Social media mental wellness and addiction. A decade ago these seemingly trivial issues didn’t even exist, but now they are overwhelming the core of our emotional and mental well-being. I would know – over the last few years I have personally battled with an Instagram addiction and the damaging effects social media was having on my life.
What started out as a fun hobby of posting pictures online slowly became an all-encompassing obsession with the ‘gram. Not only was I spending 5+ hours a day on the social media app, but I was letting it dictate my happiness. Through comparison, envy, jealousy and ego, I let the app determine my self-worth, which led to addiction and depression.
Here I was, living the ‘dream life' and travelling the world full-time, but the pressure to be perfect on Instagram was harming me mentally and emotionally, stealing the joy out of each day.
I recently shared my story on the TV Show “The Doctors” to bring more awareness to the growing issue of social media obsession, comparison and unhealthy compulsions that revolve around the apps on our phones.
WATCH Kashlee Kucheran on The Doctors ↓
“The Doctors” call the damaging and unhealthy relationship some have with Instagram “IG-it is”, which sounds more like an actual disease than a modern-day predicament.
Here’s the truth: From the smallest daily action like scrolling while brushing our teeth, right up to big actions like how we might ignore our spouse while we’re posting- Instagram is changing our everyday behavior. It’s found a way inside every detail and routine in our lives.
My Social Media Addiction Story:
Earlier this year the Huffington Post featured the full story about my Instagram obsession and addiction. Read the FULL article “I Was Spending 5 Hours a Day on Instagram and It Ruined My Life”
When I started using Instagram it was all for fun and games. I liked how the app organized all my photos and how easy it was to share my travels with my friends and family back home. However, what started out as a visual travel journal of sorts slowly became a place where I would constantly critique, judge and compare myself to others.
I would see the photos of other travel bloggers that were so much better than mine, which chipped away at my self-confidence. Comparison made me feel enormous amounts of pressure to produce better images, even if that meant sacrificing my happiness to do so. Instead of enjoying my travels, I started obsessing about getting the perfect shot for the gram and started staging and faking photos in order to ‘up my game’.
Not only did I start curating and staging photos, but I became obsessed with how many likes and followers I was getting. If a post didn’t get enough likes or comments, it would actually feel like a stab in the gut, making me feel worthless, empty and alone.
Seems intense right? But just like with any addiction, my obsession with Instagram started slowly and silently compounded upon itself until it had completely blown out of proportion. There was even a moment where I believed that if I stopped posting on Instagram my whole world would end. Who would I be if I wasn’t creating new posts? What would I do without likes and comments? Would I cease to exist altogether?
So, what did I do?
I followed the recovery path set out to aid any addiction – time and space away from the root problem. I put myself in my own ‘Instagram rehab’ program, which meant not using the app for 45 days straight. And guess what? The world didn't open up and swallow me whole. Quite the opposite! I re-discovered my love for adventure and being present in the moment!
I do use Instagram again now, but that is the key – I USE INSTAGRAM, it does not use me. I post much less and only when I feel like it.
I realized that my every day life IS worth sharing and the pressures to keep up to other ‘influencers' was only in my mind. I made a promise to stop staging and faking photos and use the platform responsibly, only sharing my real life to inspire others. together.
View this post on Instagram
Guess who’s back!? 🙋🏼♀️ I’m feeling refreshed after my month long Instagram blackout and I want to talk about what really happened…which was a mental health breakdown. I don’t want to sit here and pretend like I have it all figured out, because I don’t. Over the last few months I was spending an upwards of 5 hours on Instagram per day. 🤦🏼♀️(Which IMO is not healthy in the least! I want those hours back!) It was a combination of FOMO, comparison, addiction to technology and trying to fit in that drove me over the edge. My quest for the perfect gram pic paired with obsessing over other peoples lives threw me into a dark hole of depression. Every trip I took, meal I had, outfit I wore was starting to become another ‘story’ or post for Insta. Like I was some pre-programed Instagram robot who’s sole purpose in life was to put shit up on social media. 🤖 It stole every ounce of joy away from my day. When is it just all too much? Where do I draw the line? How much time/effort/focus I give this little popularity contest we call Instagram. . To be honest, I just started to feel so…. sad! 😰 . I don’t want an app to have that much control over my life. I just want my old life back, before it turned into an obsession with a superficial game. . So am I deleting my account? No, I am here to stay, but I’m going to start showing up differently. (Like…when I want to for starters, not when some algorithm tells me it’s the best time to post.) ✨I want to post more about what inspires me, things that enrage me, what I witness in the world, the people I meet off the beaten path and the entire ying/yang of travel. Not just the pretty curated parts. . I’m just looking for some realness ✌️ #realstagram #mindsetshift #iamenough #mentalhealth #authenticity
Why social media mental wellness MATTERS
Social media is addictive, yet comes with no warning
Almost everything in our world that is addictive or has negative side effects due to over-use comes with a warning. Things like cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, over the counter medicine, and prescription pills come with labels that inform you of the dangers associated with compulsive or excessive use. But social media does not.
Addictions with social media are reinforced by the ‘high’ we get from a chemical in our brain called dopamine, which actually stimulates and rewards our brain as if we were doing cocaine. No wonder it has such a powerful hold over us!
Social media is harming our self-esteem and mental health
What kinds of effects is social media having on our self-esteem, especially in those with mental illnesses or young adults that are not fully developed.
Personally, I have no history with mental illness or depression and I am a confident and fully developed adult, yet social media was able to take over my self-esteem and mental well-being in such a sinister way. What kinds of effects is social media having on young people who haven’t fully developed yet? If an app can cause harm to a brain with no history of mental illness, what is it doing to those already dealing with debilitating mental illnesses?
Social media is not real life
While this is slowly starting to change, the majority of what we see on social media is just the ‘highlight real’, but some users are taking it to unhealthy levels. Mega influencers are dishing out a constant stream of fake photos, fake lives and fake promises. They are giving an over-edited, over-filtered and completely staged version of life that is completely unattainable for the average person. This causes massive distress in everyday users. When an influencer creates a photo that has been photoshopped to death, yet tries to push it off as reality, it gives an unrealistic ideal of which no one can truly live up to.
Another dimension of how fake Instagram can be really boils down to its metrics. People need to know that their favorite influencers and brands can (and likely do) buy followers, likes and comments. What you see isn’t always what you get. In fact, CNBC reported that in 2020 businesses are expected to be scammed out of $1.3 Billion dollars due to investing in fake influencers with fake follower counts.
Social Media CAN be used for good
Social media is a major part of our lives, and when used responsibly, can be a very positive experience. We can use social platforms to bring awareness to political and environmental issues, to connect with like-minded people with similar goals, and to stay in touch with the people we love, no matter where they are in the world. Those are all beautiful reasons to use social media.
Once we realize and acknowledge the addictive and potentially damaging nature of social media apps, we can educate ourselves on how to use them responsibly, just like we’ve done with many other things.
Education and awareness around over-use of social media will create a safer space for all of us.
Resources and Related Articles:
- About Kashlee
- Press Page
- Huffington Post Feature: “I Spent 5 Hours a Day on Instagram and it Ruined My Life”
- BLOG: “The Era of the Instagram Influencer is Dead, and I Couldn't Be Happier”
- BLOG: “Instagram Addiction Causing Debt and Destroying Lives”
- BLOG: “How Instagram Influencers Are Ruining Travel”
- PODCAST: Her Best F***ing Life: “How Instagram Kills Our Happiness”
↓ Also Watch: Kashlee on Kim Komando talking about social media mental wellness