So hands up, who else spends a lot of time on Instagram? I know I certainly do. In fact I dread to think how many hours per week I actually spend scrolling down the eternal row of squares.
A while ago those pictures used to be made up of perfectly styled humans, skinny, tanned and constantly on holiday or promoting some kind of Chelsea lifestyle that is incredibly far from my own reality. Constantly scrolling and looking, but probably not for more than 3 seconds per image. I didn’t think much of it, that those 3 seconds didn’t affect me, I was mindlessly thinking it inspired me and that I purely enjoyed the aesthetics of what I was looking at.
Outside of the little squares I kept a mental list of everything I needed, and how I should definitely be working out with some kind of rope system and guilty for not doing it, or reasons for why I needed lots of little rings in rose gold to go on the very end of my fingers (like what the actual hell, surely that is the most impractical place to wear your rings?). I felt like I wasn’t making enough of an effort. My body was under constant scrutiny – by myself of course. I clearly couldn’t keep up with these squares and perhaps I wasn’t good enough either.
The sensation of inadequacy was becoming more and more frequent, and I started wondering why my thoughts had shifted so much. Why was my mind so littered with these feelings, why was I so concerned with how my body looked? Well, every time I checked Instagram (which would be, and still is, often) I would literally bombard myself with adverts (not always that easy to spot in those tiny squares) and images of an extremely unrealistic and unhealthy lifestyle. My feed was full of one type of person; a white, successful, skinny socialite with a disposable income and flawless makeup. I thought I enjoyed the “aesthetic” and that I was being inspired by what I was presented.
I was subjecting myself to all this nonsense, I had chosen the squares, and unknowingly I was allowing it to become normal.
Because the great thing about Instagram is that you can create your own online magazine, to some extent you can choose what you want to see. You decide who you follow and what brands are visible.
So I made a decision, I went through the squares and I unfollowed. I decided it was time to take back control and remove those influences (and influencers) from my life. And I made a decision to allow others into my feed. I wanted squares that could make me think, inform me of something, create a discussion or even provoke me to some extent. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a beautifully styled shelfie and someone who can pull off a fedora. But there are also squares of art, yoga, frustrated parents and mumpreneurs. Swedish feminists (possibly my favourite), body activists and people making the world aware of fatshaming.
Since some of the squares have been replaced I have almost totally abolished those negative thoughts about myself. I don’t feel guilty about what I eat, and I don’t constantly feel like I need to buy stuff. I am seeing all kinds of bodies rather than one type, and I am being inspired by all those who are creating businesses out of nothing rather than those who are being paid for their posts by massive brands on the lookout to take advantage of the average ‘grammer.
It feels great to have realised that I have the power.
And boy do I love Instagram.