So, this month I am taking part in Scroll Free September. Which means I’m basically not using social media for the month (with the exception of my work social medias, as it’s literally my job to run them). But I now haven’t been on my personal Instagram account for 16 days, with another 14 days to go, and it’s given me time to think about the issues with Instagram and the ethical living movement.
No doubt, Instagram is an absolutely fantastic platform for spreading the ‘ethical living’ message, whether that be veganism, ethical living, zero waste or anything else. There is something enjoyable about photo content that makes it really easy to consume, and hence Instagram has been responsible for interesting a lot of people in ethical living. However, as is pretty well know, Instagram can have quite a negative effect on mental health. This isn’t the case for every Instagram user, but it is the case for too many people.
Most of the time, the images we see from popular ethical instagrammers, have had a lot of effort put into them, they are the ‘perfect’ images. But I feel like this leads to an unrealistic image of what ethical living is. It’s often portrayed as beautiful and effortless, but I don’t feel like this is true, at least not all the time. You see the aesthetic mason jars, the super healthy smoothie bowls topped with exotic fruits, the toned stomachs from a vegan diet. But this isn’t the truth, these are specially curated images which look beautiful, and have their place as art. But they aren’t portrayed as art, they are portrayed as the real life of the user. But zero waste doesn’t always mean mason jars, sometimes it means using odd plastic containers because that’s what you’ve already got, they work for now, and it would be wasteful to throw them out in order to replace them with the aesthetically pleasing mason jars. Eating vegan doesn’t mean you have a flat stomach, vegan doesn’t even necessarily equal healthy, you can live off Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter and cookies ice cream (I really wish I could). Being completely honest, I am guilty of putting out the ‘perfect’ images. I have images on my Instagram where I am showing my stomach and I tag it #vegan and #whataveganlookslike but the flatness of my stomach does not really have anything to do with me being vegan, to be honest, I look the same as I did before I turned vegan. I am misleadingly making it appear that I look the way I do because I’m vegan, but I don’t. I look this way because of my genetics, because I eat healthily and because I exercise.
So what am I trying to get at here? I just wish the ethical living movement was more realistic on Instagram. But then again, beautiful content does well on Instagram. People love aspirational content, they want to be like the people with the perfect Instagram account, but the truth is, the lives of the people who have these popular accounts normally isn’t anything like their Instagram portrays it to be. So, beautiful content does well, the algorithm likes it and maybe because of that more people are exposed to the ethical living movement. I’m not doubting that that is positive but, I want to live in a world that’s honest. I want Instagram to be a place where people share the difficulties of living ethically, because it can be really hard and that’s okay, we don’t need to be perfect. We just need to try our best, and our best is good enough. I don’t want to go on Instagram and come off feeling bad because my life doesn’t live up to the standards of these popular users. I find it so comforting when I see people express their struggles and their realities, and if anything, that’s much more motivating to me than seeing the people who look like they’ve got it all together.
So when I come back to Instagram, I’m going to make an effort to put out real content that shows my struggles, my successes and everything in between.