. Not everything is one big scam, and if I’m a mindless endorphin chasing idiot for enjoying my time on my phone, then so is everyone else. Being mindful and kind to ourselves is really all we can and need to do.

I'm a graduate student of English Lit and American Studies from Berlin (Germany) and currently on an exchange semester at UVA. In my free time I enjoy running, watching horror movies, and trying all the weird American foods I can find.
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