According to Instagram, life is beautiful. We see people with toned bodies and sun-kissed tans hiking lush valleys, jumping into crystal-clear pools of water, and drinking poolside cocktails at sunset. Sure, it seems harmless to follow our friends and celebrities on social media, but studies show that overusing these apps can affect our health and happiness.
In 2017, the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University conducted a survey of 350 American and Australian women ages 18–25. They found that browsing Instagram for as little as 30 minutes a day can lead women to negatively obsess about their weight and appearance. And the more that the women looked at fitness-inspiration images or compared themselves to fit celebrities, the less satisfied they felt about their own bodies.
No one’s perfect
It’s natural to compare ourselves to others, but social media makes it easier than ever before. Steven Nagasaka of Hookupu Counseling Services says that social media has changed many aspects of social interaction, especially in today’s younger generation. A possible contributing factor to loneliness and depression is the feeling that everyone else is living an ideal life. Then, we feel different, even bad about ourselves because our life isn’t perfect. But the reality is that no one has a perfect life. “Everyone has problems,” says Nagasaka. “They just aren’t advertised on Facebook.”
FOMO—Is it real?
FOMO—or the fear of missing out—is defined as apprehension that others are having a rewarding experience without you. While FOMO isn’t necessarily a new concept—new parents experience it when returning to work and young children experience it when they’re forced to go to bed before their older siblings—the modern definition of this phenomenon is usually characterized by a desire to stay continually connected.
According to Leon James, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, “It’s normal for people to become anxious or distracted when they’re cut off from their usual intense contact with digital services.” He points to distracted drivers or even pedestrians who are constantly consulting their mobile devices and aren’t aware of what’s going on around them. The good news is that you can change this.
You have the power
The next time you’re looking at social media and you start comparing yourself to others, stop! Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are meant to connect you with friends and family and to inspire you, not to breed unhappiness or fuel insecurities. Instead, limit your time on social media and focus on the good things in your life. Also, when you turn envy into action, you’ll be more productive and have more time to live life and less time to scroll through it on Instagram.
The flip side
It’s natural for people to focus on the negative. But believe it or not, it can be positive for individuals and for the community to be connected all the time, says James. “People benefit by keeping in touch on a constant basis with the lives of those they care about and think about.”
James also points out the benefits to our state. While Hawai‘i may have been considered isolated in the past because of our geographical location, the Internet and social media have made us a hub of technology in areas such as astronomy, medicine, social movements, community integration, and learning. It’s a bright spot in a connected world.