Social media has changed the way we live our lives more than any other development in the last two decades.
I'll often marvel that my job, which includes managing Pique's social media platforms, wouldn't have existed a few years ago.
These days, the platform I spend the most time on personally is Instagram—a photo and video sharing app, for those of you who have yet to succumb to society's pressure.
(It's also the platform I'm most trying to grow for our paper, so please toss us a follow @piquenews, hashtag your photos using #mypique to be featured and forgive me for this shameless piece of self-promotion.)
It's another fun tool for telling stories and connecting with readers. With new updates and features rolling out consistently, it never gets boring.
As of June 2018, it also had 1 billion monthly active users—up from 800 million in September 2017.
It's not surprising that social media's impact is as strong as it is. For all the time we spend staring at technological devices, it's more often than not motivated by our desire to connect.
Through Instagram, I've discovered everything from new stores to shop at, trails to hike and places to travel to new music, photographers and blogs to follow—not to mention all the laughter from the countless memes friends tag me in. Most importantly for me, Instagram makes it easy to keep up to date with friends and family living thousands of kilometres away.
I love social media. But for all the good social media and Instagram have brought to the world, it definitely has its fair share of drawbacks.
On the lesser end of the spectrum, that could mean experiencing a bout of "FOMO" triggered by watching all of your friends back home having fun without you, travelling without you, or even skiing on a pow day while you're stuck at work.
It can also have more serious effects on users' mental health, with some research pointing to Instagram as an increasing cause of anxiety and depression in young people.
It's easy to see why: While human nature prompts us to compare ourselves to others, Instagram is a highlight reel—and an addictive one at that. For instance, snowboarders will often post footage of themselves nailing a trick in the park. But how often do they post the footage of all the times they attempted that same trick and failed?
Whether it's a selfie, a landscape, or a 15-second video, comparing your reality to someone's perfectly edited; heavily filtered depictions of themselves and their lives will seldom end well. While it might lead to inspiration in some case, it will more often cause otherwise sane, secure human beings to spiral into feelings of insecurity and jealousy—sometimes even about trivial, unimportant attributes like the amount of likes or followers someone else has.
But despite those negative feelings, most of us can't help but pick up our phones and open the app several times a day, sometimes without consciously deciding to do so. (Please, someone reassure me I'm not the only one who's picked up my phone to check the weather, only to find myself 30 weeks deep into the rabbit hole of a stranger's feed 15 minutes later).
Whether I'm at concerts, parties, on the mountain, or by the lake—whenever I'm having fun, I often feel the need to immediately document and share what I'm doing. It's a tendency that makes me a little uncomfortable.
What's my motivation? To show people how great my life is, and stoke jealousy about how much fun I'm having, or to capture memories while sharing my personal highlight reel with family and friends? Each is probably a little true, if I'm being completely honest.
But while there's something to be said for documenting memories, it's hard to live in the moment when you're worrying about angles, filters and captions.
So take this as reminder not to take Instagram too seriously. Remember that what people choose to post on Instagram isn't the whole story, but simply a snapshot into their day.
Put down the phone, look up at your surroundings, and enjoy the present.