Instagram Likes and Mental Health

By Brenda Odria

The term “self-care” has arguably been co-opted from its original significance in order to fit and justify certain behaviours we enact in 2019. It has become an umbrella term where almost anything can fit – Skincare, Netlifx, Music, Baking I’m struggling to come up with ones that aren’t mine. This term has also been exhausted, by me and other writers obsessed with the idea of focusing on ourselves.  Self-care has now evolved into this relatable movement used by companies as a marketing tool because they take advantage of any big trend, but is this global recognition of self-care everything we needed?

Self-care places an emphasis on mental health that destigmatizes any notion of selfishness or narcissism, it is a healthy practice that advocates for mental health.

The self-care industry has grown considerably and is now worth 11 billion, this may be due to the increased stress reported by millennials that live in an era where doing the most is a measure of success. Doing the most and putting ourselves under immense stress required a counter-force, and that is self-care, but its spike in popularity comes with the commodification and this concern that it has been co-opted. Now companies benefit by branding products as self-care so that we purchase them to treat ourselves and feel good; they capitalize on our desire to fix our insecurities. Although, this results in a hyper-exposure to ideas of self-care and how is that a bad thing?

It encourages conversations around mental health and how self-care is vital to maintaining it and if we can do this through means of affordable products to teach young people about taking care of themselves then why not? Right?

A result of this hyper-exposure and awareness of self-care and mental health practices are things like Instagram testing out the elimination of a visible number of likes. An action to support and protect the mental health of Instagram users who are constantly comparing themselves to their peers. Where the number of likes becomes a social asset when we live in an age dominated by social media. Assigning a number or measure of how much someone is liked wields power over how someone thinks of themselves. Social media platforms generate a world where followers, likes and our own unique engagement on the platform becomes a sometimes exhausting performance. Where the freedom given to us to speak our mind and share our life enables a constant validation that might eventually become necessary and normalized. Removing the likes from Instagram decreases this constant need for external validation and instead the pictures that are posted rely on our desire to share rather than on what we think will get more likes. Or that’s my take at least.

In the psychological study “Stress, self-esteem and well-being among female health professionals: A randomized clinical trial on the impact of a self-care intervention mediated by the senses.”, published in 2017, where a total of 93 professional women participated by either not moisturizing, moisturizing and moisturizing a lot. The study assessed the impact on their stress and well being, with the results being that the women who moisturized a lot had lower stress, better self-esteem and reported higher life satisfaction.

So the industry has been commodified and companies profit from our insecurities because we love to moisturize, but now whenever says someone they need a self-care day it is understood and encouraged. In whatever way people decide to take care of themselves it is valid and anyone who minimizes the magnitude of this concept is in denial of how important it is to take care of ourselves.