Using social media is pretty straightforward: pose, edit, post. Millions of people around the world are posing, editing, and posting like it’s a competition. At the head of this movement is the almighty influencer. This person has made it their career to pose, edit, post. They present perfect lives and attract millions of followers who scour their profile for inspiration and motivation. The rising popularity and accessibility of social media has given birth to the reality that anyone attractive or talented enough can become an influencer. But social media hasn’t come without costs. Costs which I believe outweigh the benefits of a global digital connection. Teen depression, anxiety and suicide rates have increased dramatically alongside social media use and it’s time to take a hard look at how the creation of influencers has affected these dangerous trends and what you can do to stop being influenced by influencers.
- Recognize it’s not reality
We’re often told not to believe everything we see on the internet. Why would social media be any different? The carefully curated lives presented on social media are not reality. Not only are they not reality, but they are also often unsustainable even for the people living them. Lissette Calveiro was a 26-year-old influencer whose lifestyle caused her to go into $10,000 worth of debt. An Australian influencer, Fiona Melbul, spent around $10,000 on a trip to Disneyland, all to get “the perfect shot.” Followers of influencers are also going into debt as they try to recreate the lifestyles of their favorite Instagram stars. The problem is, companies know that your choices are more affected by your peers than celebrities, so they send their products to Instagram influencers who can now curate aesthetic lifestyles for free when in reality they probably couldn’t afford any of it. The first step to breaking free from the influence of influencers is to recognize that they’re promoting unattainable and unsustainable lifestyles.
- Stop following, start leading
The more time you spend looking at other people’s lives, the less time you’ll spend reaching your own goals. Social media is a huge time trap, and all the time you’re spending looking at what other people are doing and how they’re living their own lives will leave you feeling dissatisfied with your own life. Stop caring so much about the lives strangers are living and start cultivating your own hobbies and interests. Figure out what you want and start working towards it without trying to model your life or personality after influencers. You’ll become more confident in yourself and won’t be as easily influenced by what you see other people doing online.
- Invest in non-digital relationships
Scrolling through social media is a fast track to feeling disconnected and depressed. Having online connections but a lack of deep, face-to-face relationships will leave you feeling unfulfilled. Instead of worrying about the strangers you’re following on Instagram, try to connect with your friends in person. Truth is, many of your online connections probably don’t actually care or think about you that much. Instead of trying to impress those people, focus on building relationships with people who care about you enough to do more than just comment on your posts. Spend more time with your family and people you don’t have to maintain a curated image around to feel truly connected, appreciated and fulfilled.
In a perfect world, I think social media wouldn’t exist. I think that instead of looking up to these so-called influencers, we should find the people in our lives who exhibit the qualities we want to embody and begin being influenced by them. Social media walks the line between a fun app and a dangerous mental health trigger. I know very few people who truly use social media “for themselves,” without falling into the inevitable competition of who can have the most aesthetic feed or who can have the most followers. I’ve been social media-free for almost a year, and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been. Not only do I no longer care about curating the perfect image for my peers to see, but I also couldn’t care less about their perfect image. It’s not a competition anymore, I’m simply living my life, sharing it with the people who care about me most, and making mental highlight reels along the way. I challenge you to do the same. Uninstall Instagram, pick up a new hobby, and live in every moment of your life without stressing about getting the perfect picture or writing captions. The freedom you’ll feel is worth it.