Oh, Instagram. It’s all babies, and engagements, and weddings, and graduations, and date nights, and birthdays, and squads, and familial celebrations. And if you don’t have at least one or all those things, it can make you feel like crap. Quick, fast, and in a hurry.
At least according to a new study it can. A group of 1,479 people aged 14-24 recently chose Instagram as the social media app that does the most damage to young people’s mental health. Snapchat came in a close second, followed by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which showed to be the only app with a slightly positive influence.
And it makes sense. We all know those people on Instagram. They have the perfect (re: HOT) partner. Their job is cool. Their children are adorable. They travel to amazing places. Her eyebrows stay on fleek and her face is always beat. His abs are rock hard. They work out 10 times a day and drink kale smoothies. Their style is impeccable. They have a That’s ‘70s Show-esque group of friends that they never ever fight with, but instead partake in exciting, obscure activities with and pose for perfectly filtered images that receive 100+ likes. Ok, maybe nobody on Instagram has it that together. Except for female Christian bloggers. Now those chicks really do have it all. Talk about divine favor!
While nobody on the Gram (or in real life, for that matter) is perfect, it’s beyond easy to look at your followers’ posts and think, “Why not me?” Especially when a person has something you want. But here’s the deal. One of my favorite Instagram posts (hello, irony) that I have saved says, “Never be intimidated by an assignment God never gave you.” A little mantra that I like to live by also goes, “I have what I need and what I want is on its way.” You have to “love yours” like J. Cole told us to. Whenever I feel even a millimeter of Instagram envy (because we all do), I remind myself of those three things.
But if you’re unlike me and incapable of living off quotes, try this: don’t be jealous. Be inspired. Here’s what I mean. You’re jealous of homegirl’s body (this is excluding IG “models” and celebrities who paid for their bodies)? Get to the gym, buy a blender, and start drinking grass smoothies like her. Jealous of people’s education and career moves? Enroll in school, take a course (don’t knock YouTube or Google University here. Half the people you’re jealous of got through college that way!), start a side hustle, or demand a raise. You want more friends? Join a club. You want a man? Get on Tinder (ok, ok. Or something to that effect. But you see what I’m getting at here?).
Another way to combat these feelings is to claim that you’ll have just as good as a person or even better. Like, “Oh, she has a hot new boyfriend? Well, my next man will be just as fine if not finer!” Childish? Yes. Does it work? Yes.
Of course you could always just take a break from the app, too. Delete it, mute it, do whatever you have to do. I know plenty of people who regularly go on social media purges and come back better for it. Like I learned with Lent, you can’t lose by giving something up!
But here’s the gag and the heart of this post: it is just social media. Seriously! Instagram is literally just snapshots of a person’s life. We all know the old adage: the grass always looks greener on the other side. Instagram is nothing but a huge suburb of people with (seemingly) green grass.
That perfect couple? They’re on the verge of breaking up for the second time this month. That amazing group of friends? They can’t even call on each other if one has a flat tire. That person with all the scholastic accomplishments? They just failed another test in their weakest subject. Homeboy who’s in a different city every month? He’s dodging Sallie Mae’s phone calls.
In other words, we all pick and choose what we share with the world. Are you going to post screenshots of the epic fight you just had with your man, the mess your toddler made 10 minutes before you were supposed to leave the house, or the trash grade you made on your midterm? No. That’s what people you went to high school with are for on Facebook.
And here’s the REAL gag: those users that you’re jealous of just might be jealous of you! That girl in the happy relationship? Maybe she envies your singlehood. The girl with the beautiful babies may be missing the freedom she had before she was a mom. That health nut or self-made beauty guru may be feeling pressured to always post nothing but their absolute best. You may feel like you don’t measure up, but they may be craving a simple, natural, and easy life like the one you present.
Studies have also shown that heavier social media use is linked to depression. Maybe that person constantly posting their fabulousness is actually unhappy and chasing after likes and attention for validation. Maybe they’re not and simply enjoy sharing their happiness with others. Personally, I live my best moments off of social media; some moments are meant to be lived and not captured for the likes and approval of others. But here’s the bottom line: you just have to do you. Live your life and be grateful for it. We all have virtual grass. Focus on and water yours. Plant some flowers, too. You never know who’s looking.
X’s and O’s,