You’re scrolling through your instagram feed and all the sudden your eyes land on a picture of your best friend and a boy at a party, her caption reads “Still recovering from last night”. But when you asked her last night if she wanted to hang out she said she was babysitting. You shrug it off and continue scrolling to distract yourself, because there’s nothing else to do. You see a picture of an actress you admire with a huge pasta dish in front of her. She captions this, “Being bad tonight #carbsaremyweakness.” But you just ate pasta for lunch and didn’t realize you did anything wrong. You decide instagram is not interesting anymore so you move to twitter. After reading complaint after complaint you get tired and go to facebook. You see that your Aunt is trying a no sugar diet so she has cut out almost every food including fruits. You see that your sister has commented, “You go girl! You’re going to look great”. But you think she already does look great. Should you be doing this too?
It’s all a mind game. I could have put down the phone when my mom told me it was poisoning my head. I just thought, no I would know if it’s hurting me. I decide what I want to look at. But do I? I never asked to see pictures of the guy I like with his girlfriend. I never searched, “Should I cut carbs?” I didn’t try to find out that some woman’s einstein of a son got a 36 on his ACT on the first try. No. It’s all just shoved in my face. Maybe it doesn’t hurt in the moment, but later when you head to the kitchen to grab a banana and you start to ask yourself, “should I have this? It has too much sugar and carbs”. The funny thing is, if you asked me earlier in the day I would’ve thought a banana was just a healthy fruit, full of potassium and it tastes great! I would have been proud of my 27 on the ACT and how hard I worked to achieve that score. But after a few hours spent on social media, I began to question everything I did.
When I was a regular high school student, I was always too busy with my skating training to hang out with friends. I’d watch their snapchat’s stories longingly, wishing they could have gotten together Saturday night instead. I had to say no to invitation after invitation because I was either skating or had to get up for skating at 6 a.m. the next morning. Eventually, people got sick of asking. So I’d watch the stories wondering what I had done wrong. Or why didn’t they like me anymore. Uncoincidentally, this was around the time my depression was at its worst. I’d be alone in my room on instagram and after a while I’d start to feel stuck in a deep sadness. My thoughts became screams in my brain; He chose her not you. No one wants you. Why aren’t you like her? My brain became cluttered, my stomach felt sick, and my heart started to sink into my stomach. Lower and lower. I started to feel very hot and warm tears began to slide down my cheeks. I did not know what to do so I picked up my phone. I opened up my address book app and searched for the name of someone who could help me. Not her, she’s busy. Not him, he thinks you get too attached. Not her, she already thinks you’re a burden, and after this process I always came to the same conclusion: you’re not good enough, no one likes you. There was nowhere to run and surprisingly enough, my phone couldn’t help me at this point. I took a scissors and I slid the blade along my wrists. Once I stopped, I couldn’t believe what just happened. I threw on a sweatshirt and went downstairs, sat on the couch with my parents and returned to my social media.
Other than seeing things that hurt you, social media promotes multiple other mental issues. For me, comparison really messed with my head. When I was a freshman in high school, my two favorite apps were instagram and pinterest. I spent the majority of my Freshman World History class staring at photos of fashion, shoes, recipies and vacations on pinterest. My pinterest board was like my own dream world. I could simply search “Santorini” and millions of pictures of my dream vacation would appear on my screen. The summer going into Sophomore year I became interested in health and fitness, so I followed several health accounts. I started to look at the healthy recipes like spinach pasta and grilled chicken and vegetables. The more I looked, the more I found. I learned what calories were. I let pinterest tell me what I needed to eat and what not to eat and how much to eat or how little. I stared at fitness model after fitness model, checking my body to see if I could even compare. I knew I didn’t look like them. But lucky enough, that handy pinterest would tell me exactly what to do to look like them. So I tried and I tried and I starved and I starved just like that little red and white app told me to.
People often use social media or their phones to say things they would never say in person. With snapchat, you can say whatever you want and theoretically, it will disappear. Ever since I was 12, boys would use snapchat to ask me for sexual photos. They knew no one could ever see their message because at the time there was no way to save the messages (except to screenshot which I stupidly never did). I would say no and ignore them but they never went away. The next day in pre-algebra class, they acted the same as always – like they did not even know I existed. In high school, it got worse. I got used to being asked and learned that the reason they did this was NOT because they liked me, as much as I wished it was. There was one boy I thought was different. And man, did I like him. I won’t go into detail, but I really liked him and I felt like I really knew him so when he started snapchatting and texting me I thought he just wanted to talk more. I told myself this for three years. Even though he asked for special pictures for the majority of those years, I just refused to believe he was just using me. He wasn’t like that. He told me I was beautiful and that he did like me. He would talk to me for a while before he asked for favors. I believed him. Except in reality, he was like every other one and worse. I told myself the reason he ignored me in person was because he was shy and socially awkward, but it was actually because the only interest he had in me was my body, and he knew it would be wrong to speak these words in person. Worthwhile relationships are with people who can communicate outside of their phones.
Wait, why am I writing this? Didn’t you find this blog post through my instagram bio? Kind of ironic, isn’t it? You’re right. That is exactly the reason I started my health and happiness instagram account. I’m sick and tired of people posting things to promote themselves, knowing they’re hurting others in the process. I want my account to be a helpful tool for people. I want to show people it is okay to eat what you want. It is good to enjoy exercise, but not good to force yourself to do it. It’s cool to love your body and yourself. I want to be the thing that makes you smile when your eyes are glued to your phone. I want to maybe even undo the bad thoughts another post just put into your head. I am incredibly careful with the ways in which I use social media now and sometimes I still see things I don’t want to see! My main advice is to
- Wait at least 30-60 minutes after you wake up to start looking at social media.
This way you can get your mind set for the day without any messages or unwelcome things from other people’s lives getting in your head.
- Limit your time on social media.
Notice how much you’re using it and try to find better things to do with your free time. Read a book, take a walk, organize your closet, write in your journal, clean the dishes, take a nap, just do something else!
- Analyze how you feel after you put your phone down.
Often times I feel happy because the instagram community I’m a part of is so kind and I love connecting with them. But sometimes, I will feel guilty because I saw that someone didn’t eat lunch and I’ve already eaten lunch and 3 snacks! If you feel poorly, consider trying to decide what made you feel this way.
- Unfollow, Unsubscribe, Unfriend.
If you’re watching a fitness vlogger and they tell you to do certain things that make you unhappy UNSUBSCRIBE. If you’re following your ex and all she does is post pictures with her new boyfriend, unfollow. If you’re following a famous celebrity and she starts advertising diets that make you question yourself and your lifestyle, unfollow. I try to only follow people who make me feel positive thoughts and I think that has been incredibly helpful!
- Go to bed without your phone
I always go to sleep with my phone in another room (unless I need my alarm, then I put it on Do Not Disturb and leave it on the other side of the room). This way, no one else’s night time issues, drunk messages, or negative comments can get to you until you have your head on straight in the morning. It’s also proven that the light in your screen can keep you awake at night so if more/better sleep isn’t a good enough reason to try this tip out, I don’t know what is.