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I got off social media -- and my mental health improved

As told to HOPE by Eve, a 28-year-old writer.. Names have been changed for privacy.

 

I didn’t download Instagram until about two years ago, and when I first got it, it was like, “Really? What is all the fuss about? How are people addicted to this?” To me, it was just a lot of pointless photographs of people doing things I found either ridiculous or completely unattainable, so basically, unbelievable. It was beautiful girls with beautiful bodies and presumably beautiful boyfriends taking their beautiful photos in beautiful locales, and it seemed just extraordinarily weird and fake.


Then I started following some women I really enjoyed, because they seemed authentic and down-to-earth – they didn’t just take pictures of food, they actually shared the recipes and walked me through how to make them. They showed off basic tutorials for how to put on foundation and admitted when they didn’t know how to wield a makeup brush, kind of like me.  They were quirky and funny and they felt like girls I’d hang out with in real life.


I’m not sure when it started, but it seemed like suddenly, I would see a very faded #ad written in the corners of their stories, or they were pitching things I never would have thought they’d use. This one girl started talking about a waist trainer that makes you sweat, but you had to buy a cream to make the waist trainer work – this was the same girl who said just months ago that she had a naturally quick metabolism and had actually gone to a doctor to help her gain weight. Now she’s talking about losing weight? But what did I do? I felt like I was friends with this girl, and I trusted what she said, and I didn’t realize it, but I wanted what she had. All of it.


In fact, if I was following 20 girls religiously on Instagram, I wanted everything they had. All of them, all of it. If someone promoted a vitamin, I jumped right on their link and bought a three-month supply. If someone was trying on a pair of sneakers, I bought them before they sold out. If someone was talking about an acrylic calendar, suddenly I needed one.


I had fallen prey to this Instagram life, and I didn’t even realize it.


It didn’t stop there, either. It wasn’t just the material things. When the girls got lash lifts and extensions done, I suddenly noticed my lashes were stick straight and needed help, more than mascara could do. I got extensions when a lot of the girls I followed all ended up with this lush, flowing, perfect hair. I ordered bags, started scrolling through travel sites they liked, and really began to judge my closet and eventually, my own body and face and everything I owned, everything that was me.


It's depressing to feel like you’re not pretty enough. It’s painful to look at all these things these girls have – these massive properties with picture perfect bedrooms and home offices – and then look around your own world and go, “Oh, I don’t have that, or that, or that. I’ll never get that.” It kills me that I have a college degree, a decent paying job, and yet I don’t have a $2 million house in a gated neighborhood with a designer dog and a boyfriend who follows me around with a camera all day long.


I think there’s so much social media could be good for. My best friend is in Vienna right now and it’s great to be able to chat with her on Telegram and feel like she’s right here. But social should come with a huge warning sign that even if you think you’re a strong person, like me, it could suck you in if you’re not careful. If you’re not aware that what you’re looking at really is a manicured highlight reel, you could start to believe that’s reality and you’re not part of it. You can stop being grateful for what you have because of the envy you get around people you’ll never know.


I deleted social media, and I feel like I can breathe again. It sounds dramatic, but I honestly think this is very typical, especially for girls. So my advice? If you’re feeling anxious or jealous or just less than the people you’re scrolling through, hit the delete button on that app.

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