7. So Is Instagram Sabotaging Our Self-esteem?
With more emphasis than ever put on the amount of likes, comments and followers we’re racking up on a daily basis, many studies have shown that there’s a strong link between social media use and mental health. Are you more affected than you think? What happens when your phone lights up with a notification? Does your heart pound that bit faster as you open Instagram to see who approves of your latest outfit pic? Does your stomach flip as you watch the comments pouring in on your latest Facebook post? Whether or not your response is physical, there’s a strong chance social media is affecting you. And you’re not alone.
Given that there are currently about 1.8 billion users on Facebook – that’s a quarter of the entire world’s population – it’s hardly surprising that this digital landscape has become an inescapable part of our everyday lives. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have only amplified this, providing instant access to our friends, family and even people we don’t know, like celebrities and ‘influencers’. While this can provide a feeling of community, for many there’s also a darker side, with many reports conducted in the past couple of years finding more and more links between depression and social media. These studies have produced quite consistent results: heavy use of social media – in all its forms – is associated with poorer mental health. Ever scrolled through post after post only to find yourself feeling low?
Samantha, 27, would agree. ‘If I’ve used Instagram a lot, I find myself feeling a bit off. Sometimes I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I guess it’s that feeling of not being good enough when I see all these other people with perfect lives. I know it’s not necessarily real, but that doesn’t stop me feeling rubbish.’ Indeed, a study by the Mental Health Foundation recently showed that those inevitable feelings of comparison that arise can cause low selfesteem and, in more extreme cases, can lead to body dysmorphia. Another study of young people in Michigan showed that regular Facebook use worsens ‘how people feel momentto-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives’. With social media on the rise in all age groups, it’s clear we’re not about to ditch our Insta feeds any time soon. As it’s such an inextricable part of our lives, perhaps we need to be vigilant and learn to recognise the side effects as they happen. After all, those likes might be nice, but what do they really cost us?