This is quite different from what I would usually blog about, but with the rise of mental health issues (often being connected to social media consumption) I wanted to share my two cents.
Being an ‘influencer’/content creator/having a personal brand (whatever you want to call it), is becoming increasingly popular and this lifestyle is portrayed in a ‘hustle or die trying’ kind of way. We are becoming obsessed with documenting every single second of our lives #forthegram and seeking validation from random people on the internet through the means of likes and followers. But have we become obsessed? And do we underestimate how much be constantly 'online' affects our health?
There are so many die hard, social media fans (myself included), but is social media bad for us?
I think these various platforms are a fantastic way to connect, spread a message, and help others, especially as a business woman. There are undeniably, so many positive aspects of social media and it's very rare to find someone not 'on socials' these days. But have we become obsessed with it? I would argue yes, to an extent.
I have a weird love hate relationship with Instagram. I absolutely love the space it provides me to share openly and vulnerably and connect with women I relate to. It is a place of inspiration, motivation, education and empowerment. If you choose to see it that way. However, I also see the darker side of it. The place of comparison, anxiety, time wasting and numbers. It's so easy to get sucked in. It's so easy to base your worth on likes and followers. It's so easy to compare your body or business or life to other strangers on the internet you don't know. But we feel like we know them, don't we? I think that's the problem. We feel like they are our 'friends'. So much so that sometimes we forget what is real and what is Instagram.
I've learnt this the hard way. I've had massive meltdowns, panic attacks and weeks on end where I don't feel 'good enough' due to my consumption of social media (specifically Instagram). I have to admit, this of course is my own fault (to an extent) because not all content is triggering and rarely shared (I hope) with the intention to make others feel less than. I believe it is in fact HOW we consume Instagram, and how we PROCESS the content, that matters. For example, I used to frequently mindlessly scroll through Instagram and compare myself to other women. Their bodies, their business, their lives, their relationships and it became an unhealthy obsession. I would even go as far to say it was an addiction. There was this weird sense that if I didn't keep up with these peoples lives, I was somehow missing out(?). Which is totally crazy right?! Yet sadly, probably such a familiar feeling for some of you.
So how did I pull myself out of this weird FOMO, comparison, virtual hole??
I solicited my feed.
I unfollowed ANYONE that made me feel bad about myself. Even if I thought they 'should' be inspiring or motivating or whatever, I asked myself these questions...
- Does this person inspire, motivate or educate me?
- Does this person/their content make me happy and bring joy to my life?
- Does this person's content add value to my life?
- Do I agree with the message this person is sharing?
If I answered NO to any of those questions, then I unfollowed. It's that simple. To start with, I felt kind of guilty unfollowing people. I mean, it wasn't their fault I was allowing their content to affect me, was it? But then I realised, it's not personal. I don't know them, and they don't know me, so why do I feel guilty for unfollowing them?? This brought up a lot of 'stuff' for me and I realised it was down to my limiting self belief of deep, deep people pleasing. I believed that to be liked by everyone and be successful, I had to give them my energy.
I practiced self-awareness.
Once I became aware of my unhealthy relationship with Instagram, I understood that I was using it to seek validation. I was basing my self worth on how many followers I had, or how many likes a post got. And if a post only got 50 likes instead of 100 then that meant I was boring and, people didn't care what I had to say. This is of course, a self-sabotaging story I created in my head. Obviously, my rational mind knows that likes on a photo on a virtual platform, from strangers on the internet does not determine who I am as a human and does not reflect what I have to offer the world. However, if I'm being honest, this is still something I am working on and have to remind myself regularly that these are limiting beliefs and stories, not the truth. But all healing starts with awareness.
I set boundaries with Instagram.
This might seem like an weird one, but for someone who uses Instagram as part of their business, it was surprisingly difficult (and still is). I *try* (sometimes I slip back into old habits) to not go on my phone for at least the first 15 minutes of the day. When we wake up, our mood is very vulnerable to outside influences. Ever checked your phone first thing in the morning and had a shitty email from someone or a nasty DM and that has completely shifted your mood for the entire day and left you irritated and down? Yeah, me too. So to avoid this I have a few things I like to do first before delving into the world of Instagram (and potential mood influencers).
1 - I drink some water (sounds irrelevant but hydration can massively affect our mood and when we wake up in the morning we are usually dehydrated).
2 - I connect with my husband (real human connection with our nearest and dearest is so important, please don't sacrifice that in place of chasing online connections. Appreciate the people right in front of you).
3 - I journal (anything that is in my mind, I get out onto paper. I also list 3 things I am grateful for as gratitude is the quickest route to happiness I believe).
4 - I meditate (this sets me up in a positive mindset and helps me better process anything later in the day that may trigger me).
I had a digital detox.
This is probably a phrase you've seen floating around Instagram but when my anxiety was at its highest, I found a mini detox really helpful. Now, if you don't use Instagram as part of your job, then you probably find this concept a bit unnecessary. However, for me, I am on Instagram a lot, writing captions, replying to comments and messages and sharing things on my story. So as you can imagine it's like being at work, constantly, and being 'on' 24/7. Taking a few days away from Instagram (which I've done a few times now), was one of the best things I could have done for my mental health. It puts things into perspective. I became more present and less anxious when I was focusing more on the real world rather than worrying about what everyone else was doing. And guess what, my world didn't come crashing down when I took a step back.
So in conclusion, is Instagram bad for us? I would argue no, if we use it correctly. If you allow yourself to be dragged into negative comparison and continue to use Instagram as an outlet for the seeking of others approval/people pleasing, then yes, it probably isn't the best thing for you right now. Use it responsibly, do the work on any self limiting beliefs (are you using IG to self soothe a deep routed issue?) and hold yourself accountable for how you feel.
If you can relate to anything I shared in this blog then I would love to hear from you. I don't know what made me want to write about this, today specifically, maybe I'm just having one of those days with Instagram...but if you've made it this far then thank you so much for reading, I appreciate you and I hope you've found this blog useful in some way.