Given that my job is social media editor for Byrdie UK, a lot of my working life (and daily life) is spent scrolling through Instagram. I love it, though. I love finding niche new brands and people to follow. I love hoarding puppy videos to share with Byrdie followers and my friends (who probably wish I would stop). I even love receiving DMs from followers telling us they love our content—even if it's at 9 p.m. on a Sunday when I'm still technically out of office.
The one thing I'm not so keen on? Following people who make me feel bad about myself come summertime (e.g., celebs on holidays). Don't get me wrong—I'm fully aware that this says more about my personal insecurities than it does about celebrities. It's not Jennifer Lopez's fault that I felt bad after seeing how absolutely incredible her abs looked during her holiday last month. Nor is it Emily Ratajkowski's fault that I feel inadequate after realizing she looks beyond amazing in every single bikini (and piece of clothing) known to mankind.
It goes without saying that millennials are obsessed with social media, which is fuelled by likes, engagements and acts of affirmation. But it's also driven by comparison, which is something I've always struggled with as an individual. I know I'm not alone in that. According to a study conducted by the University of Toledo titled "Social Comparison, Social Media and Self Esteem," humans are thought to possess a fundamental drive to compare themselves to others.
We have this inner desire to compare our offline selves to the idealised online selves of others, which can be hugely detrimental to our mental health. As I spend so much time on social media, I decided to run a little test: For one week this summer, I would unfollow the accounts that made me compare my offline self to their idealised online self. Why did I decide to do this? I noticed that every time a photo of someone in a bikini came up in my feed from someone I admired or found inspiring, it would spur a comparison cycle within me.
So how did my week unfollowing these accounts go? It went great. I didn't even notice the absence on my feed. In fact, I felt better than I thought I would. I regularly save certain images for "inspiration" purposes (or so I thought), but this whole experiment made me rethink my actions. I felt better in myself knowing that the people I follow motivate me and don't affect my mental health. I felt happier overall, and while I think that I need to focus on my own insecurities, removing those accounts enabled me to take a look at the bigger picture and recognise the negative behaviour I was displaying.
If removing a feed of bikini-clad girls on holiday made me feel happier with myself, then why not do it all the time? Well, actually, I haven't gone back to following those accounts. However, as I previously stated, social media is my job, so I do need to follow them on my work account. But you know what? Unfollowing these accounts make me think about my own behaviour, and make better choices when scrolling through my feed. It made me recognise who made me feel bad, who inspired me and how to navigate. between the two. I now make a conscious effort not to follow people who I compare myself too, and overall I feel better.
Below, discover some ways you can be more mindful of your social media habits if you struggle with comparison too.
Write about how comparing yourself makes you feel
Get a journal. Every time you feel yourself comparing, write about it. Express how it makes you feel and why you felt you did it. If you have a period, you can also note where you are in your cycle (I found that I tend to compare myself more during my time of the month). It's helpful to look back and see the pattern in your behaviour because it can help you to manage it.
Download an app that monitors how much time you spend on social media
This one will probably shock you. Heck, it shocked me to see how much time I spend on my phone. And if you're anything like me, most of that time is spent down an Instagram click hole. Download an app like Moment to monitor your screentime. It'll tell you how much time you spend on specific apps, which helps you see your overall behaviour.
Look back at your own feed or photo album
When we compare ourselves, nine times out of 10, we're forgetting just how great we are. So take a look back over your own feed or a photo album and appreciate everything you've achieved. A photo is just a moment in one person's life. Although it's so easy to get caught up in social media, remember that you're great, and don't forget it. I'll be making a note to do that too.
Do you think it's worth unfollowing Instagram accounts that make you compare? DM me on Instagram and let me know.