I have a love-hate relationship with social media. It lets me express myself but it’s also a dark pit that can suck the life out of you. And it really did mine.
When I joined Instagram at 13, it was a fun way of staying connected with friends, but I soon became obsessed with amassing ‘likes’, counting the number of people who watched my ‘stories’, and comparing myself to others.
I spent hours examining so-called influencers’ pages, noting the restaurants and clubs they tagged in their posts, and basically crying when I realised how expensive it all was. I spent a fraction of my student loan trying to replicate their lives but I was still miserable.
I decided the reason my followers – over half of which I didn’t really even know – weren’t engaging with me online was because I wasn’t cool enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. My life was uninteresting, and so was I.
So I began editing my photos, making my face slimmer, waist smaller, and hips bigger. I forced my friends and family to take photos of me wherever we went, saving the good ones to carefully drop on to my feed, giving the illusion I had a wild social life.
In reality I was depressed, but I didn’t realise that at the time because my plan had paid off, and I began receiving the online attention I craved. I remember thinking: “well, people love this version of me, so I need to become it”.
I developed an unhealthy relationship with food, and with myself. The more I punished myself at home, the more people praised me online. It was a vicious cycle that consumed me.
Coming home from university this summer, I decided something had to change. I was mentally drained and wanted to love myself again.
I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve deleted and then re-downloaded the apps in the past few months. I still scroll through feeds, I still count the likes, but I don’t edit my photos.
It’s not much but I am proud that I have taken this small step to helping myself.
University student, 19