A Fashion Blog By Gemma Talbot

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Is Social Media Seriously Harming Our Mental Health?

This definitely feels like a bitter sweet post to write. Mainly due to the fact that my job as an influencer (I still hate this term guys) relies so heavily on social media. Instagram being the main platform in question which I will say I have a complicated relationship with. I am so grateful that the platform exists and as such gives me the opportunity to do what I do full time and grow my business. Instagram allows me to stay connected with other people that under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t be able to and also gives other people all over the world the chance to follow me, thus widening my reach. However, one thing I really struggle with is the perfectly filtered Instagram images we see of someone’s perceived happiness is not how we often experience it in real life.  Case in point, have you ever researched a place on Instagram and found yourself there thinking “this is not what it looked like on Instagram”. I know I have and has also led to the term ‘Instagram vs Reality’ to be thrown around more loosely. 

Do I think social media is seriously harming our mental health? Definitely. It seems that we have become so reliant on social media and it has been reported that the average Brit checks their phone as much as 28 times a day! The constant comparison to strangers profiles you stumble across leaves you feeling inadequate, ugly and quite frankly not good enough. More often than not, this can lead you to feel unhappy and isolated with your own life. 

Once upon a time we used to compare ourselves to our peers and now you can compare yourself to anyone you are following or for as long as you can keep scrolling on the gram. It doesn’t stop there either. You accidently tap the explore button and are hit with bronzed, toned girls in a bikini (if you can call it that) on a day when you are struggling with your own body image or about to put a biscuit in your mouth. Whilst I think all social media is having a negative effect on our mental health, I am mainly targeting Instagram here as it is a very visual platform. You can analyse, judge and draw your own conclusions in a number of seconds even if they are not the right ones. 

I think the comparison to others is a really good place to start. Everyone does it, myself included. I am well aware that more often than not people portray a picture of the life they lead which is a far cry from reality. Instagram vs reality. However, in these few seconds of analysing a perfectly filtered photo, this is not something that springs to mind and often leaves you with low self esteem. Whilst I really try my hardest not to compare myself to others because I know it makes me feel crap, sometimes I just can’t help it. As an influencer, it can be really hard to deal with sometimes. At best, it is an over saturated industry and at the end of the day we are all trying to make a living and pay our bills. Brands often have a limited budget to work with influencers so need to be selective and tactical with the money they do have. There have been cases and please don’t judge me for saying this but I’ve thought ‘why did she get that campaign and not me’. Obviously I am so happy for all the influencers I can see succeed in a tough industry but it does sometimes leave you feeling ‘they think she is better than me’ especially when you have pretty much the exact following. It’s not like you’re given a real life interview or casting, you are purely judged on the photos you put up and potentially the stories which may only reflect a mere 10% of your actual personality. Like I said, I have definitely tried to shake this mentality as I know it’s not good but I’m trying to paint a picture for you to help you understand from my point of view. 

I think the best advice I could give here is don’t play the comparison game and only follow accounts that make you smile or have a positive impact on your day somehow. Like why are you following accounts that make you feel down? If you need to go on an unfollowing spree, do it. It’s your Instagram and you are in control of your own happiness. I know in the past I have felt guilty for unfollowing someone but do they even care? No. They don’t even know me, so I really shouldn’t feel so bad. 

Not only has social media been proven to cause unhappiness but the main cause for concern is the significant rise in both depression and anxiety. There are many girls I know both friends and bloggers who suffer from anxiety which I believe is intensified by social media. From the points I have already spoken about above, how could it not?!

Did you know that In England alone, women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than men?! Seeing as blogging is a female dominant industry this makes total sense. Not to mention, girls follow girls in the fashion industry as well as public figures where constant comparison is going to be made. Better bodies, better hair, better skin….the list of comparison goes on. I’ve heard it countless times from my own friends that they are quitting social media or that they rarely use it anymore because it makes them feel more anxious and unhappy. 

Ways social media makes me feel anxious? The fact that I rely on Instagram so heavily as a tool to grow my business is really quite scary and this in itself makes me feel anxious. The constant thought of what if Instagram just disappeared overnight, would I be out of a job? Technically no as I have a blog and YouTube channel but I’ll be completely honest in saying that 80% of my income comes through Instagram and brand collaborations. How scary is that! Instagram gives me a higher reach to promote my other platforms such as this post you are reading today and my weekly YouTube videos to name just a few, which otherwise I could not do. 

Now there’s the part regarding paid brand collaborations. What many of you might not know is that when I sign a contract with a brand one of the clauses is that I need to submit my insights once the post has been live for 24 hours. This will be a screenshot of my story views and how many people have swiped up to the link provided to me by the brand. Secondly, will be the main feed post itself. The brands want to see the overall engagement; how many likes it got, how many saves, shares and comments. As of late some of my posts haven’t been performing how I would like and expect them to and this in turn has been affecting my overall engagement. So if I am submitting my insights to a brand and I know they aren’t what they should be, it sort of feels like handing in an assignment you know you left until the last minute which you didn’t give your all to. It’s like handing in C standard work knowing you should be aiming for an A. That’s the best way I can describe it. How does it make me feel? That the brand in question are there like oh dear, we didn’t get the return we expected or won’t be working with her again. There’s definitely an enormous pressure to deliver when a brand is paying you and nobody likes to feel like they are doing a bad job. I suppose you could say it does make me anxious but most of these moderators are completely out of my control and shouldn’t determine my success. So if you’re a bit of a perfectionist, this will send you into frenzy as you have zero control. Your post could either bomb or go viral. It’s completely in the hands of the Instagram gods. 

Be happy in real life, not just on Instagram. I keep seeing this meme everywhere and I think it’s so relatable that every time I see it, I always double tap. I feel that I should actually be sharing moments with my followers that genuinely make me feel happy. There have been cases where I have visited a place purely for the gram such as Elan cafĂ© or Peggy Porschens and in reality the food is overrated and overpriced and the cupcakes are dry as a camels tongue in the desert and definitely not worth the hefty £5.99 price tag. 

One of the biggest points to cover with regards to social media is it’s relation to sleep or shall I say a poor nights sleep. There have been cases where I have been on my phone checking one social platform or another, less than ten minutes before I am ready to go to bed. I know this is bad and that it affects the quality of my sleep. I have tried to put measures in place to prevent me doing so by either putting my phone at the other end of my bedroom at least 30 minutes before I go to bed or putting it in my bed time table drawer. Out of sight out of mind so to speak. I always have a much better nights sleep if I’m not on my phone or if I pick up a book and read for 20-30 minutes before bed. 

I recently read an article in the Independent that read “getting worked up with anxiety or envy from what we see on social media keeps the brain on high alert, preventing us from falling asleep”. I mean if your ex or that fuck boy you used to date pops up on your social media with another girl right before you go to bed that naturally is going to rile you up and prevent you from drifting off. 

“Plus, the light from our mobile device just inches away from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel tired”. – Dr. Bono

The next point I find it hard to differentiate whether it’s an expectation I put on myself or a requirement that people expect from me. As Instagram is constantly evolving, I feel so are people’s expectations, although I may be wrong here. I feel that I now have to think about an aesthetic and whether the image I am about to post is of a high enough standard. There have been times whereby I’ve sat in frustration because after editing a photo it doesn’t look how I want it to. Then I’m left even more frustrated with myself like COME ON GEMMA! THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE THAN A LIKE WORTHY IMAGE. Capitals for dramatic effect of course. 

But it’s true, there is a pressure to create Insta worthy, inspo content especially when there are so many amazing content creators out there with inspo worthy wanderlust accounts. On the other hand, I know that most of my followers like my images but perhaps want to see more real life photos because it makes them feel like my life is more relatable which it 100% is. It’s totally attainable. I’m talking changing room mirror selfies, out takes pulling funny faces and generally just doing what normal people do. I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning on vacating in the Maldives anytime soon, are you? It’s an internal debate I have with myself and sometimes my Insta wife because it’s natural to want to be good at your job which is reflected in the content you create but then if people are not even engaging with it, you’re sort of left feeling ‘why do I even bother?’. 

If you’ve stuck with me thank you. That or you read quickly. There’s just one other point I thought was worth mentioning. There have been cases where I have sat down to write an Instagram caption and thought perhaps I shouldn’t post that. Is it TMI? Will people take offence? I once said I felt like a whale and had a few people attack me saying that I’m encouraging eating disorders when I personally felt bloated which is why I wrote it. There have been times where I went to write in a blog post ‘I felt like there was a huge elephant in the room’ and deleted it at fear that someone would take offence. I personally feel social media has made people incredibly touchy. You can’t say anything without someone piping up and biting your head off. Like Susan why are you so god damn angry? I personally am tired of feeling like I have to put a filtered version up of myself at fear of offending someone which in normal circumstances wouldn’t be seen as offensive. I want to be real and I honestly think this is what contributed to the success of influencers because we are real people doing what we love. We come in all shapes and sizes, with different shades of hair and we each have our own imperfections and didn’t graduate with a degree in how to be an influencer. But we are real people and that’s what I am focusing on being. I’ll change because I want to not because I feel pressured by social media or by people I’ve never even met before. If people don’t like me or my content I’d prefer they unfollow me. I don’t even check my statistics anymore because my validation doesn’t come from how many likes or followers I’ve gained in a given day. It’s intangible and we should be focusing on things that really are important and real moderators of our success. Don’t you agree?

This post wasn’t intended to be a rant. I just feel social media whilst is has it’s positives also can really be detrimental to our mental health. But there are things that can be done to make sure you are not left feeling unhappy. The most important is don’t play the comparison game people, it never ends well. I’d love to know your thoughts on this post.

Coat - Revolve (gifted)
T-shirt - Topshop
Skirt - RĂ©alisation Par
Heels - New Look (old)
Coin Necklace - Missoma 
Bag - YSL

Photography by Fifi Newbery 

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Gemma x

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