Social Media Isn’t The Reason You Feel Inadequate. You Are.


Picture this: youre bored at work, scrolling through Instagram, when you stumble upon a perfectly-filtered square that shows someones laptop, a picturesque cappuccino, and probably a potted plant off to the side. Her work space is impeccable, and her photo reeks of chicness and productivity. You immediately feel embarrassed by your messy desk, with its coffee stains and piles of papers, and you wish you could just have a more minimalisticvibe to your whole existence. Right?

Ever since Instagram became a thing, theres been a limitless well of articles that talk about social media FOMO, or the ways that someone elses highlight reel negatively impacts our psyche. Weve all had moments where weve scrolled through our Instagram feeds, feeling pangs of jealousy at that fashion bloggers perfectlife, or the way our high school classmate seems to have the idealrelationship. And wed all probably be lying if we said that we’ve never purchased something — like a gourmet latte or a green juice — with a mental note of posting it on Instagram later on.

Its easy to blame our insecurities on Instagram, or to say that weve become dependent upon likesfor validation. And its also easy to say that the pressure to look cool on Instagram results in over-spending, or the pursuit of certain activities with the end-goal of cropping it into a square and filtering our memories into perfection. Its certainly not difficult to point a finger at social media — or pop culture for that matter — for our unrealistic expectationsabout literally everything. But the truth is that Instagram hasnt given us false expectations any more than Sex and the City wrongly prepared us for adult life. The only ones we can really blame for those feelings are ourselves.

As adults, we should be able to discern between truth and fiction, and we should be able to take everything we see on social media with a grain of salt. We know, deep down, that no one puts the minute details of their lives on Instagram. No one is gramming their bills, or their dirty dishes, or their laundry. No one is posting selfies after a fight with their significant other, or snapping pics of their shoes after a long day at work. The pictures we see, the ones that give us that pang of jealousy, are deliberately-chosen moments, designed to put forth the greatest impression of someones life. And we know this, because we do it, too.

So why, then, do we let Instagram dictate our feelings so much? Why do we allow ourselves to go on with our FOMO, with our pangs of inadequacy while looking through the feed of a fashion blogger whom we dont even know in real life? If we know the truth, objectively, we should be able to separate that knowledge from the knee-jerk feelings that we have while mindlessly scrolling. And if we cant separate that truth, we only have ourselves to blame.

We shouldnt need to take social media detoxes.The very fact that we do this — and then announce it on social media — is part of the problem. At this point in our adulthood, we should be able to navigate social media with the awareness that it is a part of our lives, but not necessarily a representation of our whole lives. We should be able to feel good about getting those double-taps on our photos without pegging our self-worth to the number next to the hearts. We should be able to browse the Insta feed of our favorite bloggers and not feel compelled to go to the mall and blow our whole paycheck. And if we do mess up and those things, and still feel inadequate, we shouldnt blame Instagram — we should blame ourselves.

In this day and age, social media is a part of our existence. It isnt going anywhere. So its up to us to be able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, to take charge of our lives, and stop blaming each and every mistake or unrealistic expectationon something that we saw online. We need to do a better job of being an advocate for ourselves, and force ourselves to remember the things we already know.

At the end of the day, a cropped picture is just a picture. It is a snapshot, a frozen moment in time, a mere fragment of someones existence. Think of all the things we wouldnt dare put online — our favorite bloggers and social media stars are living all of those moments, too. They’re just not on their Instagram feeds for the world to see.

De is a New Yorker turned Bostonian and lover of all things theatrical. She’ll never turn down a cup of gingerbread coffee, and she’s the owner of the fluffiest cat imaginable. De is on Twitter and Instagram.

Image via Unsplash


  • Christian Gonzales

    I am HERE. FOR. THIS. I’ve always felt that if social media makes you feel your life is less in any way, you’re doing it to yourself. Someone’s picture has no power except that power that you give it. And you shouldn’t give it any power! As you said, a photo is a curated moment that someone chose to share because it was a highlight reel moment, not indicative of their whole life, and that shouldn’t make anyone feel inadequate about their own lives. All of the claps!

  • Declan

    While i do agree with main point of the article that we shouldn’t judge ourselves against a curated snapshot of someone’s life. I disagree with the notion we are to blame for feeling negative by comparison. Comparison is just human nature, even though we know to take Instagram and magazine covers with a pinch of salt we still do it because it is human nature. The idea that it is our fault for feeling bad I feel is blaming ourselves further for something that is human instinct.

    Yes it might be fake, yes I know I shouldn’t feel bad my life doesn’t look as good, but I still do- just like everyone else and I don’t want to feel even worse for feeling bad about it.

    • Declan

      Good article though and interesting point. No hate, just my two cents worth.

  • Jack

    Oh man. I agree with this so much but like the comment below I also partly disagree!
    I agree that we all need to be happy and secure enough with ourselves that this stuff doesn’t affect us. But in reality, how many of us are at that point? Last year I was suffering from depression and anxiety and decided to take a month break from social media. That month turned into close to a year and it helped with my healing immensely.
    I love TFD’s totally honest Tuesday and other posts that are just more real and honest. You’re completely right that social media isn’t going anywhere, but I’m still going to follow people who are more genuine and authentic.
    Thanks so much for this article, I’ll be sharing it with friends 🙂

  • Bee

    Why did you put your instagram up in your bio if it’s private?

  • Thank you for your interesting thoughts.

    In my opinion the issue isn´t social media in itself, it just exacerbates a situation that is present throughout life.

    It is about social order, status and hierarchy.

    Just like people used to wear special occasion clothes for church on Sunday, also to display their worth and status, they are now showing off their perfect lives for the same purpose. Social media made it easier and I agree with you that it ultimately depends on us, how we react to that.

    However, I believe the main problem is the struggle between: “I want what they have” and “Once I have it it does not make me as happy as I thought it would”. Which is a major problem considering we swap our time for those things we buy to elevate our social status.

    I wrote a short piece about that struggle and would love to hear what you think De.

    You can find it here if you want to check it out:


  • NL

    Once more louder for the people in the back…