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The Effects of Instagram on an Introvert's Mental Health and How I Survive

Michelle has struggled with her introversion all her life. She often finds socials difficult to navigate without burning out.

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Global intimidation

When I first made an account on Instagram, I felt like a little fish swimming through shark-infested waters.

I have been an introvert my entire life. I was the shy quiet kid who transformed into a tomato at every oral presentation. I never spoke up in class though I knew the answers and never demanded attention. Most of the time if I did it right, you wouldn't realize I was even there in the first place. I have always been intimidated by and envious of extroverts and people that can be the center of attention without melting into a puddle or their energy levels depleting. On Instagram, these thoughts are amplified with every account and post I come across. I often struggle to find my voice and put myself out there because;

1. As an introvert, most of our energy is directed inwards. We don't project our ideas and don't express our feelings easily,

2. I value silence and most of the time have nothing to actively say,

3. Being online drains my energy,

4. While I prefer being invisible, I fear rejection,

5. Socializing feels fake and awkward sometimes.

Feeling alone and misunderstood is very real to us, introverts. Navigating social media feels frustrating because it seems like it favours extroverts with its algorithm, need for entertainment, need to splash every second of your day online, and consistent posting and commenting.

It feels like high school all over again but on a global scale. Instead of envying the popular clique, embrace the loner club! I mean, who says the popular kids are more interesting than you anyways?


Authenticity in a world of illusions

As an introvert, I struggled to be authentic because others often referred to me as anti-social, having a resting bitch face, or depressed. People would tell me all the time to smile. They would always ask me why I was being quiet and if I was okay. I've had family and friends tell me to be more sociable and be more energetic. From a young age, I felt like I had to be someone other than myself. As I grew up I felt like I had to be different to be liked and accepted. This was no different once I signed up for social media. As I wandered the platform, brainwashed by all the glitz and glam showcased and fake perfection, I couldn't help but compare others to myself. I figured I would have to be like them to get noticed. But, when you're not being authentic to who you are, it's not sustainable. You become miserable, misaligned and imbalanced. I was naive to think that Instagram was the true reflection of the person behind it. It turns out that many will go to limitless edges to get that one extra like or follower. That's what it takes to get noticed these days, big, bold, and beautiful. But what if you're not any of those things?

Once I got fed up with the mask I was wearing, drained, and burnt out, I decided I was done. This was around the time I started my healing journey and made it a priority to stand in my truth no matter what. I still have moments where I find myself tempted to do things that are not me and stand in someone else's shoes but I always stop myself because then I'll attract friends that don't truthfully match with me. The purpose of social media is to share and make connections. I want real connections and that can't happen if I am joining the ranks of illusions.

Truth: I feel like I am struggling on Instagram. I don't get the recognition I would like, not for me, but for my business and what I am trying to do which is motivate and heal others with my personal experiences. I feel ignored at times. I feel like nobody actually cares. I feel like everyone is so busy faking it and my truth reminds them of their lies - nobody wants to follow that account!

I try to remind myself that my lack of success on Instagram is not my fault. I am being true to myself. I am providing heartfelt value. I am doing what I love.

Authenticity in a world of illusions is not easy to master. Every time you join the platform you're faced with intricately planned posts, over-the-top stories, and big personalities that often steal the show which often doesn't match that person's entire reality. You can't take everything at face value and you don't have to be anyone else but yourself. Patience is a virtue and I feel like as an introvert, finding your tribe takes a little longer than your fellow extroverts. Don't be fooled and lured into the room of mirrors with a hundred faces.

Online and IRL affects us the same

Many seem to think that introverts thrive easier online than in person but the reality is that we get just as drained socializing online as we do face to face!

Actually, managing real-life interactions is easier than online based on the single fact that at least IRL we can LEAVE the social circle. We can retreat into our bubbles, bask in the silence, and recharge our inner batteries. We can't escape our online social circles this way because they live in our phones which in this day of technology, resides in our hands regularly. Every time we log in onto our phones, we are compelled to check our social platforms and then sucked into liking, commenting, and sometimes even posting whether we want to or not leaving our energy depleted instantly.

To limit my own interactions and preserve my mental health, I opted out of notification alerts. I only check my page when I want to allowing me stay disciplined and only engage when I have the energy to.

Do it for you, not for them

It's natural to want people to like what you put out there. You've worked hard on your creations, on your posts, on your description, and you poured your heart into it. It's normal to want someone to see it and like it as much as you did.

The problem with relying on others' validation is that when you don't get it the way you expect to, it changes how you feel about yourself and what you're doing. I have given up on many ideas and ventures because I wasn't being heard and seen the way I wanted to. The thing is, it takes time to build something real, deep, and long-lasting with people that truly connect with you.

To shift the outward mindset, remind yourself that you started your path because of passion and how it fed your soul. There is not one other opinion out there that should be able to change this.

It started with you, it will continue with you, and it will end with you. If you make friends or acquire fans of your work on the way, that's the cherry on top, not the whole cake.

Find your tribe and beat the algorithm

Algorithm. This word frustrates me lol. Anytime you search how to build your Instagram page, it talks bout the algorithm and what you need to do for it to be in your favour. What I personally don't like about this is that it makes it hard to be authentic, especially for introverts. I have read the list over many times and sighed because what it tells me to do is not who I am and I don't want to be anyone else. Or, it feels like a chore because finding accounts that I truly enjoy is difficult.

When you find your tribe though, the list looks different. It doesn't feel like a chore anymore because your tribe speaks to you, inspires you, and you WANT to socialize with them. When you find your tribe, it's a give-and-take relationship. It's unconditional love and support that doesn't rely on what you're providing but on who you are as a person. When you find your tribe, you will feel seen and heard without all the bells and whistles that aren't you because they will appreciate your authenticity and vice versa.

The Instagram algorithm says that whenever you post something on your page, it is only shown to 10% of your followers. First of all, that's insane. Then, if that 10% of followers interact with your posts, your posts are shown to more people and possibly new followers. But if they don't interact, nobody new sees your stuff and your analytics tank.

That's why finding your tribe and people that truly care about you and ultimately your passion is important. Your tribe will effortlessly bring the algorithm in your favour instead of feeling like you're pushing against a tidal wave. You need to be selective about what company you keep which is not that much different than in real life. As introverts, we know this because we practice this in our physical world. We just need to remember this in our virtual world when we are tempted to attain meaningless "fans".

The only thing that is different virtually for introverts is that it is easier to actually go out, find your tribe and make quality connections without the anxiety that consumes you IRL.

Find your tribe and thrive!

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