Why Your Experience on Social Media is Your Responsibility
I want to first disclaimer that my opinions in this blog post apply to adults users and not necessarily to impressionable children although I believe there are good take-aways for kids here too.
Why your experience on social media is your responsibility
Headlines flood our news calling out Social Media as a cause of depression, anxiety and even suicide. It’s incredibly scary to even think that’s possible. Could something that brings one person so much joy and entertainment really bring someone else sadness and pain? Let’s dive into that question, why are some people having a positive social media experience and other’s aren’t? Of course it’s a combination of how we feel about ourselves and the content we see on social and what emotions it brings up. But I firmly believe:
we are responsible for the content we consume
Following accounts of really fit girls with a 6 pack of abs and a perfectly shaped butt can give some people nothing but motivation and others deep self-hatred. Following photos of mouthwatering food can make some people daydream about the flavours while sending others into a full blown binge. Following fashion accounts can motivate some to recreate the looks whether it be by buying the same outfit or the fun challenge of finding look-a-likes in thrift stores, while others are reminded of their financial status and see something else they “can’t afford”. Do you see the pattern here?
I think you know what sets you off, what makes you roll your eyes or what makes you feel upset when you see it on social media. There is one super simple solution, unfollow. Scroll through your feed and the second that you see something that evokes a negative emotion..unfollow. I understand that it’s not just huge accounts that may trigger these emotions, but even friends and family and of course we don’t want to unfollow a friend which is why Instagram developed the ‘Mute’ feature which simply hides their content from your feed and/or stories.
Let’s build a feed that motivates us, inspires us, or TEACHES us something. I challenge you to go into your settings and see how much time you spend on social media channels in a day..is it 2 hours, 3, 4, 5? Are you letting yourself spend 3+ hours a DAY consuming content that makes you feel jealous, insecure or unworthy? Spend those social media hours consuming content that you laugh at, learn from or are motivated by.
I used to be very irresponsible with the content i consumed
5 years ago I was struggling with disordered eating. I wanted so desperately to be thin that I would next to starve myself all week by eating as little as possible, drinking black coffee and diet coke (both 0 calories with caffeine, an appetite suppressant) and running 30 minutes a day. By the time Friday rolled around my ‘cheat-meal’ would become a full blown binge, eating entire bags of candy and chips in one sitting. I vividly remember seeing girls with super thin legs and wanting to cut the fat away from my inner thighs. I vividly remember wanting to be anorexic.
Instagram was kind of new at the time and I used hashtags to search for anorexic accounts (hashtags which are now blocked from Instagram thank goodness). I created a second account and FILLED my feed with #anainspo #anadiet #anorexic . I was 18 years old, living away from home and in a very dark place mentally.
After months of ‘failing’ at starving myself, ending my relationship, and failing university classes a switch finally started to shift in me. I don’t exactly remember what it was but I wanted to start lifting weights, probably because I started to see #strongisthenewskinny . I quickly realized that I needed to fuel my body if I wanted to even move any sort of weight around so I started a #cleaneating journey. I learned everything I needed to know from a couple of my guy friends and #IfItFitsYourMacros became the game. Tracking with My Fitness Pal, 1g protein per lb a day, that sort of vibe. I was definitely fuelling my body better but my food obsession turned into a gym obsession and that year I worked out almost every single day, including leaving my family on Christmas morning to go workout. That’s all I saw on social media because that’s all I CHOSE to follow. Of course that’s what I was convinced HAD to be done when that was all I saw on my feed. Those were the days of lifting my shirt every single morning to check on my abs progress. So I was then filling my feed with GymShark, bikini competitors, fitness models etc. and where that might motivate some people, and it definitely motivated me sometimes, overall I felt shitty and insecure about my body.
As I progressed through my nutritional science degree and my food photography interest started to grow my feed shifted again, this time to beautiful food photos which would inspire me to recreate them in my kitchen. I think this is when my relationship with Instagram was actually finally a healthy one.
Fast forward two years to present day Johanna, a Content Developer. I use Instagram to learn, connect and find inspiration. I love following accounts who rock the instagram game so I can learn from them, from their authenticity, their story telling, the photos etc.
choosing your influence
I think choosing what we put in front of us requires a mindset shift and a lot of intentional action. It’s not that girls fault that you feel insecure from her choosing to post a picture of her beautiful tanned body, dyed hair and abs every day. That’s not on her, it’s on you.
It’s our responsibility to realize that instagram is a highlight reel. I’m sure you’ve heard it 100 times but it is what it is. Take this content at face value, this is their best work not the 57 other photos on the camera roll or the bad days.
Today I empower you to scroll through your feed, unfollow or mute those that don’t bring you value, inspiration, or teach you something, and maybe even follow some new accounts that will! Social media is undeniably and very big part of our life, lets use it for good, not evil.