Opinions, Column

Saving Instagram, One Swipe at a Time

You’ve probably read a dozen articles like this before: “Instagram linked to depression,” “Social media leads to decline in self-esteem,” “Snapchat crushes your soul”—each and every one being more dire than the last.

And they usually end with “DELETE SOCIAL MEDIA NOW!”

What they fail to recognize is how unrealistic those expectations are, especially as a college student. College students use social media to fill those awkward gaps of time of waiting in line for food, scrolling before the start of class, even in the pauses in conversations with your friends. It’s just how it is—and that’s not even mentioning the social part. There’s no deleting Instagram when you constantly hear the words “Like my recent!” or “Check out my latest post!” or “I just tagged you in my story!”

It’s hard to go on without it—deleting Instagram would mean leaving that world behind and dealing with not being in the know. And as a college student, it’s expected of you to be just that.

Yet all these intimidating social media articles fail to acknowledge this. They understand that social media is becoming an integral part of our lives and take a doomsday approach, but never really talk about how we can flip the narrative without deleting the app altogether. 

So how can this be changed in a less radical way?

Well, the answer lies in how emotions are tied to our Instagram feeds. Every time you check the app, you’ll either leave feeling relatively neutral or you’ll leave feeling worse than before. You’ll see friends living their best lives at their colleges or studying abroad in some faraway place that you’ve always wanted to visit. Or you’ll see some influencer’s post that makes your confidence falter, that triggers a part of your brain that says, “Why can’t I be like that?” which leads to a spiral of other insecurities. The point is that Instagram feeds bring all these feelings and thoughts front and center, provoking a response that carries on and affects the rest of your day. But if you control the feed, these emotions can be changed.

Now, I’m not talking about unfollowing all the accounts that cause these negative emotions—because that would be just as unrealistic as deleting the app. Instead, I’m talking about creating a separate account. One dedicated entirely to you. This means no followers. No system of likes. Just you and your account catered toward your mental health. An Instagram that works for you rather than against you.

This can look different for everyone—or it could be as simple as posting things that make you happy. It could be a picture of that early morning iced coffee, the way the clouds drift in the sky, or even how picturesque Gasson looks on that day. It’s all about finding things that make you feel good and creating your account based on that happiness. I feel as though it programs my brain to find gratitude, uplifts mental health, and it undeniably provides a memoir to look back on as the days pass by. And the best part is there are no likes or judgey followers, meaning you don’t have to deal with the normal self-doubts that come with your main account. There’s only the freeing sense that this is made for your happiness and your happiness only. 

But if you’re not into this sort of thing, that’s fine, too. There are other ways to make your other account work for you. Whether it’s following accounts that inspire or motivate you, or simply only liking funny cat videos, you’re still taking that step to making your feed more positive. There are no posts to evoke jealousy or FOMO or any of those negative feelings. And even if it is just mindless scrolling, you don’t have to worry about encountering that one post that bugs you for the rest of the day. When you have control over the algorithm, you have control over what enters your psyche and what emotions arise from it. It’s about eliminating those negative factors associated with social media use. 

Now you may ask yourself, “How does this solve the social part?” You’re making an account separate from that sphere but still find yourself gravitating toward your main one. The truth is there is no eliminating that account altogether, so in the end, it’s all about finding balance between the two, preferably one where you prioritize the one made for you rather than against you. So whether you’re using Instagram waiting in line for food, scrolling before the start of class, or even in the pauses in conversations with your friends, checking that account created for your mental health could make all the difference for your day. It’s one step closer to a better you. 

October 16, 2022