Every time you open up your phone, it seems like your fingers know just where to go.
You click, and a familiar picture shows up in the left hand corner — your profile pic — and then a series of other circular icons that you’ve come to know and religiously follow. Right below your circular best friends are perfectly curated images of recipes you are going to try, places you want to travel, and activities you’d love to do.
Scroll, Scroll, Scroll. Heart, Heart, Heart.
Maybe after clicking through a couple of stories you hit the explore page to see what’s new. Your favorite influencer is having a baby! Wow, their gender reveal was elaborate and amazing. I couldn’t afford that. Your coworker is creating gourmet meals every night! How is she cooking these elaborate recipes with two kids? Your high school acquaintance is planning a safari in Africa! How is she affording these plane tickets? I can’t remember the last time I took an international trip.
I have to admit, I can say these petty and jealous things even if I am genuinely happy for the person posting. It’s easy for me to instantly go to a place where I ask, but what about me?
The thing is, I enjoy Instagram. I follow a lot of positive blogs, I love our healthy/clean eating community, I love my girlfriends sending Bachelor memes to me, and I genuinely want to see what new events and activities are out there in my city. I’ve crafted my social media to be a beautiful reflection of the life I live now and the version of myself I want to be.
So why do I feel like I still have a complex relationship with the tiny pictures that live in my phone? After some deep reflection, I’ve realized it all comes from me. I’m always asking, “what about me?”.
It’s natural for us to want to keep up with our friends. It’s natural to want community, to share your thoughts and feelings with others. It’s also natural to be envious. But, what is dangerous is the weaponization of these emotions. When you weaponize your envy and turn it on yourself, or even other people, you are no longer enjoying Instagram — you’re making it a competition. You’re using Instagram as a marker for your own life, and once you go down that path it is so easy to feel like you are never going to catch up.
So, how do we enjoy Instagram and all the beautiful things it gives us, without participating in the toxic mentality it can promote?
The solution isn’t to “go dark” on social media and never post again. The solution isn’t to delete all platforms. The solution is to create stable and sensible boundaries that make YOU happy.
For me, I find the only way to grapple with this app is to take a deep breath and remind myself that behind each of these photos is a person. A person who has an intention behind their post. You may not know what their intention is or even who they are, but whoever they are they’re a person just like me. They’re on a personal journey just like me.
So, If I see a beautiful picture of a stranger on a beach, I hit the heart and keep on scrolling — I don’t worry about my next vacation. If I see someone’s cool new apartment in an envious part of the city, I hit the heart and keep on scrolling — I don’t worry about the updates I want to do to my place. It’s hard work, but once I started to humanize Instagram I stopped participating in the toxicity.
When you own your personal timeline, and you recognize that everyone struggles, you will stop asking yourself, “what about me?”
Now, I try to cheer people on in life. I try to point out that life is hard and we’re all on this spinning rock for a very short amount of time. I hit the heart as often as possible. I leave positive comments. I create cute Facebook albums of my friends and our photos because I like to look back on them. I share loving photos of my husband and I having fun. I have a 45 minute timer on the app.
Most importantly, I do it all with a full heart and a kind word.
I’m just like you. My life can be hectic and cooking, cleaning and getting that workout in are sometimes the last thing on my mind. But, I’m here to share my tips and tricks on how to make adulting a little more enjoyable.