Social media can be used for many things. Facebook was created with the intent of college students being able to stay in touch, Twitter was created for people to tweet random thoughts and Instagram was created as a place where people could share their life though pictures. At what point did it become a competition as to who has the best body, the highest paying job, the most attractive husband, the fanciest car and the biggest house? Even more importantly when did people begin to find it easy and acceptable to negatively comment on other people’s accomplishments? Also, when did the quantity of random followers become more important than the quality of our real life circle of friends who genuinely care about us and want to see us succeed and be happy?
I am writing this post from the standpoint of someone who has been guilty of putting entirely too much stock into Instagram and how I wish to portray my life depending on what I choose to post. While I can certainly say that I have never and will never partake in any type of cyberbully behavior, I have had the thoughts without putting them into words publicly, which is almost just as bad. The majority of my ‘girl hating’ tendencies stem from Instagram which stem from deep insecurity which has also at some point stemmed from Instagram. This is not what the app was created for and comparing is not what we as humans were created for. It has become so easy to scroll through your feed of everyone’s pictures and see a variety of things that have the potential to make you jealous or give you room to talk about people in a negative manner.
“So and so got a new car? I don’t know how he afforded that.”
“They broke up? I just knew he was cheating on her.”
“I can’t believe she’s wearing a bikini when she clearly doesn’t have the body for it.”
“She has no clue how to properly apply makeup, bless her heart.”
And my personal favorite…
“She posts so many selfies, she must really be stuck on herself!” *unfollow*
How many of these comments are necessary? NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM.
I took it upon myself to do a little project. I decided to go through my list of people that I follow and read a lot of comments, both new and old. While I did see many positive comments (which I will address), I was appalled at some things that I came across. Instagram hate is not just something that celebrities experience, it can happen to anyone and if we put all of our worth and value into an app and what people think of us and how many likes we can get, then we run the risk of being let down and hurt. Let’s take a look at some comments I found and saved. (Excuse the grammatical errors.)
I was honestly disturbed and infuriated when I read these. It breaks my heart that people find is so natural to hide behind a phone or a computer and say such hurtful things with no sense of concern with how their comments are going to affect the person they are aimed towards. Statements such as “Wow, I’m trash” prove that it is also easy to put ourselves down, generally out of jealousy. Over the last 6 months, I personally have had to unfollow 300+ accounts because I found myself comparing my life to theirs and falling deeper into my depression. The majority were celebrities, fitness/thinspo, makeup gurus and fashion accounts. The thing about social media is that you get to pick and choose what you post and chances are, you’re not going to choose to post the bad days or the things that you don’t want anyone to see. All we choose to broadcast are the things that we are proud of, the days that we are dressed nicely and airbrushed, surrounded by friends, etc. This creates the false illusion of a perfect life, which in reality does not exist. Above all else, be smart about what you post, be aware that everything is not always what it seems and lastly, be slow to judge and quick to be kind. Actions may speak louder than words, but words are still pretty loud.
Enough about the negative side of things, let’s carry on and explore all of the positive aspects of Instagram, which in my opinion and personal experience, far outweighs everything else. On December 1st, 2014, I made the decision to begin recovery. Over the course of the last 5 months, I have made many changes in the people that I follow, the things that I post and the way that I portray my life on social media. When I shared my story on Instagram and Facebook, I was blown away by the amount of support, encouragement and love that I received. I always knew that social media was a powerful platform but I never realized just how powerful until I became open and honest about things in my life that I struggle with. I chose to be transparent even though it was in a setting that gave people the opportunity to judge, ridicule, invalidate or attack me. Luckily, I didn’t experience any of that. I began getting comments, messages and texts from people who wanted to share their stories with me. I have made friends from other states, countries and even continents. We all go through the same things and we all need each other. I have learned so much throughout this process and knowing that I have the opportunity to help and encourage others gives me a sense of hope for myself.
Here, I have several examples of positive comments that I have gotten. This is in no way to promote myself, but just to show the the drastic difference between the previous comments as opposed to the potential positive possibilities! Also, you will notice that the majority of these comments have very little to do with physical appearance, which I think speaks volumes
When I decided to do a post on this topic, I asked many people if they had anything they would like to share. Their identities will be kept anonymous and some of it will be paraphrased and shortened, but they made some great points and I’m grateful for their input.
“Body positive pages such as @healthyisthenewskinny and @thecomplimentcampain make my day. I don’t follow negative accounts because everything that you encounter changes you in some way and I choose to let positivity influence me.”
“Social media has allowed me to reach out to people that also struggle with similar issues. Without it, I feel like I would be alone in the way that I feel. Books have been helpful but it’s nice to meet people who that actually deal with the same things that I do on a daily basis.”
“It has not happened to me personally but I sometimes see people commenting on other people’s pictures, who are obviously underweight, and saying things such as ‘fat’, ‘you need to lose weight’ and things like that. They may be sarcastic but that triggers and hurts people and it is a really stupid thing to do.”
“I have personally been really struggling with insecurity and I have for a very long time, but with the rise of social media, especially Instagram, it has become increasingly worse. I have found myself addicted to following and spending a substantial amount of time obsessing over things such as fitness pages and women, thus comparing myself. For a while I would find myself doing it and not even realizing it. My father and boyfriend know that I deal with feelings of insecurity and comparison, so eventually they encouraged me to delete the app for a while in order to center myself and focus on other things. I did end up deleting it for a couple of weeks and it did greatly make an impact. I felt myself feeling better and naturally stopped comparing myself as much. Instagram especially is one that can become very centered around vanity. It puts so much emphasis on outside appearance, which can definitely become an issue for many girls. Chronic insecurity, comparison and girl hating is already such an epidemic for many women and young girls in this culture. Although I do not think that Instagram is all bad, it can easily become that way if you allow it to.”
“I had to unfollow a friend because she had relapsed in her eating disorder. The thinner she got, the more difficult it was for me to see her. She would post pictures of her bones sticking out and pictures of her binges. She had even gotten follows from ‘Pro-Ana’ accounts. When I was in the worst part of my eating disorder, I was all over ‘Pro-Ana’ sites, so seeing this took me back to those days when I would do anything to be skinny, and I did. I sacrificed a lot including my time, energy and happiness. Now I will do anything to remain happy, healthy and in recovery. On the other hand, social media has allowed me to stay in touch with the women who I was in treatment with as well as connect with other women that went to the same treatment center that I’ve never met in person. We offer each other invaluable support and encouragement. It is awesome!!”
I want to challenge anyone that sees this to try something new this week. Let’s start some positive hashtags! I see so many on a daily basis and I believe that we can make a difference if we do away with negative ones and replace them with positive ones. On #SelfieSunday, post the selfie of all selfies and be confident doing it!! #NoMakeupMonday, because we are naturally beautiful without it. Put a new spin on #TransformationTuesday and post happy, recovery driven photos (if applicable). #IAmWorthyWednesday, beause so many people are lacking self worth and it needs to be addressed. #TrustworthyThursday, make yourself open and available for people to talk to when they need a friend and assure them that their secrets are safe with you. #FabulousFriday, because heck, YOU ARE FABULOUS! Let’s make #SelfLoveSaturday a thing. Share things about yourself that you think are awesome and forget about the things you want to change. It is not wrong to love yourself. You are worth all the love in the world, let’s embrace that!
Social media of any kind, especially Instagram, can be used for many reasons. It is up to YOU how you choose to use it. Will you boast about yourself and put down others? Or will you encourage, support and allow the love of God to show through everything that you post? Make the right choice, and you hold the potential to change the world.