Instagram is the garden with the most fertile soil for our insecurities go grow.
I have a friend that texted me a photo of herself asking if she should post it on Instagram.
It was a photo of her pool side in a bikini.
It is not terribly uncommon for my female friends to ask such a thing of me because I suppose they know I won’t be one to lust after or gawk at the photo, but instead objectively evaluate if it is a good photo. I also suppose that being in the social media game myself, having 5 sisters and my closest few friends being women, but me still being a dude, you can get a lot of angles of “is this” or “is this not” a good photo. I am also known to put being transparent and give honest (all be it sometimes too constructive) feedback.
Was it a good photo? Absolutely. High resolution. Trendy stylish bikini. She looked great. The background of the pool was positioned well. The lighting was good. No filter needed.
So, post it on Instagram?
Slow down there. The photo was great, but the next question to be asked, and perhaps the first and only important question is, why post it? So, I asked, “Why do you want to post this.”
After a minute or two of her thinking that me asking why she wants to post was me implying she did not look good, we got to the heart of the issue. She wanted attention. There was a guy she had been on a couple of dates with, and he had stopped texting her, and she said she wanted him to see what he is missing out on. That is an unhealthy reason to post something, its a passive way of confronting an issue, and it is a post that no matter what comes from it, the garden of her insecurities are only going to grow.
Don’t Post on Instagram for Attention.
I manage a bunch of business Instagram accounts. The only goal is to get attention for the business. Every post is designed to maximize getting the most amount of attention from the right people so that they take the one action the brand wants them to take. YOU ARE NOT A BRAND! (please ignore the hypocrisy of Instagram literally listing me as a “brand”)
She, you, me, we aren’t brands. If you’re posting for attention, I can guarantee you you’re doing something unhealthy that will only feed your insecurities, or further drive you into the depths of whatever it is having you seek attention in such a way. But let me say this, I am guilty of having done that in the past, multiple times.
When I think back to the times I posted on social media specifically for attention, it was always at a time where my mind was messed up. Times of depression. Times when I was really struggling to control my Tourette Syndrome. In general, times when I was not in a healthy mental state. I think the last time I posted for attention, to the best of my ability to look back in self-reflection, was 5 years ago during an on-again/off-gain relationship. My insecurities were high during that. I was more often depressed than upbeat. And I weaponized Instagram as a took to get attention to “help” my insecurities. Of course, it only made them worse. I was doing that on and off for about a year before that. I was essentially like the girls on Instagram who lead with “a lot of people have been asking me about my skin routine.” It wasn’t healthy, and none of the attention gained from it led to anything positive in my life, and the momentary dose of validation only turned me into an instant validation Instagram addict. It is not healthy.
I specifically remember one photo during that time, it was the last time I was in ripped shape, and I posted a photo of myself with my shirt off pretending to stretch. I must have taken 5-6 photos to get the right look, doing pushups between each photo to stay looking pumped. Within a minute I had a like and a comment from the intended target, and the toxic relationship was back on for a few more weeks. That was not healthy. I’ve not done that since, but, I’ve caught myself about to several times. It is a game I can play well, but a game in which I only end up the loser in, and the same is true for you when you play that game.
Posting on Social Media for Attention or Validation is Not Healthy
Social media can be a wonderful thing. I am picking on Instagram because I think it is the network that brings out this type of unhealthy behavior the most, but I am sure it is present on all social networks. Look, you don’t need some great reason to post on social media. “Just because,” is reason enough. Posting because its a moment photo of you enjoying life and you proudly want to share it with others, that is awesome. Capturing a great moment or celebration, that is great too! Found something you just think is funny, or interesting, or something that might motivate others, that is fantastic to post. But, if you find yourself posting because you want attention, or if you find yourself in a down period in life like I was back 5 years ago in my unhealthy relationship and you’re seeking validation (from strangers on Instagram), pause and maybe don’t hit post.
I will also add this, though I can’t think of a specific example, there are likely times that posting for attention can be healthy. It is the combination of posting for attention with the notion of seeking validation or posting for attention to try to overcome an insecurity that will never, ever, ever work out for your mental health favor.
But What about that Bikini Photo?
I told her not to post it. I VERY strongly told her not to post it. She posted it. A day later her Instagram story was full of man-hating memes. I replied to one saying, “I told you not to post it.” And, well, now I am blocked from all of her social media and haven’t heard from her since. Why did she block me? Because I did not water the garden of her insecurities, but instead, handed her a bottle of hard-truth weed killer and encouraged her to spray it. Part of that is one me, my comment, while funny, was not sympathetic nor empathetic to what she was going through, and dancing on her grave was the bad move by me. That said, it’s healthy to have a few friends around with that bottle of weed killer ready, there’s enough strangers on the internet that can water their shit. Be the voice of truth, empathetically, lovingly, encourage them not to hit send.
How to Guard Against Posting on Instagram for Attention
Here is the tough part, because a lot of the time in which you’re doing it, you don’t realize it in the moment. I am sure everyone reading this can think of a time that they posted something on social media for unhealthy reasons. You can probably also think of a time, looking back with honest retrospection, in which in the moment you didn’t think you were posting for attention, or to seek validation, or to feed your insecurities, but now in a more sound frame of mind, you know you were. I am right there with you, in fact, while I am certain the last time I did so was the above mentioned post five years ago, there very well could be something more recently that I’ve posted that I will look back on a year or years from now and realize it was posted for unhealthy reasons. Though, most my posts are of sunrises, sunsets good times with friends and family, and pizza, so I pay it safe!
One way to guard against such unhealthy online posting is that when you recognize that you’e not in a healthy place mentally, that you’re down, that you’re feeling insecure or anxious or angry, pause. Be slower to post and reply on social media during those times. Those posts that pop in your head, share them with a close friend or two via text message, share with that type of friend that you can trust.
Don’t subtweet. If there is one particular person, or group, whose attention or validation you are seeking, go directly to them. Cut. Out. The. BS. Express yourself to that person or group of people. Anyone worth a damn having around in life will hear you out and help build you up. If you have to operate your own covert social media campaign to get their attention or validation, I assure you, they’re not worth the time. Taking this point beyond the topic of this blog, this is good practice no matter what the post. If someone inspired it, or it is about to partially about someone or some group, at the very least mention that to them, and as best practice, tell them ahead of time. In my life, my friends don’t have to worry about such things because I don’t have a passive bone in my body, I will come to them first. You don’t have to be as bold as me, but, if you ever find yourself about to subtweet, no matter positive or negatively, at the very least mention it to them, tag them, share it with them etc. You never want to put people in the position of, “is this about me.”
Then last, my best advice, and what I try to focus on myself, is in times when you know you’re struggling mentally, when feel a need for attention or validation, instead of seekingly that out on Instagram, focus on building other people up. Who can you give some positive attention to? Who can you say a kind word to? I often find the best way to find peace, the best way to work through my own insecurities or work through whatever my mental struggle might be at the time, is to give myself a break from thinking about myself and focus on adding value to the lives of others. That tactic, probably 90% of the time, works great for me. And, if it doesn’t, hey, at the very least, instead of adding more drama to the drama-saturated Instagram, you took a few actions to brighten the day of someone else, and that’s pretty damn awesome!
The Bottom Line to Posting
Does the post add healthy value to you? Post it.
Does the post add healthy value to others? Post it.
If you are struggling:
If you’re struggling with mental Illness, in need of meaningful attention, or suffering from a lack of validation and self worth, know that this world is a better place with you in it and that you are of value. I do not discourage social media use for you. Social media can be a wonderful place to feel connected with friends and loved ones. If you’re struggling with any of the above, isolation is not the answer. If social media is your only means of reaching people, please, reach out to your friends and loved ones and do connect.