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The Instagram Illusion

Open almost any social media feed, you’re bound to see endless pictures of perfect looking people sharing anecdotes of a fun packed life filled with photogenic food, holidays, and happiness. Whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or any other online social platform, we are eager to showcase the highlights of our life to others.


Only 18% of men and 19% of women in a 2016 study agreed that their Facebook page displayed “a completely accurate reflection” of who they are. Portraying a perfect life is easy when you have the power to hand pick the colourful moments of your life you want to share. Filters and photo manipulation apps make it just as easy to portray a perfect body. With a touch of a finger, you can completely reshape, slim, brighten, and smooth a selfie to satisfy society’s standards. It’s no surprise that in 2017 a study found that 60% of people using social media reported that it had impacted their self-esteem negatively. Social media can be so deceptive, that it’s easy to even create a whole new, completely false persona, such as shown in “Catfish”. The 2010 American documentary followed a mans blossoming Internet relationship with “Megan”, a girl in Michigan. Hundreds of messages and numerous phone calls over 8 months were exchanged prior to their meeting – however, unfortunately for the lovestruck man, “Megan” turned out to be a fabricated persona unlike what he’d been led to believe. When it’s this easy to lie online, it can be tempting. So just what drives 

us to do so?


Watching snapshots of our life get “likes” can feel validating. It has been found in a 2016 study that these digital likes are literally addictive and activate our brain the same way eating chocolate or winning money does. Subsequently, we can be driven to create a carefully curated online persona to appeal to both our friends and strangers in the social media realm. However, these favourable yet falsified personas can be incredibly damaging to your mental wellbeing. It is hard to resist comparing your own life to the perfect parts of others we see online, which can lead to a serious feeling of “missing out”, dissatisfaction with your life, and even feelings of depression. 


It’s easy to lie online – and it’s even easier to fall into a spiral of unhealthy social comparison. Remember the next time you see an Instagram post of a beautiful, carefree girl smiling over her acai bowl that you are looking at a product carefully crafted from a single moment. Take a reality check and keep in mind that a photo only captures an instant in a 24/7 life of ups, downs, work, stresses, and worries. We hold ourselves to unreal expectations based on the real world, when we should focus on the real world itself. It can be hard to not compare yourself to the snapshots of another’s flawless life but take the conscious step to separate online fantasy from reality. From the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. 


Many popular social media influencers have revealed that behind their persona, they feel lonely, disillusioned and stressed due to their disconnect from reality. It is important to live in the present and engage actively with your life. So the next time you’re out with friends, don’t stress about taking the perfect selfie. Cultivate a future you want to experience for yourself – and not for others on social media to see. Developing healthy social media habits and being honest to not only others, but also yourself, can greatly increase self-esteem satisfaction with life, and happiness, so make the step today!

*NB. If you feel like you are suffering from ongoing insecurities and unhappiness about yourself, it is advised that you speak with a health professional. 

Dr. Aileen Alegado is the Director and primary clinician at Mindset Consulting. As a registered clinical psychologist, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the practice, specialising in the treatment of mental health conditions, the administration of neuropsychological assessments and the use of psychometric tools. Her passion for seeking out therapy models that work, ensures that you receive tailored support at every turn.

If you’d like to organise a 10-minute phone conversation with Dr. Aileen to give you clarity on your next steps, visit 

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