Instagram is notorious for coming with dozens of unspoken rules. Don’t follow too many accounts. Don’t post too often. Post lots of selfies and party photos. Make sure your captions are short or always a joke. Don’t post too many photos of your food. Don’t make your Instagram stories too long. Don’t make your bio too long. Use touch up apps or air brush on selfies. Don’t post about anything too serious, and don’t post too much (or at all) about politics. Post about your friends’ birthdays in your stories, but only include photos that you’re in as well, and that you look good in. The list goes on. It’s become infamous for stressing people out. The thing is though, this is a photo sharing platform. It doesn’t have to be something negative or draining. It can be used for nourishing relationships, self expression, and many other beautifully uplifting things. It’s freeing to do what you want to, and on top of that, there are so many ways to also gain wellness from using Instagram in a more candid way.
So here are some ways to make your Instagram experience a positive one:
Don’t worry about how many accounts you’re following
Rather than worrying about being seen as “uncool” by following more accounts than are following you, just follow whoever you want. Follow any account that brings happiness, education, or connection to your feed. Follow your favorite artists, nature video accounts, your friends and family, people who you relate to, gardening accounts, environmental activists, and so on. We spend a lot of time on social media. We might as well get something out of it. Let your feed be something that inspires you and helps you grow (creatively or mentally).
Unfollow anyone that you’re following out of obligation
Toxic family members, old schoolmates, negative “friends,” your neighbor’s cousin’s boyfriend…if you wouldn’t have lunch with them, and if they aren’t posting things that bring something to your day, then there’s no reason to follow them.
Post as often or as seldom as you want
If we have an Instagram, why should we be shamed for using it or not using it? If you go on a backpacking trip through Spain, don’t feel guilty for wanting to post a couple photos a day to document or share about it. Post the photos! If people are following you, they should care about what you’re posting. Posting whenever you want can help narrow down those people, and it’s also a breath of fresh air for you. No more stressing out about which one photo to post of your weeklong trip to Paris. Post the ones that you want to. Period. If you don’t want to post a photo for national whatever day, even though everyone else is, you don’t have to. Let go of these rules, and post however much (or little) that you want to.
Post whatever photos you feel inclined to share or document
We all know that none of our galleries are exclusively filled with airbrushed selfies, frat party photos, and Halloween costume party shots. Breathe some life into Instagram. It will uplift others when their feed isn’t just packed with identical pictures, and it will be healthier for you to have photos on your account that actually reflect your life, your soul, or what you want in life.
You don’t have to airbrush your selfies if you don’t want to
Too many people (especially women) feel like if they show their face online, it has to be airbrushed. You don’t have to whiten your teeth, smooth over your skin, etc. to post a photo of yourself. It’s liberating to show your raw and actual face, and if you feel comfortable putting it online, do it. Just because other people’s photos have fake 3 inch long eyelashes and sparkling white teeth, doesn’t mean that that’s the only way to be beautiful. People appreciate authenticity, and your natural face and body is beautiful because it’s real. It will be good for you, and good for those who follow you because it will show them that they can also be themselves.
If you like food, are a chef, eat out a lot, or secretly consider yourself a “foodie”, don’t feel bad about posting photos of your food
If you enjoy your food and you have lots of photos of it, you shouldn’t feel bad for posting photos of it. It will inspire others’ creativity, celebrate nourishment, and best of all—will liberate you from rules that you didn’t make for yourself (the most important thing honestly). This is especially great if you’re a vegan, because it can help educate others about what you eat and about the fact that you don’t in fact only eat lettuce.
Write a bio that reflects who you are, not who you think you’re supposed to be
Maybe you don’t want a bio. That’s completely okay to leave it blank. But if you do want one, it’s okay for it to be long or be unique. Use your favorite emojis, list some things you’re passionate about, or just put whatever you think sums you up as best as possible. It’s important to note that it’s harmful to define yourself by your illnesses, so while it’s great to bring awareness to mental health, remember that despite the trends that trivialize serious struggles, mental illness is not an aesthetic and it’s not good for you to reduce yourself down to what you struggle with. So if you do choose to include your illness/es in your bio, remember you are not your illness/es, that they’re not an aesthetic, and that the motivation for including them should only be to help normalize conversations about them. Just be aware of that.
If you’re passionate about politics, the environment, human rights, or other serious issues, don’t be afraid to talk about it online
While this may be inconvenient for others to be educated when they didn’t ask for it, it is way healthier to post what you feel inclined to post rather than not post what others don’t want to see (or what you perceive that they don’t want to see). One thing to think about is that many don’t watch the news, and you may be their only source of education that day. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you’re passionate about.
Instagram doesn’t have to be a time wasting, draining, depressing, or boring. Imagine using Instagram, and feeling better than you did before you got on it. It’s completely possible, and hopefully these tips will help you get started. Be true to yourself and what you want, and your time on Instagram will bring wellness to your phone time.
Also by Emily: 8 Hacks For Becoming Multilingual On Your Own
Related: 5 Ways To Build an Authentic Social Media Presence
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Photo: Emily Degn