I got Facebook when I started grade 7. I remember starting off posting silly things about my day not realizing the number of people that would be seeing my posts. I would message insane amounts of people. I would text them all saying “Hey.” When they wouldn’t respond, I would message them the next day, and the day after that. I don’t remember feeling any shame when I would continuously bother these people. Recently I thought about if I could still pester people. No. I couldn’t continuously message someone saying “Hey” every day until they answered. On Facebook, I also didn’t care about the number of likes I got. I just did whatever I wanted and had fun.
I then moved to Instagram. There, I was following all of my friends, and my favourite artists. My self-worth started to be determined by the number of likes my pictures got. I would post a selfie waiting for 100 likes, like the pretty girl in my dance class and was disappointed by the 10 likes my photo received. I thought that the smaller number of likes meant that I was uglier, which made me so sad. I was 13, and I thought I was ugly because I wasn’t getting any likes on Instagram.
I would look at people’s accounts and compare their number of followers to mine. I would compare the number of likes on each photo to mine. I would tell myself that since they had more followers they had more friends and therefore I was a loner in comparison.
I was 13, looking at photos that people posted and I just felt horrible. I kept scrolling through these apps which made me feel worse. I thought that if I kept looking I would magically find a way to get prettier and I would find more friends. I would strive to be like these girls that I was comparing myself to every day.
I would buy my clothes from the same stores and wear outfits in the same way even though my body was completely different. Most girls would wear crop tops and leggings, and most of them still hadn’t started going through puberty. In comparison to them, I felt fat. I desperately wanted to be like them so I started hating my body. I would look in the mirror and desperately wish that someone different was looking back. Instead of owning my body and who I was by buying awesome clothes that fit my body better, I would put on these clothes and feel self-conscious. I would try to take pictures from the same angles, trying to look like them. I would then look at the picture and think about how I wished I looked different.
Once you start comparing yourself to other people it’s so hard to stop especially when it is based on how you look. It is hard to stop comparing yourself because you look at yourself every day. Every day you wake up and look in the mirror. If you put on makeup you look at yourself in the mirror. When you put on clothes you look in the mirror. When you go on snap chat you look at yourself on the camera of your phone. For me, it was so hard because I wanted to change things that I couldn’t change. I wanted a different face, different hair, different boobs, and legs. I wanted a different me.
This constant comparison was extremely harmful to my mental health. For at least two-three hours of every day, I was on social media. I was scrolling through pictures of people I wanted to be. I would stalk them, then I would look and their bodies and then look at mine. I would see how different I was and it caused a lot of self-hatred.
For a long time, these negative thoughts would circle in my head. My mental illness fed off of the feelings of worthlessness and self-hate. My grand solution to stop these horrible thoughts about myself was to post pictures to get validation. I would post pictures of myself after unhealthy weight loss and wait for people to tell me how good I looked. I would check every minute to see how many likes I had gotten, and I would read the comments. In the end, it didn’t matter who commented that I was beautiful because I didn’t see it in myself.
So this has me thinking: I know people have a love-hate relationship with social media. I know I am not the only one who’s self-image is harmed by social media. If so many others are feeling this way about themselves then why do we still use social media and how do we change this?
Honestly, I have no idea how we stop the dark thoughts that start up when we compare ourselves. But maybe there are some skills we can learn to change how we see ourselves, which will change how we see ourselves despite others.
Social media makes us so narcissistic and egocentric All we do is take pictures of ourselves and try to look good in them. I do this all the time. Sometimes I’ll go on snap chat and take pictures to look good in them even if it’s for my friends. Or if I go out to a party or even to hang out with a group of friends I’ll try to look my best because there could be pictures taken and they might go up on Instagram.
You may be sitting here, shaking your head saying “Nope, I don’t do this.”
Then riddle me this. Why are you posting pictures of yourself at all? Is it really because you feel good about yourself and that’s it? Sorry but I don’t buy it. Unless you are a body positivity GOD and are showing the world how it’s normal to love yourself regardless of your size, I don’t believe you are posting for positive purposes. I believe that deep down people post to show off how much better their life is. I believe that people are posting pictures of their bodies or selfies as a means for validation and comparison.
I’m going to admit that I do this. I will also acknowledge that not all social media posts are inherently egoistic, but I think a lot of it is.
Bringing it all back to mental health: How are we supposed to better our mental health when all we do is focus on what we look like?
If you think about it looks are only actually important for mating and even then, many factors contribute to who we chose as our mate. But otherwise, how we look shouldn’t matter. When social media makes us look on the surface of ourselves and others we stop seeing the really important stuff, such as our values and who we are.
It also hurts our mental health because we aren’t focused on what we have at this moment. We are just seeing what we want and not what we have. We also aren’t focused on the many amazing things our body does like breathing, thinking and keeping us warm.
All of this being said, I am not about to delete all of my accounts on social media, because there are many positive things that it does bring such as communication. This post pretty sums up how my mental health has been negatively affected by social media, and why it has that effect on me. This post is also something to think about.
Today, my loud mind tells me that I am ugly in comparison to many other people who I follow on Instagram.
What do I have to say to that?
All that is on the outside does not matter as much as what is on the inside. I am still kind and intelligent.
How will you challenge your loud mind today?