Updated: Jun 27, 2020
The world is a strange place, people now make a living just off social media and social media alone. Travel seems to be a big hashtag within the social media world, fuck, we are included in that. Companies now pay people to post a photo in a certain location, make the trip seem like a breeze and you get paid, seems like the dream, right? Well, in reality, traveling couldn’t be further from all singing and dancing 24/7, again, we are included in that and constantly write about it. So, what are these deluded social media posts doing to our mental health? An influencer goes to London, posts the photo and is ‘living their best life’, you, in turn, go to London and get lost on the tube and nearly get mugged does the influencer have better luck than you? Do they heck, in reality, the influencer is just bullshitting you.
How does one become an influencer? Let’s use Instagram as an example, get enough of a following and all of a sudden you are worthy of such a status? So, in truth, social media is making people famous or deemed an influencer based on nothing more than the number of people that follow them? With such a title comes one of two lives; their real life, and the lives they want you to see online or through pictures. Think people want to be see-through to thousands and thousands of people? Certainly not, people only want you to see a glorified version of themselves.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Young Health Movement (YHM) conducted a survey back in 2017 of almost 1,500 young people (aged 14-24) from across the UK. The survey asked them to score how each of the social media platforms they use impacted 14 different issues related to their mental or physical health. Out of the 5 main social media platforms, YouTube came first as the most positive towards health and wellbeing and Instagram finished last as the most negative towards our health and wellbeing.
The results are as follows:
YouTube (most positive)
Instagram (most negative)
The health and wellbeing related issues with these platforms included, anxiety, increased depression, loneliness, and FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. There are benefits to social media however and were shown within the survey. Positives included self-identity, self-expression, community building, and emotional support. YouTube gained the highest praise towards trustworthy health experiences/health information and for decreasing users’ levels of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH, said:
“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues. Through our Young Health Movement, young people have told us that social media has had both a positive and negative impact on their mental health. It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.
As the evidence grows that there may be potential harms from heavy use of social media, and as we upgrade the status of mental health within society, it is important that we have checks and balances in place to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing. We want to promote and encourage the many positive aspects of networking platforms and avoid a situation that leads to social media psychosis which may blight the lives of our young people.”
There is a clear link between social media and increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, we are all guilty of such traits associated with FOMO. How does this affect the way travel is shown on social media? In truth, most of it is just not reality. Of course, not everyone abides by this way of posting pictures and some show the two sides to traveling, but for the modern-day “influencer”, they are responsible for this false sense of traveling and thus causing the negative health issues connected with social media.
We are all smart enough and perhaps wise enough to take everything we see with a pinch of salt, however, when you see glorious glam photos of beautiful beaches while you're stuck at your desk scrolling your phone, it's almost impossible to not judge. The idea of traveling has lost its connection of seeing the world and has instead been replaced with a vanity contest of 'my life is better than yours'. Instagram started as a platform to showcase your photography and has since turned into a highlight reel of how you want others to see your life.
Influencers are not influencers in the slightest, they are not more worthy than you, have better outcomes than you, they are your equal. Ever seen a profile who follows 300 people but somehow has 50k followers? Yup, they bought those followers. Buying followers is a real thing on Instagram and a terrible thing at that. Are people so worried about their popularity they are willing to throw money down the drain to feel popular? Yes. Take into account how many travel photos you have seen where someone is wearing next to nothing with the body image the opposite to ours; is the photo there to highlight the location of where it was shot or just to show off a half-naked physique for likes?
Take into account/reality that influencers rarely make a living off Instagram and Instagram alone. Here’s a real example, there is someone I know who on Instagram and is classed as a blogger, they are following 200 people yet have 30k followers (bought). They post photos of themselves at manor houses as if they own them, at the gym advertising gym wear, holidaying in Ibiza, and posing practically nude. Their profile seems like they are living the ultra-high life and have struck lucky with how they chose to live their life. Then there’s their personal account; they live in a little fishing village, work as a beauty technician, and book holidays once or twice a year for a break in the sun. See the difference? With a little editing, promotion, and right photo at the right time, you can appear “famous”, it's all about what you want the world to see.
What’s the solution? Unless Instagram puts a cap on the amount of bullshit being spilled onto their platforms, for now, it is just up to us. See-through the truth and although a picture tells a thousand words, there’s nothing to say it has to tell the truth. The truth is influencers are only there for a popularity contest, sure they make money but nowhere near enough for living off Instagram alone. This deluded lifestyle is taking a negative toll on both our health and the way traveling is perceived in today's society. Not everyone is included in this, granted, but this trend is only increasing. If there’s anything to take from this post/rant, follow those who inspire, not looking to sell you something, promote the latest crushed cricket protein powder, or sticking their hips out in the latest yoga pants in front of a Bali sunset.