How to Use Instagram as a Resource Rather Than a Confidence Killer
I absolutely love Instagram, but I think we can all agree that the application can be more than a little addictive. Whether you need food, exercise, art, professional, fashion, diet, health, personal or any other type of inspiration or advice, you know which app to open. What first started out as a platform for sharing cute little moments from our lives with our friends has become a curated database of visual information that, more often than not, has little to do with reality at all. Kind of like a search engine, but prettier and less authentic.
Instagram has introduced a whole new way of approaching branding and marketing for companies and blogs, as well as it has become a huge arena for individual expression and branding. However, in addition to being an excellent tool for companies, inspiration and self-expression, Instagram can also be a very shallow place to hang out. Constant exposure to perfectly polished and photoshopped pictures of beautiful people from flattering angles will, after a (short) while, have an effect on the way that we think about ourselves, our lives and our own appearances – whether we would like to admit it or not.
The comparison game is a dangerous game to play that rarely ends well for the person playing – mostly because we tend to place ourselves at the negative end of the comparison. We’re innocently scrolling through our Instagram feeds, and without even noticing it happening, we find ourselves wondering why we are not being paid to travel to Bali like that girl on Instagram. As a result of constantly being exposed to other people’s (often) fabricated reality – we start questioning our own life choices and doubting ourselves in terms of our appearances, the size of our salaries, the social status of our jobs, the quality of our relationships, and the list never ends… It’s unnecessary, it’s unhealthy and it’s pretty ridiculous, considering the fact that these negative emotions come as a result of being exposed to pictures of people whose lives we know nothing about.
Lately, I have been trying to change the way that I use Instagram, and rather than putting myself in a position where I’m prone to losing confidence in myself after using the app, I have found ways to make my time spent on the app both more productive business wise, but also more resourceful on a personal level.
Below you will find my guide to changing the way you use Instagram for the better:
If You Find Yourself Making Comparisons: Unfollow Immediately
On a daily, or maybe even hourly basis, we are exposed to photoshopped pictures shot by professional photographers alongside pictures of our friends (who may also have been shot by professional photographers and photoshopped), and making comparisons is inevitable. If you are comparing yourself to a certain Instagram account repeatedly, and it’s making you feel bad about yourself or your own achievements, it is probably time to unfollow that account.
Typically we do not notice this happening until we actually make an effort to think about how certain influences (or influencers) affect us, but in order to use Instagram more resourcefully, unfollowing the accounts that affect us negatively is crucial. Sit down and have a think about how the accounts you follow make you feel about yourself; more often than not, you will find that the ones that you visit more frequently are the ones that have the most negative impact on you. Unfollowing these accounts will reduce stress in your life that you are unconsciously being exposed to and affected by, and allows for you to focus more on your own life and shift your focus to the things that are actually important to you.
Compare Your Instagram Account To Your Actual Life And Apply What You Learn To Every Account That You Visit
Except from a few accounts dedicated to being 100% real, most of us “fake it” to some degree on social media – for example by posting a fabulous #tb from your holiday in Hawaii when you’re actually flat out on the couch with a bag of crisps in your lap, or a picture that portrays a more polished reality than reality itself. Don’t worry; we’re all guilty of this to some degree.
Obviously, posting pictures of ourselves crying after a breakup or in the middle of an anxiety attack, or uploading a video of yourself yelling at your sister for ruining your favorite top isn’t ideal (or necessarily advisable, unless you’re prepared for the public to comment on your vulnerable situation), but we need to keep in mind that these things also happen – even if we can’t see them. I will be the first to admit that I’m guilty of posting pictures that in no way portrays my actual situation and, depending on the content and reason for posting, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with doing that – as long as we keep in mind that everyone else is doing it too. A perfect life does not exist, it is just (ironically) in our human nature to want to pretend like it does. On Instagram we are portraying our reality the way that we want it to look and that is important to remember.
Keep In Mind That People Photoshop Their Photos
Personally, I was kind of late to buy in to the whole Instagram hype and I also did not have any ambition of becoming famous when I created my account (nor do I now). At the time, I just slapped on a random filter and hit “publish”, and so did most of my friends and the people that I was following. It was fine, no biggie, just a picture.
When I post a picture on my Instagram now, on the other hand, I (and I genuinely wish that I was cooler than this…) run it through one to three different applications before publishing it depending on what is in the picture. Most of the time I only use the applications to adjust the colours and add a filter to make the picture compatible with the rest of my feed, but if my skin is particularly bad I may use a tool to smooth over some blemishes as well. It is not healthy and, to be honest, plain ridiculous. Yet I do it, and I am going to make a wild guess and say that I’m not alone in doing so. People want to look good and they have the tools to help them do it, so they will – falsely so.
Find Some Inspirational Accounts To Follow
If you use Instagram in a way that is right for you, it can be a great resource; both personally and professionally. The key is to follow accounts that are compatible with your interests and needs.
Try to think of some topics that you are interested in and that you think could be inspiring to you (and I’m not talking about “before and after” weight loss pictures of celebrities). Hot tip: try to think of topics unrelated to the ones that you are sensitive to, for example “beach bodies” or “career status”. Brainstorm words related to your topic of choice and then search for popular #hashtags in the search section – you will probably come across some beautiful accounts on fun niche subjects that you didn’t even know existed. Follow the ones that you think will be beneficial and inspirational to your life, and that will affect you positively rather than negatively.
Create An Account About Something That Really Interests You
Create a new account on a topic that you love; whether it’s your dog, interior design, food, comics, sustainability, or gardening doesn’t really matter, as long as you find it interesting and inspiring. Follow similar accounts and interact with people who have the same interests as you – creating relationships through common interest and passion is great way to make new friends and relocate your focus from other people’s fictional lives and your own perceived failures, and over to something that gives your life meaning. Focusing on something that has nothing to do with you (other than your passion for it) can be an incredible way to gain, or regain, a healthy relationship with Instagram.
Stop Doing Excessive Stalking. No, I Mean It.
If you, even for one second, are going to try and convince yourself that you do not do stalk anyone, you are a liar. We have all been there; innocently scrolling through our feeds whilst procrastinating something important and before we know it, we’re 4 years deep into our ex-boyfriend’s neighbor’s’ cousin’s’ pool party in Marbella. Needless to say, this is not the way to use Instagram resourcefully or as an inspiration, it’s just plain creepy and you know it. We all know it. I’m not saying that stalking is prohibited, it definitely has its time and place (like when your friend just started dating someone new), but it should not be a hobby of yours or a way that you use Instagram on a regular basis. If you are guilty of creeping a bit more than you would like to admit, give yourself an Instagram time-out and try to be more mindful about the time that you spend on the app and why you’re there.
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]