7. So Is In­sta­gram Sab­o­tag­ing Our Self-esteem?

Look (UK) - - COVER STORY - words: Han­nah-banks walker @Hbankswalker

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?

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