Is Instagram a safe space for us to while away some minutes flicking through photos? Or, has Instagram become our new online space for self-loathing?
Love it or loathe it, Instagram is undeniably popular and with over 700 million users it is a platform that is constantly evolving. It is also a platform that has come under fire recently with digital influencers up in arms over the ever-changing algorithm, goal posts constantly being moved and hashtags becoming a minefield. To hashtag or not to hashtag? Rumours abound of people repeatedly using the same hashtag and being shadow-banned as a result. But why this hysteria for what is just another social media platform driven by likes?
The likes are key. Narcissism? Maybe, but let’s face it no one wants to be the one getting no likes. It smacks of being the unpopular child at school, refused a seat at the popular lunch/Instagram table. Of course, deep down we want likes. We curate our content and those small squares offer snapshots into our life. We are putting ourselves out there, one square at a time, and in return we want just a little acknowledgment, a little love back.
I can’t speak for everyone but I can tell you my feelings on Instagram and how it makes me feel. Instagram is the one space in my life that I can control. My life is full-on unbridled chaos. That’s what happens when you have children, any sense of order goes out of the window. However, on Instagram I can create that perfectly ordered life that I so crave. I am in control and I choose what aspects of my life to show. I have in the past been accused of prettifying my life for Instagram. That’s not how I see it: Instagram is a shop window to my life. I want it looking its best, we don’t need to see the grubby handprints smearing the view.
"Are those squares one step away from depression?"
So many of us curate our Instagram feed so that it is aesthetically pleasing and that is where the accusations of fake have come from. Yes, my Instagram feed might be pretty but look at the photos and read the captions and you will realise that my feed is reflective of me, someone who struggled with walking away from her career. My Instagram feed tells the story of someone who found it difficult to settle on Jersey, but then over time fell in love with the island. Instagram is essentially my love letter to Jersey.
So when you are pouring your heart and soul into those squares then of course you want some likes. We all want to be liked really, don’t we? We are always looking for validation. My children love it when they have been told that they drew a good picture or that they read brilliantly. We never grow out of that need to do well, to receive praise. I work from home and I’m on my own for at least 5 hours a day. I miss the office banter and I miss being told that I am good at my job on a regular basis. My two bosses at 4 and 8 years-old aren’t very good at giving appraisals but if I were to look at the leftovers from last night’s dinner then it would probably suggest that I could do better. This is when Instagram becomes my lifeline. It’s my perfect space and yes those boxes at first glance might seem superficial but when my anxiety is going up a notch then Instagram is my go to safe space.
But is Instagram really my safe space or are those squares one step away from depression? If we look at it logically then Instagram is bonkers. We are sharing our lives and asking for validation from what are essentially strangers. I have nearly 2,000 followers. Not a huge amount granted but I still don’t know every single one of those followers, yet my self-esteem is tied up with how they respond to my photo. Or is it? No, because over time I have realised that those likes really don’t mean anything. Those squares can never show the whole picture.
A couple of likes on a photo will never be better than a hug from my oldest child or an “I love you mummy” from my youngest. No amount of likes can replicate the validation that my family give me. Yes, they might not tell me that I am doing a good job but really they don’t need to. It is important that I remind myself of this - It is so easy to get swept along by Instagram. To find ourselves over analysing our squares. Why didn’t that get more likes? Did I not edit it properly? Was it the colours? Long gone are the days when Instagram was about being instant; perhaps if we went back to that we would all be a lot happier.
It’s time to break out of the Instagram box, we need to stop looking and judging life through a camera lens. We need to live in the now. No amount of likes on Instagram will replace “I love you” from your family. Sometimes we just need to stop instagramming and talk. Social media can unite us worldwide but if we aren’t careful then we could find ourselves one square away from #instapression