Experts Say Instagram Is THE Worst App For Your Mental Health

"What if I'm missing something really important on Insta right now?"

"What if I'm missing something really important on Insta right now?"

Of all the social media platforms, the 'gram is taking the biggest toll.

Your serious case of thumbscrolling-itis isn’t the only toll social media is taking on your overall well-being.

According to a recent study of young people from the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter all have a negative impact on your mental health.

After surveying nearly 1,500 people aged 14 to 24, heavy users of social media—those of us who spend two or more hours on Insta, Facebook or Twitter—were found more likely to report increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, the only platform that had a positive impact was YouTube (shoutout to all those gentle-whispering ASMR videos).

The studies chalk up their findings to exactly what you'd expect (and this is especially true for Instagram): FOMO and body-image issues born from the land of filters and Facetune.

But we all kinda knew this already, no? We’re the authors of our own narratives on social media; the lives we present to the world are always fictionalized versions of ourselves to a certain degree. We know it’s not logical to “compare and despair,” yet we do it anyway.

We check Instagram before going to bed and first thing when we wake up. We do it as an “escape” from our workdays, but it’s not much of an escape when the thoughts we’re left with are something along the lines of “Why can’t I be balancing a fidget spinner on my nose while drinking a glass of rosé right now?”

The more pressing question then, is why we continue to participate in behavior we know has a negative impact on us? One recent study asserts that social media is more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and 5 percent of young people are thought to have a social media addiction. 

On the upside, this study also shows that social media platforms have increased dialogue about mental health. When users see others share their experiences, it can be really beneficial if they themselves are dealing with something similar. It’s also had a positive impact on fostering a sense of community around social issues—think #BlackLivesMatter and social-media driven campaigns to take political action.

The RSPH study also puts forth some suggestions on how to remedy these negative effects, including issuing a pop-up warning when you’re treading into that “heavy usage” territory and labelling photos that have been digitally manipulated. Though let’s be honest: Labelling every filtered photo as such would have pretty much zero effect, since that would encompass most photos. 

More realistic? Setting yourself up for reasonable social-media breaks. Actually going on vacation when you’re on vacation. Swapping that pre-bed Instagram sesh for reading a book. And letting the pros do what they do best:

It seems we'd all be doing each other a solid by letting our lives look a little less #blessed all the time. Because everyone knows that everyone knows it's all a bunch of nonsense most of the time.

Wanna show off that highlight reel? By all means, go for it. But we want to see those Taco Bell wrappers in your passenger seat show up on your Insta story too, because as much as that downward dog on the white-sand beach makes for a pretty picture, #relatable is always going to provide us with more of a connection than unobtainable.

Words: Deena Drewis
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch