This post has been in the “drafts” section of my brain for the better part of 6 months. Instagram and mental health, especially negative effects on mental health, go together like peanut butter and jam (jelly if you’re American).
At least that’s how I feel.
A poll I did on Facebook showed me that 59% of voters had no negative effect from Instagram on their mental health.
Which is amazing! Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.
I began my Instagram as a sort of micro-blog.
A place for me to write about maternal mental health without planning out long blog posts. In the beginning, I was totally sucked into Instagram and I quickly found my tribe.
Almost as quickly as it began, the excitement ran out. In the early days of Instagram I had gained a bit of traction from posting very honest captions. What my followers probably didn’t know is that I also got massively caught up in the seedy underground of follow loops.
The Darkside Of Instagram
Believe me, I rolled my eyes when I typed that header too, it’s all a bit highschool, innit.
Given that this post isn’t about follow loops, I won’t delve into much detail. For the purpose of disclosure and showing how far the rabbit hole goes, I’m adding screenshots of some of the more intense groups I was apart of.
Such as engagement tribes and Like for like follow threads on Facebook. (THE HORROR). Instagram and mental health had so much more to it than just the app (at least for me) it’s basically a full time freakin’ job.
I want to preface all of this by saying that if you take part in any or all of these methods, I’m not judging or shaming. I’m saying it’s not for me.
Instagram and Mental Health – The Deterioration
Once I did my first follow loop, my like to comment ratio was all sorts of off. In an effort to combat this, I’d take part in Like for like threads on Facebook, which would usually be 200 users long! The time that took was mind-boggling.
Then there were the engagement posts on Instagram, where a simple comment explaining your newest post was all that was needed to receive comments to your recent post.
And giveaway buy-ins. Ranging from $15-1000+ you could essentially buy your way to more followers with the demographics you wanted.
The app Telegram (sort of like WhatsApp) became my friend when I joined a Facebook group meant for ~Influencers~ and began doing more sponsored posts on Instagram. I had an engagement rating of 14% and was taking any collaboration that came my way, regardless of whether it aligned with my personal values.
There was such a distinct juxtaposition, these honest captions and inauthentic comments and likes.
Viral bloggers I had seen in the Facebook group would go onto their platforms on talk about Instagram and mental health and fake likes and then post their links for likes in the Telegram group. It was such hypocrisy!
And yet, I did it too.
After taking a two-month break from Instagram, I no longer use any systems or methods to affect my engagement.
My engagement rating is currently sitting at about 1.5% which puts me at “normal person” instead of ~influencer~ and all I can say is…thank God.
Instagram Highlights and Comparison
Aside from the following and engagement malarky, something that I’ve found that really gets me down about Instagram specifically as a platform is the highlights reel aspect to it.
Instagram is the place to brag, it’s where you can show off your cooking skills, your cute baby, the fact you taught your cat sign language.
It’s not necessarily the place to see your unscrubbed grout and you crying on the couch (if you have an account like this please @ me).
That’s why I love Instagram vs Reality threads. Because they bring me back to the truth.
Instagram and Mental Health – The Improvement
So after all that, and I still go on Instagram?! You bet your ass I do!
I’ve got a best friend in New Orleans with a super cute kid who I want to see grow up, and Instagram is cheaper than a plane ticket. There’s psychologists, occupational therapists, crystal healers, IT professionals, all with heaps of information to share right there, every day.
A big part of making Instagram a non-toxic environment comes down to my usage of it.
- Unfollowing people who don’t make me feel good, regardless if the follow me.
- Not scrolling mindlessly
- Noticing if I’m comparing
A mantra that I’ve had to repeat throughout this entire process of “weaning” from Instagram has been that
Mental illness is not a personal failiure
Excess Instagram consumption just so happens to be one of my triggers, and I have to be on the lookout for that. It doesn’t make me weaker, or less ~cool~. For a long time, I’ve been embarrassed, as though I was a child, who couldn’t control themselves.
Focusing on what makes me feel fulfiled instead of deprived has been key in staying away from excess Instagram usage and therefore spiralling into depression again.
- Creating content elsewhere (Facebook, Pinterest, Blog) as well as writing and journalling
- Doing things offline with friends and family
- Re-evaluating my goals and priorities.
This post felt overwhelmingly cathartic for me and rather selfish, hopefully someone, somewhere will get something of value from it! If not, keep your eyes peeled for my next post on Shifting Your Mindset coming in the next few days.