My cat, Buffy, saunters into the room, gracefully leaps onto our wooden table, and sits, poised and perfect.
I do what every other person would — I grab my phone and snap countless pictures, from different angles.
I spend five minutes editing the pictures, making my already-beautiful kitty even more stunning.
Then I open up Instagram, start a new post, type a snappy caption, complete with hashtags…
And I freeze.
I can’t post it.
I remember posts from celebrities of their cats, my friends and pets, even famous cats’ Instagram profiles — they’re all so much better than this photo.
I start to panic — this picture represents me, my brand — any number of people could see it, and decide whether I’m worth following, or if it’s worth a double-tap.
My breath starts to quicken, my pulse races, my jaw tightens.
My thumb hovers over ‘Share’, but I still can’t post it.
It’s not Buffy’s fault (she’s perfect), it’s mine — my insecurities.
Buffy blinks and mews at me, mourning her five minutes of Insta-fame before they even started.
#FOMO Becomes #Fear
I’m not alone in my Insta-anxiety — in 2017, Instagram was ranked the worst for mental health for teens in a survey by BBC News.
Acronyms like FOMO (fear of missing out), PSI (perceived social isolation) and SAD (social anxiety disorder) have become common since the advent of social media, so it seems as though so-called ‘social’ media isn’t actually doing society any favours.
It’s even a recognised phobia — visiobibliophobia (fear of social media).
Even Cosmo are talking about social media anxiety — in their 10 emotional stages of posting a selfie to Instagram listicle, fear creeps in at number two.
It’s alarming to see that, in 2009, just under half of young people aged 16–25 said that social media made them feel ‘inadequate‘.
Inadequate — that’s certainly a feeling that sounds familiar.
Even though we know that Instagram is awash with filters, edits, and sub-par photoshop, somehow those perfect pictures merge with reality.
Particularly for those running their own business, or pursuing a creative endeavour such as Medium, promotion on social media is a must.
So how do we move pas our anxieties and insecurities so we can grow our personal brands?
1. Unfollow your celebrities
I know, it’s hard, and it could even take a long time — especially if, like me, you follow literally hundreds of celebs alone.
But it’s worth it, for the sake of your mental health.
Any special news on your favourite celebrities you can find in the tabloids, or on a news content site like Buzzfeed.
But do we really need to follow the lives of celebrities?
2. Follow real people
Instead of celebrities, follow people like you — real people.
If you’re a writer, follow writers.
If you’re a local business owner, follow other local businesses.
If you’re an artist, follow artists.
You’ll come to realise that no-one is really perfect, and you’ll share their successes as they share yours.
Plus, you’ll be lifting other people up, and they’ll be lifting you up.
3. Do your own photoshoot
Take your phone, walk around your house, or go outside, and get trigger-happy on your camera.
Wander, and see what catches your eye.
Snap a picture (or five), then move on to the next thing.
Look for the beauty in your world.
I’m telling you, it’s there — you just need to look for it.
The more you take photos, the better you’ll get at it — everyone starts off somewhere.
4. Schedule your posts
Scheduling Instagram posts is saving me a lot of fear.
It’s not so scary when you’re not actively thinking about something being posted.
Plus, I’ve found that with Facebook’s Creator Studio, you can easily schedule Instagram posts (even carousels), complete with hashtags and emojis.
All you need is a Facebook page and an Instagram page, connected to each other, and you’re good to go!
No more ‘scheduling tools’ that don’t automatically post Instagram images (are they really scheduling tools when they don’t actually schedule?).
Now, you can plan everything out, schedule it for specific times, sit back, and (semi) relax.
Recently, Instagram has been testing removing likes from posts from others — you can see the likes on your post, but others can’t see how many likes your post has.
Hopefully, this change will help to reduce social media anxiety, taking away some of the pressure to get those all-important ‘likes’ that, in reality, don’t actually add up to anything.
Social media isn’t going anywhere any time soon — it’s going to continue to grow and be fundamental to business and brand success, so we need to learn how to use it in a way that isn’t detrimental to our mental health.
I think I’ll post that picture of Buffy now.