Having suffered from a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem for pretty much most of my life, social media can, if I allow it to, have a negative impact on my mental well-being. I have worked very hard this year to do all I can to recover from a difficult few years where I suffered badly with depression and anxiety. I am generally feeling quite well, however, lately I have found social media to be draining and I have felt myself beginning to feel bad about myself and the negative thoughts creeping in again. I decided to have a break from all of my social media to recharge my batteries and to take a step back and really think about what I want from social media.

I love social media, I really do but it can be a bit of a double edged sword. I enjoy writing and meeting people and I have met some lovely people through Instagram, however, it can have some very real drawbacks. I was spending far too much time on social media and it was becoming a distraction. I don’t really have the time to be logged on to social media all day especially with a full time job. It was becoming a big distraction and I was also finding it hard to switch off and go to sleep at night because I was spending too much time scrolling unnecessarily.

I initially set up my social media accounts to connect with friends and family and more recently, to share my love for bargains and product testing. I found myself spending far too much time on it and not living in the real world. I also began to feel stressed because it appears that all social media platforms are limiting the reach and visibility of posts which is impacting on overall engagement. I was starting to feel real pressure to get my posts noticed and felt bad and deflated when they didn’t attract as many likes or comments as I would have liked. This was the point I realised this was a problem.

I am glad I was able to recognise this before my mental health took a real nosedive. Taking a step back has allowed me to look at social media objectively. No longer am I going to be basing my worth on the number of likes on my posts. This has no relevance to who I am as a person. I have realised more and more that social media is becoming less and less engaging anyway. People are focussed on the numbers and forgetting to actually engage with others and their content. I mean how hard is it to comment and like posts that you see scrolling down your feed. I worked really hard to try and be as engaging as possible but unfortunately it was very rarely, genuinely, returned. I am fed up of seeing “engagement posts” and “likes for likes” posts. It’s all false and achieves nothing. The pressure that comes with a growing following was also starting to become too much. I had roughly 4500 followers on Instagram and whilst that is not particularly high in the grand scheme of things, I was becoming more and more cautious of what I posted and when. There is also now a culture and expectation that when someone follows you that you must follow them back. If you don’t return a follow, you pretty much see that person unfollow you within a day. It’s becoming more and more prevalent and it’s a growing problem. I found myself following every account back out of courtesy but to the detriment of my own happiness and well-being. My feed was full of content which was of no relevance or interest to me and I was struggling to see the accounts that I do genuinely like and want to engage with.

Having taken a little break, I have had the opportunity to review my accounts and I have decided to unfollow all of the accounts that are not bringing something positive to my life. I am not going to feel bad for doing so. It’s nothing personal to those individuals either. However, with that I have had to accept that I will lose a lot of my following too which only serves to prove my point about people only being interested in numbers. I can honestly say that going through and removing more than half of the accounts I follow has opened my eyes to the cold, hard reality that hardly any of these people ever engaged with me anyway. I do not miss them nor do I regret my decision to remove them. I have actually felt quite liberated in a way and now my feed is full of content that I do want to see. It’s much easier to find accounts I enjoy and I no longer feel depressed as I scroll through my timeline. Having less followers is also less pressure. It’s just not worth the time and effort that comes with trying to reach people when social media is geared towards sponsored posts and businesses just so the likes of Instagram and Facebook can make money. I don’t know about anyone else but just about every third post is a sponsored one and it’s boring.

I have also unfollowed most social media “influencers” as I hate the falseness and the overly curated feeds with the same fake poses and smiles every day. The whole influencer market on social media is saturated and it puts me off buying products as the reviews are rarely genuine. I mean if you are being paid by a brand to promote a product, can you really ever be genuine? Yes, I have purchased products via Instagram but from accounts that I have found myself and where I happen to like a product. I have never purchased a product because some “content creator” has posted a nice photo of it.

I can honestly say that since I have made these changes I am a lot happier. I am not spending as much time on social media and I will post as and when I feel like it. I don’t feel pressure to be in a specific niche. I want my account to be a reflection of me and my life, the good and the bad. If people don’t like it then that is fine with me. I am no longer bothered if someone unfollows me or doesn’t like my posts.

If you feel the way I did then I think you should step back from social medial and have a digital detox. Social media can be great but it can also be very detrimental to your mental health. No-one should be basing their self-worth on the number of likes on a post nor should you be under pressure to portray the perfect lifestyle. Social media is the highlight reel and everyone has their own personal struggles when they log out at the end of the day.

I understand that Instagram has been trialling hiding the number of likes on posts in certain countries. I personally would welcome this change as it would mean less pressure and Instagram can go back to what it was originally intended for. I hope that it will make people more authentic and engaging. I really hope this is introduced soon for the benefit of the younger generation who don’t need this sort of pressure.