Dear Instagram,

I remember when Instagram first entered my life, freshman year of high school at a volleyball tournament when I didn't give social media much thought at all. Back then, I barely used it. Scrolling occasionally and posting when I had done something "cool" it had been popular long before I jumped on board.

Nearly 10 years after it's official launch, Instagram is a whole new world. Massively impacting the economy, digital age, career opportunities, and entrepreneurship while simultaneously contributing to mental health issues, depression, instant gratification demands, and endless comparisons. It is the result of incredible business models and successful influencers, but even that comes with a price.

While Instagram is utilized in many ways, affecting its users based on individual lifestyles, interests, goals, and vulnerabilities, I can only accurately attest to the complexity in my experience. It is encouraging and inspiring and the concept is a powerful one, but it can be equally confusing and overwhelming. That is why this a topic reaches your eyes today.

Many people know when enough is enough, they have a good radar for marketing schemes, and do not have the predisposition to grow affected by their feed. Unfortunately I am not one of those people, which is exactly why I began to think…. As I drove home today I thought to myself, "what do you want from me?" (In reference to my specific use of Instagram.) Although it had crossed my mind many times before, I was hit once again with the innate realization that I simply can not keep up with everything I see. Well it is up to me to choose my followers, I still fall victim to the flashy celebrities and idea of "having it all." It's not just the pictures, but the paragraphs of advice, continuous stories, and high end marketing that keep a person stimulated and drained all at the same time. Today, I actually got frustrated just thinking about it - the plethora of knowledge I voluntarily shove down my throat each day.

In the beginning, it was workout ideas that made the gym more fun, keeping track of friends, or documenting my own life that made room for Instagram in my world. (I think many people can relate to that.) However, the innocence and simplicity did not last long for me and I see now the ways in which it can hurt. I will never discredit the power of social media nor disregard the growth it has provided. I just want to shine light on the things people often ignore. I want to point out that what we see is not the whole picture and you can NEVER be someone else. No matter how much you copy them.

For me, Instagram has gone back and forth between passion and self loathing. I can love it, but I've always had the tendency to get carried away. From exercise to restriction to baking to clean eating to obsessive self care to supplement addiction. Listening to one person's diet turned into listening to ten. One day I may be convinced that plant-based was the only way until some other "credible" celebrity assured me that eating meat is really good for "some" people. I have done cleanses, hated smoothies then months later loved them, prioritized working out and later believed best results actually come from proper rest. I continually questioned my innate needs.

Every person getting paid to market has a "newer" and "better" idea for the model of health, the best way to live life, the answer to letting go, or even the reason for holding on. Continually listening to other people cuts you off from listening to yourself, it keeps you from understanding your own body, your own needs, and your own special signals.

For example, one person may suggest veganism while others recommend high quality protein. They tell you their way is best. One will tell you that stress is the ultimate killer, but the next account assures you working out can make you feel better "no matter what!"

Celery juice, yoga, pilates, HIIT workouts, long distance running, liquid cleanses, plant-based, paleo, whole 30, non toxic products, organic vs. conventional, lotion or oil, raw, saunas, charcoal detox, meditation, sleep, chia seeds, essential oils, candles are bad, cleaning products are scary, don't ever take medicine, probiotics are gold, homemade EVERYTHING, breath work - it's a lot.

It's all consuming. Because? There's no one answer. One influencer will push produce (conventional or not) while others will swear by organic and avoid anything else in sight. One day, sugar is the devil, but then one 25 year old model will promise that bad sleep is much worse than a candy bar.

The amount of advice, source of information, and accuracy of evidence is fluid. And, it is all the reason to remember: no one person's routine is applicable to their one million followers. Popularity does not equal reliability.

I personally follow a lot of influencers who preach different morning rituals, fad food choices, popular forms of movement, and best acts of self care. I get caught up in it, I'm human and that's exactly why I am writing this. Taking everything with a grain of salt is no doubt the recommended practice within Instagram and social media in general. You can't do everything and that person you look up to, is certainly NOT doing everything either. The highlight reel is no joke.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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