Instagramming our wellbeing away

Instagram is a pretty cool concept. It’s very easy to get sucked into a kind of trance-like scrolling session for extended periods before emerging again into reality.

But there’s also something that feels a little bit ‘unhuman’ about the whole experience. And it’s the same kind of subtle, deep discomfort associated with much of our social media experience.

Although there is some variance in estimates, most anthropological or ethnographical studies suggest that ancient humans evolved in tribes of between 100 and 500 members. Within those tribes, it was very important for us to be self-critical. We needed to make sure we were fitting in. In fact, our survival depended on it. Encoded in our DNA, are powerful negative emotions such as shame and guilt designed to effectively ‘punish’ us for behaving in weird or anti-social or offensive ways in our tribe.

Now, comparing yourself to 150 other humans is probably not too daunting. But if you start comparing yourself to the 2.5 billion other active social media users on the internet, that’s a different story.

Despite the massive growth in our social media use, studies are continuing to highlight very worrying detrimental impacts on wellbeing. Another recent study of Australian women has found that frequency of Instagram use is associated with depressive symptoms, lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and body dissatisfaction.  And in particular, increased exposure to beauty and fitness Instagram images significantly decreased self-rated attractiveness.

I guess it’s hard to feel attractive when we compare ourselves to the often-Photoshopped and filtered ‘stories’ of millions of other humans.

Don’t forget that you are part of a tribe – of real people – who really matter to you – who really care about you – and who don’t care at all how you look.

Close Instagram for a little while. Go reconnect with your tribe.

Published by

David Bott

Hi, I'm David Bott, Associate Director of the Institute of Positive Education in Australia.

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