When I first joined Instagram I wanted to follow anyone cool or famous. I remember going through a popular actor’s follow list and basically just hit follow on anyone she did.
It felt like I was given a cheeky little sneaky peek into their lives and I loved it.
At first, Instagram was made up of slightly blurry photos with a crappy “arty” filter on top. 80% of what we posted on our feeds was selfies and the rest was food. I would get to the end of my feed and try to keep scrolling just in case there was anything I had missed. (when was the last time you got to the end of your feed?)
It was very organic and honest. Litte snaps from someone else’s life that made you feel like you got to walk in their shoes for a moment.
So it wasn’t strange that celebrities and “cool” people were those with most followers. If you are going to have a tiny square window into someones every-day, why not make it a glamorous one?
It was all for a bit of fun. …and then Instagram evolved and changed.
The “cool” people became “influencers” and instead of showing what their lives were like behind-the-scenes. They started selling a lifestyle and getting paid for it. All of a sudden the blurry “real” photos became staged settings. The focus disappeared from food and in-the-moment-selfies to lavish lifestyles, on-trend fashion, luxury travel, and trim bodies.
Whoever had the most glamorous life got the most eyeballs and because of this, they made the most money. A monster was born.
Because of this switch, we went from “I know what Lady GaGa had for breakfast today”, to “If I don’t go on flashy holidays in designer outfits I have failed at life.”
Entertainment became competition.
Queue social media anxiety.
Anytime you feel like you are in direct comparison to someone else and you are not winning, it’s going to make you sad. At times it can inspire you to want to do better. But when you are comparing 100% of your life to someone else’s best 5% it becomes an impossible task to come out on top.
This is when social media went from making the world a smaller place where we all felt a part of a community. To alienating and isolating us as separated entities fighting for attention.
If we discount any biases that could be programmed into the platforms. Social media is from the beginning a pretty neutral place. It is what we make of it. What we feed will grow and what we give attention to will win.
It got pretty bad for a while. We fed all the wrong things and the negative culture of bragging, upmanship, and unhealthy ideals got close to destroying platforms like Instagram. People started coming off it since it didn’t make them feel good anymore.
I personally see it as if we blamed the canvas for the bad painting instead of the artist.
It is, in the end, our own fault that this happened. We created and fed the monster with our follows, likes and comments. We engaged in the wrong things.
I’m not judging anyone because I did the same. I gave in to the competition as an influencer and I followed accounts that made me feel crap. My anxiety levels were always high when I was on Instagram, mainly because I never felt enough. Everyone else was a lot cooler, lived these amazing lives and made all this money.
I felt stuck, boring and left behind.
It took me a long time to figure out that I had done it to myself. I was having anxiety because of who I was choosing to follow. And when I realized it’s always OUR OWN CHOICE what we make of social media. It changed my life.
I decided that I had enough and begun to unfollow at massive speed. As soon as a photo popped up that made me feel in any way anxious, I disengaged.
I hit unfollow on anxiety.
I let hundreds of accounts back out into the universe never to see them again. (Most of them were big mainstream influencers.) Instead, I went out searching for those a bit more similar to me. I found other influencers focusing on feel-good and mindfulness, that instead of making me feel depressed, made me come alive with their posts.
I followed niched tiny accounts with interests I shared and I even got really into some pretty funny meme-accounts that would make me smile for a second. I basically gave my Instagram feed a makeunder. Gone was the perfect photos with no depth and instead I was met by actual interesting and thoughtful things when I logged in.
These days if an account doesn’t entertain, educate or inspire me. It’s not for me.
Instead, I love to follow those with an interesting life, with experience and knowledge that are generous enough to share this in longer well-written captions that truly feed my soul.
Now Instagram and other social media platforms are a positive part of my life instead of a negative one. I go there to be better, learn more, meet interesting people from the whole world and feed my creativity.
Exactly what it was meant to be like from the start. Before I messed it up by following the wrong people and getting stuck in a circle of anxiety and comparison.
Are you ready to take control of your social media? Maybe its time for you too to hit unfollow on anxiety.