Instagram - How to use it (in a way that's good for your mental health)

Instagram, an extremely popular social media site.

Here's the basics of how to get started (if your new):

1- Download the Instagram app (click the logo above if on an iPhone for the link)

2- Log in / Create an account

3- Add a profile picture, bio and insert any links by clicking the [edit profile] button on your profile

4- make your first post by clicking the [+] at the bottom center of your phone

Now, that was the general run down of how to get started. Instagram can be an amazing place for networking, sharing and learning. On your feed, in the top right hand corner is an arrow, that will lead you to your direct messages (aka your dm's). This is one of Instagram's incredible tools for sharing and collaborating.

But... this app can also be a dark place if you use it in a way that's harmful to your mental health. If you're new to the network you might be thinking how could this be? But once you get going, it's an easy trap to get caught up in a roller coaster of perfectionism and comparison. So, how can you create an online space that is good for you? Here's how:

First things first, don't feel pressured to follow every celebrity and influencer just because "it's what you do". Many of these people actually don't promote a healthy lifestyle and will try and sell you a fake image of themselves as well as their skinny teas and other endorsements... don't fall for it!

What should you do instead? Follow positive accounts and pages that post about your interests (and no, your interests shouldn't be other people's lives). For example, if you like painting, follow accounts that post that content, if you love basketball, follow accounts of basketball tutorials/montages etc. You can follow accounts that support causes that you also believe in, that post daily affirmations or are educational. Filling your feed with such content can have a huge impact on how you feel.

Next, go to your profile, tap the 3 lines at the top right hand corner of your screen, click "Your Activity" in the menu bar. You'll see a section that says "Set Daily Reminder". Click this and set yourself a reasonable limit of time you want to spend on Instagram (this will all depend on your lifestyle, obviously if your job revolves much around Instagram you may need to be on there longer than others). I like to set mine for 15 minutes. What happens you may ask? Well, when you've reached your time limit for using the app you will get a pop up notification telling you you've been on there for that set amount of time. This is where you usually realize time has slipped away from you as it's so easy to get caught up in the online world. Take this as a sign to get off the app, log out if need be and continue on with your day.

Another helpful tip is to turn off your notifications. Go into your phones settings, go to "notifications" (iPhone) and turn them off for Instagram. I found this helped me majorly with giving up my obsession with likes and followers. I now post, and close the app, I usually forget I actually posted and don't waste time and energy stressing over all the numbers, because truly, it doesn't matter.

Lastly, partake in activities that you enjoy and make you feel good, not everything you do has to "be for the (Insta)gram". It's okay to do something and not take and post an image it doesn't have to mean "it's didn't really happen".

Have fun, Instagram really is a great place if you create a safe space for you!

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