Is Instagram a force for good?

Image: Pinterest

Huddled in the dark, wrapped in my duvet cocoon, I used to spend my evenings in bed scrolling through Instagram. I would obsess over people I knew, people I didn’t know and form goals for the person I wanted to be, based on a snapshot of someone’s life. Simultaneously, I was aware that nothing on Instagram was the reality of peoples’ lives, but at the same time I used it to make comparisons about my own life and what I had achieved in that day.

Instagram works for some people, but it never quite worked for me. In all aspects of my life, I have the bad trait of comparing myself to others. Instagram, the platform that likes to sugar coat the daily lives of others around us, and the celebrities we ideolise, was thus, never a good use of my time. However, it took several years for me to realise that.

I used to love Instagram for being able to see parts of the world I haven’t yet explored; through travel accounts and immersive photography platforms. I also used to love it for cooking inspiration, art and fashion. Despite all its many uses, I have had to abandon it to prevent the comparisons I would always make – between their lives and my own. Comparison for me, has never helped me to achieve good mental health.

Additionally, in hindsight, I believe there is something dangerous about the platform. Either consciously, or subconsciously, it encourages us to boast about our lives, our clothes, our wealth and our fortune, whilst others can be left feeling as if they do not fit in with the culture it perpetuates. The more you have, it seems, the more you can post. Instagram and its culture of fostering “influencers,” bloggers and celebrities, pays homage to the tide of modern capitalism’s dream. Sponsored posts by those which we are infatuated by; bear the remnants of global capitalism and its longstanding legacy. We are encouraged to want and to buy.

But moreover, we are always encouraged to do things. To be constantly around people and then to boast about it. Instagram can be used as a platform to encourage certain conversations; about mental health, the environment and period poverty are to name just a few. But I feel that it is selective about the conversations it gives space to. It doesn’t talk about the social stigma that is still attached to loneliness, it is still a foreign social media phenomena to like being alone with yourself and to engage in simple things. It doesn’t allow for a simple, fulfilling life, this is something it will never be able to perpetuate.

It was a platform that I knew was not good for me in some ways, but one which I still used, partly because I felt compelled to. Everyone else uses it without a problem (or so it seems). I remember telling some people I had deleted it and them seeming genuinely shocked as they echoed, “but why” to my response. Well, this is exactly why.

I’m not saying this is what everyone should do – but it is something that has worked for me. I now spend most of my evenings huddled in bed with a book, which offers little room for me to form toxic, idealistic comparisons. But it is a way in which I can switch off from the real world, the blue screens and picture perfect lives of people I barely know.

Social media can be irrevocably useful and a tool for inspiration and connectivity. But it can also be a toxic one, showcasing picture perfect lives and the imaginary reality of daily lives which do not match up to our own.

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