It’s not news that social media can have a negative impact on mental health – particularly for young people – but recent studies have found that Instagram rates as the worst above other platforms. The sheer amount of content, the ability to manipulate images and portray unattainable, unrealistic lifestyles and the constant barrage of the ‘latest’ drink, dress, holiday destination – can make even the most confident users feel inadequate and disappointed that their lives aren’t quite as fabulous as the influencers/friends they follow.
When my daughter was younger and at ‘peak’ social media, I often felt she was slightly disappointed in her birthday present/holiday destination/dinner as someone somewhere was always doing or eating something more fabulous. The day she asked if we could go to Bora Bora on holiday, I realised we might have a problem! She had no idea where it was, but had seen the Karadashians post endless pictures of blue seas and wooden houses on stilts – and somehow our caravan in Suffolk didn’t quite cut it!
Luckily she has (almost) grown out of her Kardashian obsession – but the niggling thought that everyone else is having a more amazing life continues. And I can see how. Lying on my sofa in a pair of track suit pants scrolling though Instagram on a sunny Saturday evening, even a 56 year old woman can feel like she’s missing out – as the rest of the (virtual) world drinks cocktails on a plant filled roof top somewhere in east London.
Instagram can however also be fabulously life affirming and enable one to connect with like-minded people, find stuff out about brands, new destinations, your community etc etc and if you don’t like it, its entirely possible to not be on it at all. But personally, despite occasionally feeling a little inadequate, I find it fun and informative and of all the social media platforms, the most entertaining. But and here’s the but – I am not desperately insecure, don’t have young children and I am not an influencer – and these are the people I worry for.
Doctor Linda Papadopoulos believes that a rise in eating disorders and mental illness among millennials is partly linked to the time they spend analysing themselves on social media and treating themselves as a product. But it seems that this isn’t just the reserve of millennials, as I see an increasing rise in older women seeking gratification and assurance through their social media feeds, with constant posting of selfies and images of their ‘perfect’ lives. They may be falling apart emotionally and not have eaten properly for weeks, but their Instagram feeds are a constant stream of ‘look at me I’m 50 and fabulous’ and ‘take a peek at my perfect life.’
Fantasy, fiction or simply misguided, is Instagram and the power of ‘likes’ feeding their insecurities or helping them to feel good about themselves?
Also some of the most popular younger influencers seem to leave no stone unturned when it comes to putting themselves out there as a brand. Their homes, partners, babies and children – as well as themselves of course – are open for business, when it comes to brand endorsement, paid partnerships, free holidays, product placement and endless selfies wearing their 25th ‘favourite outfit of the day’ #ootd.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand this is the new way to advertise/market/influence and good luck to the (usually young) women who have built brands on the back of their looks and lifestyles. Even as a middle-aged woman I can be easily persuaded to buy a dress or an accessory after seeing it on a fabulous 20 something ‘it girl’ on Instagram – and if they are transparent about their relationship with the brand they are promoting, what’s the problem – as long as they don’t move too far away from their genuine tone of voice and aesthetic.
But what I do worry about is the level of intimacy involved in selling an entire lifestyle – and how this will make them feel in the future. When I look back at key phases in my life – getting married /giving birth/breast feeding/buying a flat etc – I’m not sure how I’d feel now if I had shared every special moment with 22m plus followers.
And I’m pretty sure if I had Insta-storied my children’s first steps/potty training/cute sayings and hundreds of pictures of them looking happy/sad/angry/bored of having the camera pointed in their face yet again – they wouldn’t thank me for it now. As it was their childhood that I was using to use as a way to make money and gain followers and somehow that wouldn’t feel ok.
But perhaps sharing those moments of hilarity, joy and sadness helps other women/parents realise they are not the only ones that are finding life hard, and maybe being more honest and open provides support and helps build online communities. After all our middle-aged mum posts are among the most read on our blog – so perhaps I too, am guilty of over sharing the details of my life, in the name of content.
And at the end of the day I simply cant get enough of Eva Chen’s/Father of Daughters/Mother of Daughters etc etc ongoing Insta stories and love to see images of Pandoras Sykes baby and Charlotte from Betty ‘s latest purchases – so who am I to judge!
Is this just the new world order where everyone and their children is a brand – or is it voyeurism/narcissism at its absolute worst?
What do you think?