By Jessica Frost

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the harmful effects those hours we spend scrolling through social media each day is having on our mental health.

Numerous studies have been carried out and circulated online that tell us the aspirational images and lives we are seeing depicted on Instagram in particular, are causing us to negatively compare them to our own lives.

The biggest fears that come from the studies is the amount of self-worth we have after seeing profiles and people who are perceived to be perfect. It’s easy to look at these curated feeds and immediately recognise the disparity between them and what is widely considered a ‘normal’ life. But let’s face it, even these insta-famous models who are drop dead gorgeous don’t live up to the lifestyle they post online.

As social media gets bigger, we’re all becoming far more aware of and able to recognise the marketing and sales tactics that are being sold as real lives. New laws have also made paid posts far more transparent with it being a legal requirement for sponsored content to somehow acknowledge the fact, whether that be through #ad, #sp, #collab or #insertbrandhere_partner.

So even now that we’re all very clued on to the fact that social media is 95% curated and only 5% candid, is it still fair to say that it’s responsible for killing our self-esteem?

Most argue that social media creates a serious case of FOMO in a lot of people.  You see these insta-stars at parties and events, mingling with models and designers, wearing cool clothes with their hair freshly blown out and makeup professionally done, and you’re sitting on the bus on your way home from a 10-hour day at work. They’re being flown across the country for glamourous getaways, driving expensive cars, carrying designer bags and eating like they have a 5 hat chef on tap. You’re finally doing your laundry because you’re down to your last pair of undies (or is that just me?).

On top of that, it’s the pressure that people put on themselves and in particular, their body image, when they scroll through their feeds only to find perfectly toned, tanned (and photo shopped) bods, dressed in the latest designer fashion (and often not very dressed at all). It gives the impression that if you don’t look like those girls, you’re somehow not as good as them, not as cool and not worth as much.

The thing about influencers though, is that they only exist because they are very successful and profitable marketing tools. We may be sitting at home feeling bad about ourselves when we catch up on everything Instagram, but according to sales reports, we buy what they’re selling. I think it’s important to remember that Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter are no different from an add on a billboard or in a magazine. Although it’s being portrayed as real life, recognising and remembering the difference avoids the need to feel bad about yourself or your life. Enjoy social media for what it is and lets all stop taking so much to heart and just be unique and happy.