Negative Effects Of Instagram On Mental Health: 7 Ways Instagram Ruins Lives


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All of us love Instagram. It helps us turn our photos into art, see the world, follow influencers, be cool and get tons of followers ourselves. It makes us feel like a celebrity and an artist. We can freely and openly express ourselves on the platform we lovingly call “Insta”. It is our portal to the world that we access every single day. 

But Instagram ruins lives as well. It is a portal to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Behind those glossy, filter-heavy photos that we scroll through for hours, lies a fake reality that grossly affects our mental health. Not only it make us falsely believe that EVERYONE is PERFECT, except us, it also makes us addicted to the social media platform and ruins our lives. It’s no surprise that Insta is now considered as the worst social media for our mental health.

Yes, Instagram Is OFFICIALLY The WORST social Media App

According to a new report titled the ‘#StatusOfMind’, published by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement (YHM), Instagram is “the worst social media network for mental health.” Although it is related to positive self-identity and self-expression, Insta is strongly linked to high levels of loneliness, depression, anxiety, FOMO (fear of missing out), body image issues, sleep deprivation and bullying. In short, Instagram ruins lives. The report which surveyed around 1,500 individuals between 14-24 years of ages, found that our beloved Insta has the “most negative” effects on users’ mental well-being, while YouTube had the “most positive” impact on the users.

Related: How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health

The globally-used photo-sharing app encourages self-comparison which leads to seriously low self-esteem, poor confidence, and unhappiness. However, with Insta, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter also have a strong negative impact on their users’ mental health. By sharing our personal photos on social media, we make ourselves vulnerable to the opinions of others which leads to unrealistic expectations, crushing disappointments and feelings of being inadequate. Perhaps this is why Instagram has the worst scores for anxiety and body image as our personal photos are put under the spotlight on this app. This is how Instagram ruins lives.

Instagram Affects Young Girls The Worst 

Instagram Ruins Lives

The app makes women and girls believe that they are not physically attractive enough or their body is not good enough. They judge themselves based on the “perfect” photos of so-called “influencers” whose photos are heavily edited and polished with stacks of filters. According to a 2019 study, “girls and younger adolescents” are more likely to experience psychological problems, like anxiety and depression, due to usage of social media apps like Insta. “Depression was the most commonly measured outcome,” adds the study. 

A recent report from Common Sense Media found that teens spend around nine hours on social media every single day and this does not include media usage for homework. The amount of time these young boys and girls spend on apps like Snapchat and Instagram is mindboggling, considering the impact these portals have on them. Granted social media is not purely evil and it can help improve our social connections, being online all the time is sure to have a serious toll on young girls’ mental health. In fact, the more these young people consume social media content, the more prone they become to mental health problems. There is no doubt that Instagram ruins lives.

Related: The 3 Negative Effects Of Social Media On Our Life

Instagram Ruins Lives In More Ways Than You Think

One recent 2021 study analyzed active Instagram users and how their sense of self-worth and social anxiety was associated with use of the app. The study found that their levels of  social anxiety are actually related “to self-worth tied to specific aspects of their Instagram use,” and this even determines how they engage with the platform. The study also found “negative associations” between Insta use & mental health outcomes, “such that increased social media use was correlated more strongly with depressive symptoms and poor self-esteem, particularly among adolescent girls and young women.” 

Another recent study reveals that Instagram content, type of use, intensity of use and characteristics of user’s profile is closely related to body image, social comparison, disordered eating, stress, alcohol and substance use, along with depression and anxiety. Moreover, a sense of belonging, self-presentation and self-esteem are also adversely affected in users, mostly in women.

Related: Does Social Media Increase Teen Depression? This Is What Research Says

And Instagram Knows How Harmful It Is

Meta Platforms, which was formerly known as Facebook, knows that Instagram ruins lives and it is toxic for our mental and emotional health, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Meta, the owner of both Facebook & Instagram, is aware that the photo-sharing app is harmful for teenagers and young adults. In fact, Facebook’s own research has found that Instagram negatively affects body image and mental health, particularly in teenage girls. Revealed by former Facebook data scientist and whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook (now Meta) is believed to focus more on “profits” than the “safety” of it’s users. Facebook’s internal research has shown that the app has a particular adverse effect on teen girls, which have also been established by independent studies mentioned above.

Instagram Ruins Lives

Facebook’s research shows that around 32% of teen female users of Insta reported that the app made their body image issues worse. Choosing profits over public safety and privacy is nothing short of “disastrous”, believes Haugen. However, Meta Platforms has obviously denied these allegations. But does it change the truth? Does it change how you feel about yourself after seeing those “perfect” selfies on the platform and believing that you are lacking something, even when you’re not? For Insta, their users may just be numbers to them but to us, these are our daughters, sisters and friends. These numbers represent you and me! Yes, all of us want to be perfect and attractive. Yes, we want to feel inspired by looking at people we idolize. But when it starts to affect our own self-esteem and mental health and when the platform doesn’t take any preventive steps knowing very well about the damage it is doing, then it veers off into the territory of exploitation.

Yes, Instagram ruins lives, but we are at fault too. We need to be more aware and mindful of our own scrolling habits. But when the platform cares more about profits and less about public safety, then the lines between white, black and gray start to become clearer. We use Instagram to connect with people who inspire us in meaningful ways, not to be exploited for data and money through heavily edited photos of so-called celebrities. This clearly leads to comparisons and distorts how our youth see & describe themselves. It distorts their perspective of self by making them feel unattractive and inadequate. In fact, it can even users’ increase suicide risk, as per Facebook’s leaked report. Around 6% of US teen users and 13% of UK teen users of the app reported having suicidal thoughts after using Instagram. I don’t know about you, but these are some terrifying statistics for an app!

Related: 8 Signs You Need To Stay Away From Social Media

What Darkness Lies Behind Those Glossy Insta Filters?

You must absolutely stop using Instagram. Why? Because Instagram ruins lives. Let’s break it down and get to the crux of it before we decide to open Insta once again. Here’s how Instagram ruins lives and why you need to get off that app immediately –

1. Increases body dissatisfaction

There is strong evidence of a toxic relationship between Internet & social media use and body image issues. The more we use appearance-focused social networking apps like Insta, the more body image concerns we are likely to face. These effects are more pronounced in adolescents and teens. Research shows that when we compare our own physical appearance to the unrealistic beauty standards popularized celebrities and influencers we follow online, we tend to have a stronger drive for thinness and experience increased body dissatisfaction. This eventually leads to the onset of eating disorders. However, these tendencies are observed more in young girls than in boys according to a recent 2021 study. However, another 2020 study suggests that male millennials who follow popular fitness hashtags on Insta experience altered body image perceptions, behavior and lifestyle.

2. Increases risk of eating disorders

Instagram ruins lives by not just affecting our mental health but also our physical health. Studies have found social media use is closely associated with the risk of developing eating disorders. One 2017 study found that Instagram use is linked to orthorexia nervosa, an  eating disorder where a person develops an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Higher Instagram use was associated with a greater tendency towards orthorexia nervosa, with no other social media channel having this effect,” adds the study. Higher use of the app is also associated with increased symptoms. Another 2016 research paper highlights that the  association between social media use and eating concerns is strongly observed in “young adults ages 19 to 32 years.

Related: 8 Signs You Have An Unhealthy Attachment To Social Media

3. Negatively affects mental health

Did you know a study found a whopping 70% rise in depressive symptoms among people using social media? Researchers have observed that platforms like Instagram are not only associated with higher degrees of stress, anxiety and depression, but also leads to lower self-esteem, loneliness and decreased life satisfaction. According to one 2019 study, “the frequency of Instagram use is correlated with depressive symptoms, self-esteem, general and physical appearance anxiety, and body dissatisfaction.” Moreover, exposure to fitness and beauty photos on the app can significantly reduce self-rated attractiveness which is correlated with anxiety, depression & self-esteem. “Excessive Instagram use may contribute to negative psychological outcomes and poor appearance-related self-perception,” concludes the study.

Another recent study on Instagram users aged 19 to 35 found that there is a strong association between symptoms of depression or depressive behavior and use of the photo-sharing app. Further research additionally showed that it can also lead to the development of social anxiety in some users. Need more evidence that Instagram ruins lives?

Instagram Ruins Lives

4. Lowers mood

It seems everything we do on social media platforms like Insta is gradually degrading our overall well-being. another way Instagram ruins lives is by negatively affecting our mood. One 2018 study on taking and posting selfies on social media found that it has adverse psychological effects on young women and can drastically change their mood. Whether posting an “untouched selfie” or an edited one, women who took and posted selfies on such platforms felt “more anxious, less confident, and less physically attractive afterwards” according to the study. “Harmful effects of selfies were found even when participants could retake and retouch their selfies,” adds the study.

5. Ruins relationships

Instagram ruins lives by killing relationships and marriages as well because it makes us run more after followers, influencers and “hearts” than giving time and attention to our partner. Moreover, as we start coping with the stress, anxiety and depression that develop due to social media use, it starts to negatively affect our relationship. It prevents us from being the best partner in our relationships and diverts our focus to things that really don’t matter. 

One 2018 study found that the more time we spend on Insta the more we are likely to experience a negative impact on our “overall emotional wellbeing and decreased quality in relationships.” Moreover, social comparison, depression and frustration associated with social media use can lead to irritation and distraction in interpersonal relationships along with “decreased quality time with their significant other in offline settings.” Increased social media use is also associated with infidelity-related behaviors and lower relationship satisfaction, as per a 2016 study

Related: Social Media and Its Ill Effects On Modern Relationships

6. Leads to self-comparison

Another common yet toxic effect of Instagram use is comparing our lives to the seemingly perfect life of others. Social comparison makes us increasingly vulnerable to the negative mental and emotional health effects of social media use. By taking everything at face value, we measure ourselves based on unrealistic standards. However, we tend to forget that the shiny, falsified photos which intimidate us are heavily manipulated with editing apps and filters. And this leads to intense self-doubts and FOMO (fear of missing out) along with the barrage of negative effects mentioned above. Studies have even found that social comparison can also lead to loneliness among several Insta users.

7. Increases suicide risk 

Excessive instagram use can also lead to self-harm and suicidal tendencies. And this is perhaps the worst way Instagram ruins lives. According to a 2018 study, social media use by teens and young adults is not only related to depression, but also to self-injurious behavior and suicidality. Spending more time online leads to increased psychological distress and increased self-harm behavior and suicidal ideation in vulnerable users found the researchers. The study adds that using Insta can lead to greater “exposure to and engagement in self-harm behavior due to users receiving negative messages promoting self-harm, emulating self-injurious behavior of others, and adopting self-harm practices from shared videos.”

One 2019 study found that about 80% participants have encountered active expressions of suicidal thoughts on Instagram, while 25% of participants had actively expressed suicidal thoughts themselves. However, “Instagram did not take active and effective measures to prevent suicide or possible contagion effects of suicidal ideation,” states the study.

Related: Suicide Is Never The Answer: 6 Things To Know When Ending Life Seems Like The Best Option

Instagram Ruins Lives

How To Stop Instagram From Destroying Your Life

So now you know how toxic Instagram can be for you, your mental health and your relationship. yes, Instagram ruins lives but how do you get out of this unhealthy loop and bring a positive change in your life? Can’t you just quit the app and delete it from your phone? Well, it may be easier said than done. If you have been an avid Insta user till now, chances are you are pretty much addicted to it. You crave the notifications, the “hearts”, the posts and the filters. So what can you do to clean out this mess? Here are a few ways to get your life out of the clutches of “Toxicgram” and focus on rebuilding your mental health –

1. Spend less time online

Limit your screen time by setting daily limits for Insta use and using features like “Digital Wellbeing”. Schedule a specific time for using the app like for 15 minutes in the evening or before dinner. Make sure not to access the app outside your scheduled time regardless of how many notifications you get.

2. Update your app settings

Update your profile privacy settings to restrict offensive content, posts, notifications, people who can DM you etc. You can also update and restrict your advertising preferences and live video notifications.

3. Don’t get manipulated

Manipulative influencers are one of the most common ways Instagram ruins lives. Realize that most “Insta influencers” sell lies. There is a huge difference between what they show online and how they actually live. Ever see those “Instagram vs. Reality” memes? For influencers, you are just a business prospect. Unfollow those influencers (read manipulators). They are no good.

Related: How To Be A Better Person, According To Science

4. Unfollow “aspirational” profiles

Unfollow people and pages that make you doubt your own self-worth regardless of how popular they may be. Unfollow aspirational pages and people whose life always seem to be perfect. Let’s face it, no one travels 365 days. Follow people who help you learn real skills and lessons. You can also use the “Sensitive Content Control” option in app settings to limit upsetting content.

Instagram Ruins Lives

5. Intentionally choose who you follow

Be selective about who you follow. Make sure to follow people and pages that inspire you in a healthy and practical way.

6. Live life offline

Focus more on your life offline. Go to a gym or go for a walk, start socializing with friends in real life, visit a new bar and meet new people… you get the idea. Look away from your phone and start living.

Related: 3 Ways To Live A Better Life

7. Post with purpose

Post photos or selfies that have some meaning to you. Avoid posting vanity photos and focus more on telling stories about your favorite moments through your posts. Use Instagram with a purpose, not just to get more followers. What your purpose will be will depend on you, your interests, passions and skills. Unless you can think of a solid purpose for using the app, it’s better to delete it for the time being.

8. Appreciate what you got

Be happy with the life you have. Pursue your own dreams, not the ones those influencers tell you to follow. Be grateful for what you have and be focused on achieving what you want. Appreciate your partner and value your relationships, your job and your life. You have worked hard to get what you have. Don’t compare your real life with someone else’s fake and falsified life.

Related: 5 Social Media Habits That Are Toxic To Any Relationship

9. Seek professional help

If you are unable to get off Insta and regain control of your life, then talking to a therapist may be necessary. This can be especially true if you are addicted to social media and believe that you are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression due to social media use. Moreover, if you are having suicidal thoughts make sure to talk to a trusted loved one or a therapist or a doctor immediately. Therapy can help you learn healthy coping strategies to overcome the negative effects of Instagram. Studies have found that therapy can help to reduce the average duration of social media usage and lower the risk of social media addictive behaviors in users. 

Live for yourself, not for followers

Instagram Ruins Lives

Instagram ruins lives but only because we allow it to. Instagram is not evil, neither are you. But you do need to be more aware of the habits that affect your mental health negatively and ruin your life. Practice healthy Instagram use habits and incorporate strategies that help you overcome toxic digital behavior. Instead of obsessing over new followers and your Insta feed, obsess over personal development. Do things that make you happy. Pursue your passions. Spend more time with your loved ones.

 If traveling is your passion then do it for yourself, not to post cool photos like your favorite useless influencer. Life is too short and too rich to waste it on filter-heavy photos and “likes”. How you choose to spend your life is on you.

Related: 3 Secrets To Living A Longer, Better And Happier Life


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