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Instagram at uni feels more like a curse than an app

It began to chip away at my self-esteem and happiness

Having recently deleted Instagram in a frenzied state of self-loathing and stress, I found myself forced into the realisation that perhaps it was doing me more harm than good. ‘It’ being the continuous scrolling, scrutinising and like-counting I was ritually taking part in every hour of the day, every day. Sounds familiar I’m sure.

There is no denying that Instagram is a popular app; the number of monthly users reached 1 billion in June 2018, and this number is only increasing. And it’s easy to understand why – knowing the day-to-day actions of the people you follow can be fun and useful, especially when we can see an insight into the lives of fellow university pals with the click of button. But when does the constant exposure to photos, videos and stories on a daily an hourly basis become damaging?

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Mission: Perfect Bikini Photo

I started to consume the app with scrutiny. Zooming in on the ‘good’ bodies with jealousy and zooming in on the ‘bad’ bodies with relief. Stalking and studying celebrities’ bikini photos, red carpet looks and the ‘no makeup’ selfies all of which were horrendously perfect and unachievable. I would examine my account to measure my inferiority in comparison to those whom I had calculated were more beautiful than me.

All of these things made me self-conscious, anxious and stressed out, and eventually I was able to see what I was doing to myself. I had unknowingly curated this high standard for myself – one I would never be able to reach, and one that I believe was slowly developed by my use of Instagram.

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Kendall Jenner in a bikini: an example of what I will no longer let myself see and study on a daily basis.

“I don’t care how many likes I get. I just post for me!” The classic line. But it’s not really true, is it? Maybe it is for some people, but for me the number of likes I would get, and the pace at which I received them after posting, came to represent how much people liked me. This reaction morphed into me obsessively tracking how many likes people gave me for every single post. I was even placing value in the likes of people whom I had met once in a lecture or in the toilets at Crisis. The more I got, the more people liked me. Or so I had led myself to believe.

Another aspect of Instagram that I’m sure it is widely known among the users of today that there is a ‘prime time’ to post a picture (around 7pm to about 9pm), during which you have the best chance of getting the highest like-count possible. Posting in prime time was an absolute must if I was going to be getting any of the validation I was inevitably seeking. On the rare occasion that I posted a photo – God forbid – in the middle of the day, the regret and stress as a result of doing this was waiting to pounce, undeterred by the brief feeling of self-worth that told me it didn’t matter how many likes I got.

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Looking back at the number of likes I had got over the recent months was a habit of mine

Part of my behaviour that I found to be the most disturbing was that I had unwittingly become someone who, for the most part, only took photos for the sole purpose of posting them on Instagram. To show people I was at a great house party, to show people how good I looked at Ocean that week, and so on. This was a revelation that I came across after I deleted the app. On a recent night out, I heard myself say to my friends,“Nah, I can’t be bothered to take photos, it’s not like I’m going to be posting them anywhere anymore!”

How had it got to this point? After realising this about myself, I knew I had made the right decision in deleting Instagram. I should be taking photos to celebrate uni memories so I can look back at them fondly in my old age. I was sad that I had reached this point, and knew it was time to change my mind-set. Deleting Instagram was definitely something that I needed to do to help my mental health, but also something that led to further discoveries about what the app was doing to me.

Of course, there are some benefits to Instagram. I follow some great pages such as @i_weigh, an account founded by Jameela Jamil to celebrate all bodies and all life from anyone who would like to share. It is a very honest, no nonsense page full of positivity. Using the app to follow accounts like this one can be one of the great things about Instagram – you see normal people, their struggles and their achievements, all the while being encouraged to do the same for yourself.

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I would really recommend following either this page, or Jameela Jamil herself – she's empowering and hilarious.

So, after all of this, I began to think about how to use Instagram differently. I love and am interested in interior design, food, fashion, travel, cute puppies and my best friends. That’s what I want to see when scrolling through my Instagram feed. What I will no longer put up with is the damaging, confidence stealing lies that we so often see on social media.