The number of followers I had on Instagram started impacting me.
As a part of Generation Z, I had always been surrounded by social media. Ever since I was nine years old, I had been on Instagram. Social media back then was not what it had become now. As Instagram evolved, so did people’s behavior towards the platform.
In 2020, it was all about the number of followers you had, the number of DMs you received, and the number of likes and comments each of your post got. The vicious game of trying to be the most popular and outdo others started to soon take a toll on me. By the age of 14, I had over 600 followers out of which I barely even knew 200. But why would I remove those followers when it showed that I was relevant? I wanted to be the girl with over 5K followers, the girl who was so confident to post whatever she pleased, the girl who appeared to have the perfect body and life. The only way I knew for it to be possible was to get more and more followers.
Some of my friends had many more followers than me, and all I could think about was a way to achieve that number. I got more active on Instagram. I would post pictures frequently and put up stories almost every day. After doing this tiresome routine for a couple of weeks, I noticed how my followers started to grow, and I had been much happier, after all, that was what I had wanted for the past year. Just as people had begun to follow me, others had started unfollowing me. The pattern of gaining and losing followers had gradually become a source of stress and anxiety for me. I would consistently be on my phone for hours, refreshing my Instagram page to check the number of new followers. Moreover, with the increased following, came both positive and negative comments. There were many comments about my weight, people kept on suggesting diets and exercise routines that I should try. At the age of 16, no teenager would have been prepared to deal with the negativity that had come with strangers posting rude comments about them. I would spend so much time going through the negative comments only to find myself more depressed each day. This severely brought down my self-confidence, and gave me major body image issues. I no longer wanted to post about my ‘Outfit of the Day’. There came a time when I didn’t want to leave my house.
The anxiety that came with wanting to be like the ‘influencers’ on Instagram, was not worth it. I was constantly drawing comparisons to my life with theirs. The initial thrill of having 3,000 followers was a great boost to my self-esteem, but it all came crashing down eventually. I started getting depressed, I deleted my Instagram account when the hate got too much to handle, and I started to resent the way I looked. I stopped eating as much, and my mother soon picked on my changed behavior. I was no longer the bubbly teenager, who liked to socialize and go out to meet friends.
Soon enough, my mother and I decided to take up therapy. It was the best decision I had made at that time. Therapy helped me realize the influence social media had on me. It made me recognize where my thinking got distorted and the counselor helped me work through it. It made me feel better about myself. With therapy, I had stopped yearning for validation from strangers on the internet, and had begun to love myself.