How many times has someone asked you what you did last night and you've wanted to reply, 'Instagram?'.
No matter how many studies we read about how comparing our lives to other peoples' can cause feelings of inadequacy - or how social media can negatively impact our relationships and even work - we still keep scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling.
Dr Sarah Vohra, NHS consultant psychiatrist told Women's Health as part of their '': "While I can’t yet diagnose someone with social media addiction, I believe that it’s real. Just as someone with alcohol addiction may have a drink first thing – even though they know it is damaging their physical health – people with tendencies towards social media addiction will grab their phone as soon as they wake up, despite knowing that scrolling mindlessly first thing negatively impacts their health."
So where's the line? When does social media turn from a hobby to an unhealthy addiction, and what can you do to change things?
The warning signs of unhealthy Instagram use
1. Posting stories in the early hours of the morning
If you're taking to Instagram to post, or check content, when the majority of people - you included - would usually be sleeping then it's a sign that social media is affecting your healthy daily routine.
2. If someone were to hold an obviously edited image to your face, would they recognise you to be the same person?
While we all may tweak the lighting or add a flattering filter on the odd occasion, heavily doctoring images regularly could be a reflection of self-esteem difficulties.
3. Are you visibly sleep-deprived?
Do people comment on your changing moods? Or have you noticed an inability to concentrate at work? Scrolling late into the evening before bed, can wreak havoc on your sleep routines.
4. Do you find yourself bored, unless you're on your phone?
Filming yourself for the gram, or catching up on someone else's day through stories could be affecting your day-to-day interactions.
5. Do you keep track of every like and comment?
Worrying about raking in the likes at the expense of just living in the moment indicates you may be posting simply for validation.
If you identify with one or more of the above statements, it may be time to change the way you engage with the platform. Here's how you can start:
Try a reverse curfew ritual
‘You can be more sensitive to triggers first thing, so allow yourself 30 to 60 minutes without looking at your phone,’ says Dr Vohra. ‘Do something that puts you in a positive mindset – like a workout or making a tasty breakfast – and don’t look to social media to give you that.’
Enforce a pre-bed blackout
A 2017 study by the university of Pittsburgh found that engaging with social media in the last 30 minutes before bed was the strongest predictor of a poor night’s sleep – irrespective of how much time people spent online during the day. Give it a miss.
Choose when you go online – and how long you stay online for, rather than just picking up your phone and starting to scroll. ‘Research shows that mood drops after extended or unintentional time online, which can leave you feeling frustrated, lonely and depressed,’ explains Clinical psychologist .
Want to use Instagram more positively?
In a bid to help women keep their social media experiences as safe and enjoyable as possible, Women's Health has put together a helpful guide. From understanding your own mental health triggers, to expert advice on posting positively, the manual could help the way you scroll and how that makes you feel.