Instagram Actually Hates Your Mental Health. This Is How To Cope

Text Lina Esa Additional Reporting And Interviews Jess Nair Celebrity Source BangShowbiz Featured Image Pixabay/IMAGE POSED BY MODEL IN NO WAY RELATED TO THIS STORY.


“I understand that [social media is] amazing to use as a platform but it does scare me when you see how exposed these young girls and boys are. I think it’s dangerous for sure.”
— Selena Gomez on social media, during a press conference at the cannes film festival

It isn’t just in our heads — social media can be a dark, dangerous place for those who are ill-equipped to handle the stress and stressors that these platforms can exert over our lives.  We don’t have to imagine it as it has been a reality — in the dark and morbid case of the recent suicide of the 16-year-old youth who put an end to her life over an Instagram poll. The report from The Star stated: “The 16-year-old girl in Sarawak reportedly jumped to her death on Monday (May 13), hours after 69% of respondents on her Instagram account encouraged her to kill herself.”

Compound this with other recent local affairs that show that certain people wield social media “clout”, and they post things unpoliced. This influence can cause impressionable people to follow suit or be swayed by what these people say or do.

The most recent (and largest) example locally is when businessman Aliff Syukri who has a 9-year-old daughter, posted a video of him putting balm on caning wounds that were inflicted by him — because she kept taking off her ‘tudung’ in front of strangers. This is the post that has, at the time of writing, garnered over 1 million views.

Now, the comments and shares were both negative and negative — negative that they were also supporting Aliff in caning his daughter (which somewhat tantamout to abuse) and also publishing it on his social media for millions to see.  Negative in that they were also calling Aliff out for causing pain to his daughter and publishing it online. After some pushing and pulling, he was taken in for questioning but he wasn’t charged with child abuse. Which is a topic for another day — but here it is in front of us: How do we deal with the negative influence that comes to us via social media?

The answer, though not a very easy one and may sound simplistic, is that we have to be mindful that we are experiencing social media and not let the feelings of envy, guilt, shame, or bullying get to you. We explain more below.


With May being Mental Health Awareness month, it’s ever-so important to shine a light on the ills and effects that social media can bring.  One of the biggest issues: influence, and one that is wielded by people who may also not be well-placed to handle a position of influence and exerting that influence over the masses unaudited.

Speaking at a press conference for her new film ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday (15.05.19) Selena Gomez had also admitted: “For my generation specifically, social media has been terrible.

“I understand that it’s amazing to use as a platform but it does scare me when you see how exposed these young girls and boys are. I think it’s dangerous for sure.”

“I see these young girls … I’ll meet them at meet-and-greets, and they’re just devastated by bullying and not having a voice.

“I would be careful and allow yourself some time limits of when you should use it.”

we are all human

The ‘Back To You’ hitmaker often takes social media breaks and earlier this year, Selena Gomez posted for the first time since September last year, as she returned to the site to wish her followers a happy New Year, and to say she’s “proud of the person [she’s] becoming” after taking time away from the spotlight to focus on her mental health and wellbeing.

Let’s get something straight –- everyone experiences envious feelings from time to time. That’s perfectly okay. “First and foremost, everyone should accept the fact that they’re experiencing such feelings. This is the first step to overcoming denial and to start working on the problem,” says Dr R.R. Manjari, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Gleneagles Medini Hospital.

A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen in 2016 showed that Facebook made its participants unhappy and made those who experienced envy to be depressed.

In fact, participants that took a week-long break from the social sites showed signs of being happier and scored their own well-being to be higher than it was previously.

“”I would be careful and allow yourself some time limits of when you should use it.”

While it’s unrealistic for most of us to completely move away from social media, we got a little insight as to what could really be the real problem.

“The use of social media can be perceived to be a way of keeping in touch with their loved ones – which can be done privately or shared publicly, which falls under a different motive. The latter can have a negative impact on individuals with low self-esteem and self-confidence. People with high self-confidence are less negatively impacted by social media than those with lower self-confidence.

By constantly comparing yourselves to the apparently ‘perfect’ lives online, social media can cause those with low self-confidence to become more envious, anxious or even depressed. And all due to the notion that someone else seems to lead a better life than them or has something that they don’t,” explains Dr Manjari.

A little practice we’ve found useful? List out the things about yourself that you like or you’re proud of – especially during times where you’re just not feeling yourself.


Always remind yourself that it’s scientifically proven that us human are way more likely to share positive things on social media over negative ones. Psychologists refer to this as ‘positioning yourself the way you want to be seen’. Dr Manjari adds, “Remember, like pictures, someone’s social media feed is merely a snapshot of someone’s life.”

We couldn’t agree more! Go through the list of people you follow and Instagram and be honest with yourself –- which of these accounts elicits envy or doubt or negative feelings the most in you? The most evident work around this is to just unfollow these accounts but you also have the opportunity to delve deeper.

And here it is, envy is also the culprit.

What is it about these posts that makes you envious? Are you envious of a fitness trainer who has the most perfect body? Are you envious of social influencers who seem to live that jet-setting lifestyle?  Dr Manjari’s advice? “Keep your expectations, goals, purpose in life and responsibilities in life in check. Once each of these aspects are somewhat clear, it will be easy to move on from feelings of envy.”