Instagram vs. reality: how pressing unfollow can actually help us fall in love with Instagram all over again

Instagram. With around 1 billion active users (Sprout Social, 2020), the platform is one of the most used forms of social media. During a time in which we face a worldwide pandemic, whilst we are separated physically, social media has kept us connected: or has it?

For some, platforms such as Instagram have become toxic gateways for comparison, causing us to fall into a downwards spiral of self-sabotaging. With 16-24 year olds spending a median of 3 hours every day on a number of social media apps (Review 42, 2020), it’s no wonder that the online world can have an effect on our mental health, and it seems that with the added pressures of social distancing meaning that we rely on such apps for communication, our mental healths have been put at stake even more.

Improving Access for Psychological Therapies (IAPT), a service run by NHS England to offer approved therapies for people with anxiety and depression, recently reported that in May this year, there were 78,544 referrals to talking therapies, compared to April’s figures of 57,814. Whilst social media may not be the sole catalyst for these figures, it’s constant use throughout this pandemic and beyond could certainly make it a contributing factor.

I certainly hold my hands up and can admit that I have fallen down the Instagram rabbit hole many times and have often caught myself comparing my own life with the curated, filtered versions of others. Yet recently, I have begun to reflect on what type of content makes me feel good, and in turn click the unfollow button on the content that leads to comparison. What may have inspired me two years ago, may no longer do just that.

I now choose to follow activists over influencers, the ‘reality’ over the ‘filtered’. I want my feed to become a place where I feel inspired, rather than a failure. In doing so, this has made me fall in love with the social media platform all over again.

Below, I have selected a few of my favourite Instagram accounts who I follow for inspiration and make me feel good, as well as contributions from my fellow friends and followers, if you are looking for new accounts to improve your feeds!

1.Rianne Meijer (@rianne.meijer)

Perhaps one of my favourite accounts to follow, Amsterdam’s Rianne Meijer has become an advocate of the ‘Insta vs. Reality’ post. Both hilarious and authentic, her posts are a true testament that not everything you see on Instagram is real.

2.Mik Zazon (@mikzazon)

“Mik Zazon is great for body positivity and mental health. I love her posts xo” – @lanniepaigeee

3.Niamh Wimperis (@wimperisembroidery)

“@wimperisembroidery is a very important account to me. Niamh is honest about her art, her politics and her chronic illness, and embroidery is such a soothing and beautiful thing to have in your feed”- @teapotandprint

4.Sophie Tea (@sophieteaart)

If you aren’t following the talented Sophie already, then I seriously suggest you should. Based in Sydney and London, Sophie’s colourful art currently focuses on nudes, celebrating the variations of the female form wonderfully! She’s also launched a shop in Carnaby Street in London, which I definitely want to check out!

5.The Insecure Girls’ Club (@theinsecuregirlsclub)

Founded by the amazing Olivia Purvis (who I also suggest you follow, @livpurvis), the Insecure Girls’ Club has become a corner of the platform, for women to become empowered, connect and tackle their insecurities, from self-doubts to friendships. This account is a breath of fresh air, whilst also being informative, and in February, Purvis even launched the Insecure Girl’s Handbook, if you want to have a nosey through that!

I hope this post has left you feeling inspired and perhaps has even allowed you to reflect on the type of content you see on your own Instagram feeds. Please remember (and I will try to as well!) that Instagram is a curation not reality, and that it’s always okay to press unfollow on the accounts that no longer inspire you. In fact, sometimes it’s a tonic and a blessing on our mental health, to step away from social media altogether.

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