You may have noticed that I have been a little less active on Instagram these days….or maybe you didn’t notice (I hope it’s the latter). I’ve taken a few steps back from posting, and ESPECIALLY browsing, on social media over the past few months, and I feel compelled to explain why.
My Instagram aversion started when my workload jumped from typical to insane at the beginning of June. As my free time became more scarce, I started to wonder if looking at pictures of other people’s food was really what I wanted to do. To be honest, I also didn’t think pictures of canned tuna on greens was really what any of my followers wanted to see, and that was what I was eating pretty much every day. But most of all, I was just plain tired. I have always prioritized remaining authentic on my account over attracting followers, and I refused to write upbeat captions about a healthy lifestyle when the truth is that I was hardly taking care of myself.
It escalated throughout the summer as I had conversations with friends about the dangers of social media. I spoke with strong, beautiful, independent young women who were subconsciously convinced that they would be happy if they just looked like Kayla from BBG or ate like some vegan guru they followed. My heart broke every time. Witnessing the impact “healthy” Instagram accounts were having on these amazing women made me feel disenchanted with Instagram in general.
But I reached the height of my disgust with social media when I read over some of my old journals from this past year. Every night, I use the SELF journal to reflect on my day, including things I did well and lessons I learned. When I browsed my journals from the last 12 months, I was shocked by what I saw over and over again:
“Social media clutters my mind.” – October 22, 2016
“Social media is such a waste of energy!” – October 28, 2016
“My mind has been scattered due to too much social media. What a waste of my time.” – January 15, 2017
“Social media is rotting my mind.” – July 3, 2017
I was dumbfounded to see that I learned essentially the same lesson , and yet I continued to return to social media.
Don’t get me wrong, I clearly LOVE Instagram and the community of friends and supporters I have. When I first embarked on a natural healing journey, I found solace in discovering hundreds of other people who also went to bed at 9 pm and couldn’t eat desserts. Over time, Instagram has connected me to some absolutely incredible women – like Meg the RHN and Addicted to Lovely – who lift me up and inspire me. And perhaps most of all, I love that Instagram has given me a way to share what I have learned with others in the hopes of making some small positive impact on their lives as well.
But here’s what I don’t love about Instagram: it messes with your mind. You can only spend so much time staring at pictures of other people’s food before you start to wonder, “Wow, is that all she ate for breakfast?” or “Should I be eating more protein?” or “Maybe I should try fasting…” There are only so many pictures of avocado toast you can see before you get yourself off the couch, go to Whole Foods to buy paleo bread and avocados, and make your OWN avocado toast to show the world…even if you didn’t really want it. When you’re constantly filling your brain with thoughts of others’ food and seemingly perfect lives, it becomes nearly impossible to listen to your own body and feel comfortable with the choices YOU are making for YOU.
And here’s the worst part of it: Instagram is not real life. My feed consists of gorgeous colorful vegetables and green smoothie bowls, but real life includes a lot of boring salads with canned fish on top, dark chocolate and nut butter, and random snacks that aren’t worthy of a picture. I strive to maintain authenticity on my account, but honestly people don’t really want to see pictures of subpar snacks and I don’t really want to take a picture of every single thing I eat. Instagram only tells a small part of the whole story. I have become acutely aware of this reality over the past few years, and until recently I assumed that everyone else came to realize it too.
But I now understand that the majority of my friends do not internalize that social media is full of lies. Beautiful, brilliant, seemingly confident women question how much they eat because someone on Instagram only eats two eggs for breakfast – but they have no idea that the Instagram sensation got hungry again an hour later. Radiant women are convinced they should lose ten pounds to be “healthier” – but they don’t realize that most of the tiny, “fit” Instagram sensations they follow are far from truly healthy.
Instagram does not tell you if someone is always hungry or isn’t menstruating due to a lack of nourishment. #strongnotskinny
Instagram doesn’t tell you if someone ate dessert after that light salad they posted or went out for beers with their friends but didn’t take a picture. #cleaneating
Instagram doesn’t tell you if someone works out so hard they get sick or skips spending time with friends and family to go to the gym every day #fitspo.
Instagram tells a story that someone creates, crafts to reach an audience or speak to a certain population, not the real story of someone’s life.
I worry that Instagram has become a breeding ground for insecurity and self-doubt. I fear that social media makes men and women question who they are or what makes them feel good. I am afraid that even the most innocent of Instagram posts might lead someone to believe that they want someone else’s life, when they really have no idea what that person’s life is like.
Here is my hope instead: I hope you find people on Instagram who inspire you, who bring joy to your life and help you learn. I hope you use Instagram to find delicious recipes and connect with friends you might never have otherwise. I hope you feel happier and uplifted after scrolling through your feed. And most importantly, I hope you always remember that no one on social media should ever make you feel inadequate.