I have at least four different social media apps on my phone at any given time. TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, it’s all pretty standard for our generation. Our self-image, even our brain chemistry, is permanently shaped by it. This isn’t news. It’s been repeated over and over. The dangers of social media, constant comparison chipping away at us. These airbrushed split seconds of perfection continue to shape the standards we hold ourselves to.
Who is the first person that pops up in your Instagram search bar? When I was a teenager, it was probably one of Love Island’s latest bombshells, maybe one of the Kardashian’s, or someone equally unattainable. I continuously scrolled through the many smooth faces, toned bodies and generally perfect lives of which I could never hope to compare. That’s the nature of social media, so we are told.
It made me feel bad, yes, but worse, it made me mean. Spiteful little consolations I would tell myself to make up for my perceived inadequacies, the way clothes looked, the ability to blend makeup into the neck, the obviousness of photoshopping. I searched through the perfections for any possible flaw. At its worst, social media doesn’t just lead to toxic thinking about yourself but about everything and everyone.
Is that really it, though? Social media is bad and toxic. It will make you hate yourself. The only way to be happy and confident is to throw your smart phone in the sea. Invest in a Blokia now to achieve inner peace. I don’t know about you, but I was looking for something a bit less drastic.
The good news is, in my humble opinion, there are other ways. If I have learned anything from my years of social media use, and hopefully I have, it’s that I am in control of my feed, not the other way around.
I think I was 17 the first time I purged my following list and started to make use of the “I am not interested in this” button. Anyone whose posts made me feel worse about myself had to go. Nothing personal, no bad feelings, just taking space away from the toxic, judgmental little doom scroller that lives in my brain. Celebrities, influencers, brands, even people that I knew, they were all on the chopping block. That was step one.
Step two took a bit more time. It meant filling my feed with people who genuinely made me feel good. Try to find creators who are bringing a bit more honesty and compassion to the platforms that brought you beauty filters and diet tea ads. People of all shapes, sizes and colours are bringing little bits of brightness to their corners of the internet. A younger me might have called them cringe, and maybe they are, but as turns out there are worse things to be.
Social media has done plenty of damage in its short life, but it’s also not going anywhere fast. I think it’s easy to call these platforms toxic, to say they’re purely bad and if we all left them tomorrow, the world would be a better place. The reality is that the impact of social media on our self-image is as much about how we use it as anything else. I still find myself caught in an endless scroll, but these days the faces, bodies and lives I surround myself with tend to lift me up rather than bring me down.