Who would have thought that Instagram, the social media platform that showcases some of the most beautiful, delicious-looking photos, can actually be bad for us? Well, according to the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM), it is. After asking 1,500 young adults, ranging from the ages of 14 to 24, to rank the five most popular social media platforms for how they affect their well-being—from a choice of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram—the two U.K-based organizations published the report #StatusofMind to relay their findings. The results? YouTube came out on top, while Instagram finished last.
“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being—both platforms are very image-focused, and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” said chief executive of RSPH Shirley Cramer CBE in a statement. “As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing.”
According to the #StatusofMind video, YouTube gained the most positive reviews because the platform welcomes self-expression, while Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat generally exacerbate anxiety. It probably has something to do with the many, many perfect and filtered selfies, travel shots, #ootds and flatlays posted by Insta-famous influencers. In hopes to help social media users, the RSPH is putting forth a motion to have the platform 1) introduce a pop-up heavy-usage warning on social media, 2) identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems by their posts and 3) highlight when photos of people have been digitally manipulated.
While the latest study does report some interesting (but not surprising) findings, social media is a double-edged sword. Compared to where we were 10 years ago, times are a changin’. Thanks to social media, we’re now able to update and keep in touch with our friends with just the tap of a button. Sure, we may also be curating the perfect lifestyle on our feeds, and that may spark some unnecessary #FOMO and envy from time to time, but we also can’t discount all the times it has inspired us to show off our flaws, advocated for a body-positive movement and made us laugh via hilarious memes and cute pets. And who doesn’t love that?
As a fellow Instagram user, I, too, am responsible for posting only the best parts of my life on social media and have also been a victim of weighing my self-worth against the people I follow. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from being a regular social media user, it’s to know when to take a step back from the virtual world. Understand that everything that gets posted online is through a filtered lens, and take every post with a grain of salt. The nature of sharing our lives on Instagram and Snapchat may not change in the near future, but we can definitely change the way it affects us.