Here goes, the dreaded social media post. It’s not unknown that social media can seriously harm our mental health, in fact, we hear about it now more so than ever, especially among young people. But why is it that apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are making us feel so crappy about ourselves?
Social media is addictive, for most, it’s the first thing we check when we wake up in a morning and the last thing we look at before we go to sleep, the habit of picking up your phone and opening the Instagram or Facebook app to have a scroll is something that’s become so normalised for almost everyone, both young and old. I’ll admit that it’s almost impossible for me to go out to a fancy cocktail bar and not post a photo of my aesthetically pleasing cocktail to my Instagram story, but who am I trying to impress? Realistically, no one’s that bothered if I’m out drinking a cocktail with a couple of mates, but so many of us continue to feel the need to post these kinda things to our profile. Even if it’s just a photo of a random building with a geo-filter at the bottom of it, we’re only posting it to show our followers that we don’t just sit around at home all day and that we do actually go out to visit places. I was talking to one of my besties Han about this (I know you’ll appreciate the mention) and we spoke about how we pretty much spend £8 on a cocktail just so we can take a photo of it, and we visit posh bars in posh cities just to say we’ve been there. I remember when we went day drinking in Manchester one time and we went to 20 Stories, because it was the ‘go to’ place at the time and was all over people’s Instagrams, we were absolutely bloody astonished that we had to pay a tenner for a MEDIUM glass of wine, we basically paid a tenner just to go and take a photo, safe to say we’ve not been back since. Take Sunset in Manchester as an example as well, you get there, order a pretty drink, take a million photos, analyse those million photos, pick the best one, upload it to the gram and then leave. You spend the entire time in the bar on your phone taking in the experience through your screen without actually being there and present in the moment. The thing is though, we rarely ever see photos of people bored out of their skull at work, or sat at home with nothing to do, or at college/uni working on endless essay deadlines, we never see the actual reality of people’s lives, we only ever see the ‘best bits’. I don’t know why, but writing that literally reminded me of the ‘best bits’ the contestants get when they leave the I’m A Celeb jungle, and reminded me that it’s gonna be starting again soon, YES. Weird analogy, but I suppose Instagram and Facebook are literally like our own bigger versions of the I’m A Celeb ‘best bits’… omg what am I even going on about. Seriously though, you get my gist. We’re constantly exposed to people living their best lives on social media, so for those days when we are just sat at home doing nothing, the highlights reel of everyone else out enjoying themselves can really take its toll.
The rise of Instagram influencers doesn’t help either, so many of us follow them because we love seeing the amazing holidays they go on and the array of new clothes they receive, we follow them for inspiration, but it sometimes doesn’t do us any favours. I’m contradicting myself massively here because I do follow so many ‘influencer’ accounts on Instagram, but when you’re constantly viewing a feed full of gorgeous size 6 girls in their designer clothes posing in extravagant places, you can’t help but think, why not me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the job is harder than it looks, but all we see is the fantastic places they get to visit and all the PR gifts they receive in return for taking a few photos – I’m sure many of us would kill for a job like that. Instagram especially has distorted our perception of beauty; we scroll through our feeds and view images of these beautiful influencers that are all beginning to look the same, and we can’t help but compare ourselves to the unrealistic standards that are set and envy the way that influencers, and even our friends, look like. But no one looks the same as what they do on social media, even me. Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever post a photo without, as my Dad would say, “all my slap on”, because again, it’s that pressure to always look perfect online. I suppose it’s quite sad that I don’t feel like my natural face would fit in with the perception of beauty that we see so often on social media, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way (my Mum does say I look 15 again without my make-up on though so I’m gonna use that as my excuse). And not to mention the amount of editing apps that are out there which can make us look tanned or literally change our entire appearance. But it’s not just the way we look that’s an issue, social media makes us compare ourselves in regard to EVERYTHING, we look at people our age on social media who’re getting married, moving house, having babies, securing their dream job, and it makes us question whether we’re doing life right at all.
It hit hard when I was scrolling through Boohoo the other day and I saw their idea of a ‘plus-size’ model, because I honestly could not believe it. I’m pretty certain that plus size used to refer to women who were a size 16+, but this model to me looks like she’s a size 10/12?! It’s absolutely crazy. I’m not ashamed to say that I wear a size 10/12 but by no means would I have considered myself a plus size, I can’t help but think how damaging this potentially could have been if I’d had seen such content when I was younger, or for all the young girls viewing it today. The media makes it seem like a size 6 is the only way a woman can look perfect, and of course, all the slim models we see on Instagram and in campaigns are absolutely stunning, but I think this model is equally just as beautiful even with her curves. I think we’re sloooooowly getting there with body diversity and celebrating women of all sizes, but I don’t think we’re there just yet. When I was at uni, I did some research with high school students about the kind of issues social media can create, and it was really sad to hear the impact it was having. The issue surrounding body image and the pressures set for young girls to aspire to was definitely apparent, but it’s also so important to remember that these pressures apply to boys also. The students felt like social media placed a pressure on them to gain a certain amount of likes on a photo, and if they didn’t receive that ideal number of likes then they’d delete the photo because they felt like it wasn’t good enough, which I’m sure is something we’ve all done before. Most reading this I’m sure will be of similar age to me, and hearing from these students made me feel so so so grateful that I didn’t have to grow up with the pressure of social media, I’m sure you’d agree. I can’t even imagine what high school must be like nowadays with Instagram and Snapchat, it was all about Bebo and Tumblr back in our day. Side note – where did Tumblr actually go because I seriously used to be OBSESSED with that!?
There’s no moral to the story here, social media isn’t going anywhere and the issues I’ve spoke about won’t begin to get better any time soon, but it’s so important to aim to use social media in a more healthier way. Set a time limit on how often you want to use it, unfollow accounts that make you feel a bit crappy, go out for the day and leave your phone at home or read a book! (I used to love reading and somehow fell out of it, if anyones got any good recommendations then pls send them my way). Something I’ve started to do when I go out with my family, Ben or my friends is to try and not go on my phone as much and to be more present in the moment, and it’s actually so refreshing to have a break from it and enjoy quality time with your loved ones. Remember that almost everything we see on social media is a lie, no one has the ‘perfect life’ that they portray to have, we all suck our guts in and paint our faces with make-up in order to look 10/10 on the photos we post, but no one looks like that all the time, and no one’s arsed about the amount of likes you get on a picture, likes don’t define how beautiful or popular you are.
Thanks for reading, loadsa love xxxx