Instagram Therapy: I Use It to Look at Nice Pictures

("Glaciers melt into overfull and unstable high alpine glacier lakes above the homes of hundreds of thousands of people in la Cordillera Blanca. This photo is of one of the handful of guardians tasked with keeping watch and alerting the towns below in case of disasters." | Photo by my friend Courtney Cecale, a photographer and environmental anthropologist. Published with permission; all rights reserved. Read more about her work on National Geographic.)

("Glaciers melt into overfull and unstable high alpine glacier lakes above the homes of hundreds of thousands of people in la Cordillera Blanca. This photo is of one of the handful of guardians tasked with keeping watch and alerting the towns below in case of disasters." | Photo by my friend Courtney Cecale, a photographer and environmental anthropologist. Published with permission; all rights reserved. Read more about her work on National Geographic.)

I consider it like decorating a home, it can be cluttered and drab, and put you in a bad mood—or it can be clean and neat and pleasant to inhabit. You don't blame the home when you don't decorate it to your liking or invite the wrong guests.

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

When I first saw Instagram, I thought to myself, here is the perfect platform to see beautiful pictures. Perhaps that's not what it's known for, but that's how I use it. I exclusively follow artists, photographers, museums, and magazines known for breathtaking pictures. (I, for my part, try to take interesting pictures of scenery wherever I am.) Whenever I log on, it's a short reprieve, an escape into adventure—into beauty. I call it Instagram therapy, and rather than feeling down when I use it (which can be the effect based on what you follow), I always feel uplifted.

I don't use Instagram to keep up with friends, I use it as a portal to awe and wonder—not envy. It doesn't mean I won't follow friends, I only follow the ones that match my criteria. Most digital connections are redundant. We keep up with friends over text, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. We're over-connected; it's good to have one platform devoted to art, and believe me, your friends won't mind. And if they do, that says more about them than you.

My feed itself, then, becomes a work of art, something I can be proud of.

Here Is a Glimpse of My Instagram Feed:

| Stranger |

A photo posted by Jaxson Pohlman (@jaxsonpohlmanphotography) on

#tv #doodles

A photo posted by jesseaclin (@jesseaclin) on

"Space is the breath of art."—Frank Lloyd Wright #FrankLloydWrightFridays (📷 @dmheald)

A photo posted by Guggenheim Museum (@guggenheim) on

I curate all of my social networks. What this does is it allows me to be one of those unique individuals who is always happy with their social media experience. I have compared my feed with others I know who complain about their social media consumption. We pull out our phones and scroll our feeds side-by-side. I do this to show them, you can choose to have an entirely different experience—just as you can choose to consume healthy or unhealthy foods. Your mental diet is up to you.

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the biggest mistake you can make online is to only follow people you know. (It's like trying to stay on a diet while watching what your friends and family are eating—which we probably also do online.) I know I don't always share the greatest stuff, why would they be any different? And if you know lots of people, it's going to be a lot more of that. Every day, a high school/ family reunion. Every time you log on. Blaming Facebook or Instagram for our experience is like designing an ugly website, then blaming the internet for allowing you to do that. Yes, the internet can be the worst place in the world, but don't forget, it can also be rad.

Rather than spiraling down a click-hole, curating my Instagram inspires me to go out and do things, to write more, travel more, to experience more life. Your mental diet is like your regular diet, it's not just about what you eat but also how much you eat. And when I only allow good mental foods, I don't need to consume as much media. I'm satisfied. Only when I consume crap do I compulsively consume. Then no wonder, the default answer for both is to consume less rather than emphasizing what you consume, because your compulsion fools you into believing giving up crap isn't an option. (Be mindful of what pulls your attention, it might not be good for you: e.g., celebrities, envy culture, attention seekers, foodie pics, and clickbait. There's a reason why social scientists classify these things under porn, because they stimulate a compulsive interest in their audience. And compulsion robs you of freedom.)

I consider it like decorating a home, it can be cluttered and drab, and put you in a bad mood—or it can be clean and neat and pleasant to inhabit. You don't blame the home when you don't decorate it to your liking or invite the wrong guests. It's the same with our social media experience. It's your choice, the programmers have given you more than enough personalization options. (The irony is, too much freedom gives us anxiety. But if we don't use our freedom, we'll only feel worse.) And yes, you're allowed to do this, just like you don't have to invite those that you don't want over for Thanksgiving. Part of it is this belief that we are not allowed to follow people other than the ones we know (or the ones we are told to follow, the ones who want attention). Listen, give yourself the permission, take yourself off the hook. Happify your feed. Do it for your mental health.

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