Instagram & Mental Health: Friend or Foe?

I was reading a horror story the other day about teenagers asking for surgery to look like their Snapchat/Instagram filters and it was heartbreaking (Link here if you’re interested).

It got me thinking:
– Has Instagram become a self-confidence vacuum?
– How are people consuming the features and content?
– Is it having a positive or negative effect on people’s mental health as a whole?

There’s no question that Instagram is a valuable marketing platform for businesses and influencers. But is that a price worth paying at the expense of the mental wellbeing of a generation?

Instagram was created to allow users to give people a behind-the-scenes look at their lives. A visual diary that gives users the opportunity to tell their unique stories in a more interactive format. It was raw, authentic, and brought people closer together through shared experiences.

Over the last few years we have slowly seen a switch in how the platform is being used by both businesses and users. Many now use it to portray selective, over-amplified, false versions of their lives and businesses. How we want to live. How we want to look. We are bombarded with flawless beauty, wealth and success from all angles.

It isn’t real.

We all know an “influencer” who looks like Kim Kardashian on the Gram but more like Kim Woodburn in real life.

We all know a guy who spends his weekly wage on belts and bottle service to impress girls, but works at Pure Gym and lives at home with his mum.

It isn’t real.

Look at the real wealthy people in the world:

How often have you seen Warren Buffett posting hot dog legs and “How’s Your Monday?”

Or Oprah Winfrey clutching a magnum of Grey Goose and doing gun-fingers with the caption “Living My Best Life”.

And it isn’t just how people behave on Instagram. The features have also evolved. The competition with Snapchat has led to a filter frenzy across both platforms which I believe has been hugely damaging for a large proportion of their users.

Sticking some dog ears on your head or making your nan look like an alien is great, but there are now filters that exist purely to remove your “flaws”. Why? So I can feel momentarily happy until I look in the mirror and realise that’s not the real me?

The very nature of these filters tells you subconsciously that you aren’t good enough. It’s just wrong. If you consistently encourage people to be someone else, they’ll never be present long enough to find what they love about themselves.

It isn’t real.

And the worst part is- it’s often to impress strangers. People who don’t know or care about us. Our friends and family know exactly who we are. They know that we are a hot mess most of the time. They know we use the 5-second rule to justify eating food we’ve dropped on the floor. They know we smell most of the time and are a bit weird.

Those are the people that matter.

Sadly it appears that more and more young people are becoming addicted to the likes and sacrificing meaningful interaction and relationships for short bursts of empty validation from strangers.

People often say “don’t go broke trying to look rich”, but I think it’s much deeper than that.

Don’t lose who you are trying to be someone else.

Do you. You are more than enough.

And remember- it isn’t real.

If you need someone to talk to, reach out to CALM or Young Minds who both do fantastic work with young people.