When you look at the Morzine Source Magazine Instagram, we like to think you see a shining example of social media. Our feed is packed to the brim with pictures of sunny mountain vistas, dazzling views, all the tasty food we get to eat, all the events we attend and all the fun stuff we get to do.
What you (thankfully) don’t see are the pictures of the backs of our heads as we sit at our computers, deep in emails; the ones of us looking forlornly out the window on bright sunny powder days; the ones of us taking out the bins wearing socks and flip flops; the ones of us accidentally farting in Pilates; the ones of us trying repeatedly to push our cats off our computer keyboards; the ones of us staring slack-jawed at the wall because we can’t think of anything to write; and the ones of us sitting on the sofa after a long day at work stuffing our faces with crisps and baguette.
When you put it like that it quickly becomes obvious that our Instagram feed doesn’t quite accurately represent our real lives. And there are three of us, so our feed is basically made up of all the best bits of three people’s lives rolled into one. But we do benefit from living in an area of stunning natural beauty. So when we post a picture of a snow capped mountain taken on the daily school run captioned ‘Just another day in paradise! #LoveMorzine, snow emoji, sun emoji, happy face emoji’ (despite the fact that we would NEVER write a caption that cheesy) we’re not entirely lying. If we ran, for example, Milton Keynes Source Magazine, our feed would doubtlessly be much less visually pleasing.
And of course, despite (most of the time) living the dream in the French Alps, it’s impossible not to feel that pang of jealousy mingled with irrational resentment, deep-seated sadness and unchecked rage when we see a picture on the Gram of four old school friends on a night out (that we weren’t invited to, obviously, because we live in another country) sporting the caption ‘Love these bitchez. #Besties. Cocktail emoji, cocktail emoji, cocktail emoji.’
And despite knowing that their night out probably wasn’t that good anyway and that there will be lots of dinners we will get to attend, our weekend spent binge watching Game of Thrones while eating cheese and ENJOYING IT, GODDAMN IT, the power of FOMO consumes us and our weekend now may as well not have bothered being a weekend. (The Source Instagram that weekend was taken up solely with random pictures we found on our phones or pictures taken from our living room window.)
But WHY does it make us feel like this? After all, all we’re generally doing on Instagram is posting pictures of ourselves having a nice time, or pictures of our pets. But science doesn’t lie. Just one of many examples is a study by the Royal Society for Public Health conducted in 2017, which demonstrated that Instagram had the most negative impact on the mental wellbeing of 16 – 24-year-olds out of the five most popular social networks. And this is despite its presentation as the friendliest social network out there.
“The site encourages its users to present an upbeat, attractive image that others may find at best misleading and at worse harmful.” Technology writer Alex Hearn recently wrote in an article published on the Guardian. “If Facebook demonstrates that everyone is boring and Twitter proves that everyone is awful, Instagram makes you worry that everyone is perfect – except you.”
Adam Alter, author and professor of psychology and marketing at New York University, agrees: “One of the problems with Instagram is that everyone presents the very best versions of their lives. What that means is, every time you look at someone’s feed, you’re getting only the very best aspects of their lives, which makes you feel like your life, in comparison with all its messiness, probably isn’t as good. Seeing the best version of everyone else’s life makes you feel deprived.”
Seems pretty obvious when you think about it, doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t that what we’re doing all the time anyway? You’ll seldom find a Source Instagram snap captioned ‘At the supermarket’ or ‘Check out the Super Morzine lift queue backed up to the roundabout. #LoveMorzine’ or ‘Great job filling in those potholes, guys’; we want you to see the best bits of Morzine. If we didn’t want to present the best version of ourselves all the time we wouldn’t worry about trivial things like showering, or brushing our teeth. So even when we suspect that powder day picture our friend just posted is probably just filters and a funky angle, how do we get so sucked in and why do we keep doing it?
It’s been claimed that social media is as addictive as smoking. And that’s because getting a like, smoking, drinking and taking drugs all have the same effect on our brains. Studies have shown that when someone likes one of our Instagram posts, we get a small dopamine hit the same way we do when we drink alcohol or take drugs. It’s pleasurable, and we’re not sure how many likes we’ll get or where the next one will come from, so we keep posting and hoping for more. So we’re basically addicted to something that inherently makes us feel bad; stuck in a vicious circle of fake validation and unrealistic self-expectation.
And it never hurts to remember that behind our screens, behind each time-sucking app, are huge teams of people whose sole mission is to get us to spend more time using their apps and looking at their paid-for ads, without us consciously realising we’re doing it.
But fear not, there are many things we can do to break the cycle. There’s deleting our social media entirely, but that option seems a bit drastic. After all, there are still plenty of things on Instagram that don’t make us feel terrible; how would we get our daily fix of puppies, see our overseas friends’ kids grow up or indulge in our guilty pleasure, @urbanoutfittershome?
Maybe the trick is instead to limit our time spent on the Gram; computer design ethicist Tristan Harris argues we can reorganise our phones to protect us from distractions. By making small changes like moving all our distracty apps to the second page of our home screens and turning off notifications, we’re limiting the potential chances to get suddenly drawn into a scrollathon when we could be doing something more fulfilling.
Then there’s customising our feeds so we don’t have to see stuff that makes us feel bad about ourselves. That friend travelling around the world and blogging / Instagramming about it CONSTANTLY? Unfollow. Find out about it when they get back. In person. That old work friend who’s now killing it in a career that you’re incredibly average at? Unfollow. That other friend who never seems to work and goes ski touring all the time and captions all their pictures ‘Just another day in the office’? Ugh. Unfollow.
And we know, we know, you kind of have to follow your close friends and family, but why not dilute them with something that will make you laugh? Instagram is much more fun when you follow people you have absolutely no personal connection with. Some of our personal favourites are laugh-out-loud Australian comedian @CelesteBarber, whose feed is all about proving Instagram is nothing like real life; @aussiesdoingthings, a feed full of Australian Shepherds and their delightful escapades; and @Agathesorlet, an illustrator who draws pictures of people hugging and cats. Can’t get much better than that.
And @morzinesourcemagazine. Obviously.
Winky face emoji.