Sunday 29 October 2023

I’ve just joined Instagram… and I have no idea what I’m doing!

Emily reflects on finally joining the popular social media platform and getting to grips with using socials wisely.

- Emily

I’m 23 and have always been a little bit ‘outside’ the norm of my peers. During my secondary years, I never understood the need to backcomb my hair and puff it up like some flamboyant crested chicken and I certainly wasn’t in the Blackberry gang. I had my own way of doing things and, whilst I was incredibly shy at the time, I am coming to recognise that ability to step away from the crowd as my own kind of confidence. 

Sitting on the sofa with my housemate the other night, I was sorting through some emails and she was scrolling through Instagram, laughing at some video involving a man dressed as a carton of milk in front of a cheesy supermarket greenscreen. I was intrigued and she showed me the ‘reel’ again. I just didn’t get it. Fast forward a week or so and she encouraged me to sign up for an account. It’s free, and you can always delete an app, so I thought: why not? What a complex world it is! Reels, stories, posts, boomerangs (what on earth?). I instantly felt out of my depth and slightly nervous that I was going to end up accidentally posting my passwords all over the web instead of sharing the sweet flower photos I’d taken in the park. 

There’s growing concern about what social media can do for our mental health - creating unrealistic expectations for our futures, our beauty, our careers and our standards of life. Platforms that are just a tap away from breaking a dam of rushing streams of sparkling content down our screens. The more we see this content, the more we are absorbed into it, and the more it bleeds into our ideal of ‘normal’ and begins to morph our ideals without us even knowing. 

But, there’s a huge amount of positivity and support out there that utilises social media platforms as an accessible, mainstream, affordable voice for raising our conscious thoughts, educating others on a wide-reaching scale, and promoting change for good. A lot of the tips and advice for managing social media use refer to time spent online - the average person spends around 151 minutes per day on social media - and whilst it is super important to not get sucked up into a vacuum of time when scrolling through post after post, I believe that the content you view in the time you’re online is far more significant than the amount of time that ticks by whilst doing it. 

Here are some top tips I’ve come to learn whilst navigating my new Insta Life: 

Be Constantly Cautious 
Regardless of what you view, and where, it is important to constantly ask “Where has this come from?” and “How do they know?” to evaluate what you are being fed and continue to question its validity. This helps to identify where you might be viewing content that is biased towards a particular point of view (such as a political bias, or trying to sell you something) and how that might impact how you feel when watching it, and later on, too. 

Look Past the Filters 
And by this, I don’t just mean visual filters, like photo effects. Though these play their part! Social media is dominated by a new generation of ‘content creators’ who make a living from their activity online. Roles like this, and the power of advertisement, mean that it can be difficult to gain an unbiased opinion. It is important to be aware of any influencing factors that might impact what you see, and what you take away from it. 

Create Your Own Meaning 
Social media is a main means of communication in 2023. For friends, family and wider communities who come together for a shared cause… Though it is important to remain open and critical of the content we are exposed to, social media platforms can be a treasure trove for new ideas and sharing educational goods. For me, as an Early Years Teacher, that means following other accounts that share their set-ups and lesson plans to reflect on their uses in the classroom to better my own understanding and approach. For others, it might be exploring new recipes for a vegan lifestyle, or sharing trail maps for off-road biking. 

Whatever your interests, there’s sure to be a pocket of the socials to find your people and learn something new. I’m getting better! I’ve posted a story, added music to a video, and even gained a few followers! 

Whatever your story, if you use social media make it kind, considerate, and conscientious to create a safe and open safe for all to use. Happy Social Media Kindness Day. 

Share your story this Social Media Kindness Day.

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm an Editor on the Student Minds Blog. I love contributing to the blog and found myself in a timely position to write about this month's theme when I registered for Instagram earlier this month.

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