By FAITH PONTI
Most of us, at some point recently in our lives, have found ourselves at 2 a.m. analyzing and comparing our bodies to an 87-week-old Instagram bikini photo of some girl to whom we have no relation. We’ve all typed in our ex’s username and searched through all of their photos (posted and tagged) and scrutinized every caption and comment until our eyes fell out of our sockets. Everyone with an Instagram account has searched for the profile of the person who is supposedly hooking up with the boy on the hockey team with whom we’re obsessed, looking for any trace of current or past relationship with said boy (fire emoji, anyone?). We’ve all been balls and/or lips deep in the bullshit that is Instagram stalking, and we all only realize how absolutely filthy, conniving and generally horrible we feel after our FBI-esque hiatuses from reality.
So why do we do it? Why do we waste so much time, energy and phone battery judging and/or idolizing others’ lives as they appear on a photo-posting app that didn’t exist six years ago? What’s the purpose of comparing others’ apparent hotness, success or happiness to our own? Why do we care so much about who is liking or commenting whose tiny square picture that will be forgotten from our newsfeeds (and our lives) forever in a matter of hours? We know that Instagram stalking the hot girl who our ex used to bone doesn’t make us feel so great, but our generation seems hard-wired to habitually subject ourselves to the pain anyway. Are we masochists who enjoy feeling shitty about ourselves, or is there something deeper driving our obsessive scrolling?
As humans, we are constantly looking to compare ourselves to some benchmark of success (or attractiveness or coolness or popularity). Usually, we find this standard in other people — we compare ourselves to the humans around us. This is normal, natural behavior; of course we’re going to compare ourselves to our friends, siblings, coworkers and classmates. However, in 2010, when Instagram expanded our immediate social circle to include everyone and their masseuse, shit got real. Suddenly, your brain wasn’t only working to compare you to the girl you sit next to in class. Every Kardashian, every homecoming queen, every ex-lover, ex-f***boy, ex-best-friend and ex-lab-partner became accessible to your brain, which was given an endless sea of individuals against whom it could — and would — compare you. Your mind went into overdrive attempting to compete your natural humanness with everyone else’s pristine, lipo-injected, photoshopped, perfectly timed, 24-layer filtered Instagram profiles. Your poor brain.
I’m not saying Instagram is inherently horrible. It’s fun, and it’s incredibly beneficial for those who want to share their experiences with others quickly and efficiently. What I am saying, however, is to approach your Instagram use with caution and self-compassion. Constantly comparing yourself to other people’s seemingly flawless posts is, from personal experience, one of the simplest and quickest ways to destroy your self-esteem. Your benchmark for beauty and success should never be the snapshots of what someone else chooses to post on social media, because we all know that someone’s Instagram profile is usually not very reflective of their real, everyday life. No one is going to post a picture of the exam they failed, or the makeup that smeared in the humidity, or the unflattering bikini angle. These posts are very inflated, filtered versions of someone’s very human, flawed life. The person on the other side of that profile is probably just like you and probably also tortures themselves over someone else’s sexy spring break pictures.
Remember that the next time you’re losing sleep over her pictures. You are beautiful. You deserve love and happiness. You are worth a lot. Get off of her profile, shut down the app and turn off your phone. If you do, I can guarantee you’ll sleep more soundly.
Faith Ponti can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org