[Written by Stephanie Reynolds and Anastasija Svarevska]
[Image Credit: Instagram//Jonathan Lo (@happymundane)]
Content Warning: This article includes discussion of body dismorphia and other mental health issues.
I scroll aimlessly through Instagram, looking for nothing in particular. I see people who are much better looking than me, cooking something much more delicious than my last meal while in a beautiful location that is—you guessed it—much more picturesque than where I am. I am both enthralled and loath to continue looking. I study her skin and her hair. They’re so much better than mine. She has a fitness routine that is so disciplined and difficult yet she does it with such ease and energy. I feel guilty, as I can’t be bothered to do anything. She has the best diet plan and the best ingredients. She knows exactly where to purchase hemp seeds and her cupboards are never short of the essential vegan morsels. She has an expensive blender that she uses every day to show us how to make the most delicious vegan smoothies. She has a gorgeous boyfriend who poses with her in pictures. He is loyal and caring and they are the best couple in the world and they never disagree or have any arguments.
I click on my screen lock and put my phone down. I am in my bedroom, alone, in the dark. I have just finished a multipack of crisps. And I now feel worse than before I logged on to Instagram.
Instagram is an interesting, new obsession that has taken over me and many, many others. It’s immediately addictive.
No one wants to upload a selfie of themselves crying in their work toilet because they are stressed about a deadline and their skin keeps breaking out. I understand that. There are some things that we should keep to ourselves. But what are we left with if we only post those pictures of our happiest, best moments?—A false reality, a pool of people feeling insecure, and who are left questioning why their lives aren’t like the those of Instagram “influencers”.
So, should I just stop being jealous and bitter, and instead improve myself? Take inspiration from these perfect Instagram uploaders, copy their routines, eat what they eat, wear what they wear; then there’ll be no need to feel jealous nor bitter. Well, that’s not very sustainable for most. Needless to say, if you don’t have the funds to go travelling regularly or buy the most extravagant ingredients for your next meal, then it’s simply not possible. Not to mention that what may work for one person, may not work for another.
So, I’m taking a break from Instagram. I have officially uninstalled it from my phone and I have to admit, I feel better. Friends who are interested in keeping in touch are communicating with me directly. They are not finding out what I am up to by a picture I have posted—instead, they are asking me. And it feels good! I’ll log back in eventually, and when I do, I’m going to upload something with honesty.
If you’re not ready to totally sever yourself from the ‘gram, here are accounts which offer something more than an unrealistically perfect life:
- @happymundane. All too often, we ignore the fact that even the smallest things in life can make us happy and bring us joy. Jonathan Lo, the man behind the account, reminds us how to find “beauty in the everyday.” His photographs are very minimalistic and simple – the simplicity is basically what it all is about – yet they have so much power in showing how even the most ordinary things which are overlooked can be fulfilling if only we open our eyes and take a look at what’s around us.
- @rupikaur_. This is another account that I find to be a wholesome dose of mindfulness, and Rupi Kaur is the one of—in my opinion—the best poets of all time. I have always considered poetry to be therapeutic; words have a power to heal. A poem in particular comes from the heart of another person, who we might not know directly but whose feelings and experiences we can directly relate to, engaging in an intimate dialogue. Verses of Rupi Kaur, an Indian-born Canadian poet and a author of ‘The Sun and Her Flowers’, cover most common human struggles—love, friendship, sex, race, individuality, self-worth, inequality, and so on. If there is no time to read an actual book of hers, her Instagram is the place to go to gain reassurance that we are all in this together; all through beautiful language.
- @maryscupofteaa. This account offers some reassurance that our weight is not the fundamental way to measure our happiness. We are more than our bodies and have to love ourselves for who we are rather than for what our body type is. Constantly being exposed to “perfect” body images (when the only perfect body there is the one that is loved and taken care of), Mary has been through what most young women go through: trying to look like models and setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. She eventually got to the point where there was nothing else that mattered more than how much food she was consuming. However, after realizing that she did not love herself more the thinner she got, she finally gave up on the obsession with being “an absolute ideal”. Instead, she rejected dieting culture, accepted herself as she is, and found true happiness. Her confidence is particularly inspiring, and the community that formed around her Instagram gives one a great self-esteem boost.
- @baddiewinkle. Baddie Winkle (Helen Ruth Elam Van Winkle,) is a ninety-year-old woman who rebelled against ageism and proved to everyone that we can slay no matter how old we are—who said that growing up means having no fun? Honestly, if you don’t follow her already, do that right now. Seeing this old woman being an absolute savage and, as it’s said in her bio, “stealing ur man since 1928,” is not only entertaining but super encouraging.
There are many more social media accounts that aim to support and empower us. Simply following someone can begin the journey of discovering more. It’s our responsibility, no one will do this for us; it’s time to go on a social media “cleanse”, feeding our minds with “healthy” images rather than poisonous, toxic junk.
[Image Description: A group of modernist, glass fronted buildings with pink sunset colours catching the front. There are silhouetted palm trees in front of the buildings. The background the sky is a gradient that shifts from pink up to blue.]