With such a rise of social media use over the last decade or so, it is clear to see what the appeal of platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and many more are. The ability to quickly connect with friends, share posts, and having the latest news available at your fingertips. Social media has also been useful in raising awareness for important causes, fundraising for charities, sharing beneficial reminders and providing a voice for matters which may otherwise be brushed off. There is also a sense of togetherness and community when being able to relate to similar issues at times.

However, as someone who witnessed the social media boom at the beginning of my adolescent years, I have seen first-hand how it can reinforce feelings of insecurity. Whether that is through unrealistic beauty standards, trying to fit a certain body image or a constant feeling of low self-worth due to the exposure of airbrushed and filtered content which seems picture perfect. Young, impressionable females may take celebrities or influencers as role-models and wish to act and look like them but feel as if they never quite measure up. Males may also struggle with body image issues and feeling the need to live up to this well-built physique, comparing themselves to the ‘strong’ males they see on social media. I think it is important not to ignore the impact this can have on both genders, as male mental health often gets ignored but is equally important to shine a light on. The concept that everyone is made unique with different talents, hobbies, strengths and limitations has almost become non-existent, due to the lifestyle promoted on social media where it seems like there is only one way to be or act, in order to get ‘likes’ or be seen as relevant. A platform with no space for flaws or imperfections, and no individuality.

Being exposed to such an aesthetically pleasing life that others are living also makes it difficult not to fall into the cycle of comparison and feeling inadequate in some way. The quote ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ resonates here in a literal sense, as the more we see the highlight reels of other’s lives, the less content it causes us to feel. This can range from ‘couple goals’ causing unrealistic expectations in real life relationships or an increased sense of loneliness, feeling behind in life or unproductive due to witnessing others achieve goals at a quicker pace, to being tempted to buy things you can’t afford just to fit in to the glamorous virtual realm. It is never-ending and exhausting trying to live up to the next best thing. The idea of living in the moment and off your screen for a while has also faded over time, due to the notion that anything fun you do must be shared with all your followers or it does not feel as enjoyable, as if the sharing aspect provides more joy than the action itself. There is this pressure to keep up with what everyone else is doing and posting, rather than doing things for yourself. While social media can be a convenient way to keep up with loved ones, research shows that that it can lead to a lack of real, genuine bonds over time (Cocking & Matthews 2008). Frampton and Fox (2018) found that social media can also cause an increase in conflict and negative emotions in relationships such as jealousy.

Although the trap of social media may seem inevitable, there are some helpful tips you can apply to avoid becoming consumed by this online world. I have outlined some of these below:

Lowering social media consumption and taking regular breaks from these platforms as and when needed:

I’m not suggesting quitting social media completely, as this can be difficult and there are also benefits of using such platforms. However, during a time where even helpful information can seem overwhelming, it is important to constantly monitor how you are feeling and your wellbeing. If going on such apps are causing you to feel exhausted or burnt out, it is perfectly okay to try and limit the number of hours spent on these on a daily basis and even to take a break when it all feels too much. Your mental health needs to be a priority. Particularly during lockdown in this pandemic when the bad news seemed never-ending, I found it useful to spend a few weeks away from the temptation to keep scrolling. Instead, focus on the here and now and find ways to keep yourself occupied away from a screen, such as art or taking advantage of nature, and spending time with animals. Also engage in real life conversations and activities as much as possible (post-lockdown) rather than solely on texting or social media conversations. You’ll probably find yourself feeling much more refreshed when you do return.

Keep reminding yourself of how selective social media can be. It is not as real as it seems:

Remember that what you see is not always true or the full picture. People tend to show their achievements and the best bits of their lives rather than failures or the many bumps encountered on the route to the success which you see. Also, other people’s achievements do not take away from your own. Don’t let social media make you forget how unique you are, on your own path. Progress is progress, no matter how small. You are exactly where you need to be and where Allah has placed you in this portion of your life. If you do feel like you could be doing more, then think about breaking things down into small steps to help yourself achieve a goal rather than putting too much pressure on yourself to have it figured out overnight.

Unfollow accounts which make you feel bad about yourself:

This doesn’t necessarily mean that these accounts are negative or intend to be harmful but try to be aware of how you feel when looking at certain accounts on social media. It can be helpful to follow accounts which motivate you, but if witnessing a certain lifestyle is causing you to question your own worth or how fulfilled you feel in life, then maybe it is time to take a break from your favourite influencer to avoid the constant comparison.

Question your motivation behind posting content:

While it can be nice to share snippets of our lives on social media, try to keep checking in with yourself about what your reason behind posting specific aspects are. Is it to gain validation or approval from others, are you trying to compensate for how you really feel? Or to keep up with others because you feel the need to prove something? Make sure it is genuinely for yourself and not to create an illusion.

I hope this benefits anyone who feels they can relate, Jazakallah for reading! 




Cocking, D., & Matthews, S. (2000). Unreal friends. Ethics and Information Technology, 2(4), 223-231.

Frampton, J. R., & Fox, J. (2018). Social Media’s Role in Romantic Partners’ Retroactive Jealousy: Social Comparison, Uncertainty, and Information Seeking. Social Media + Society.


Aisha Ahmed

A trainee counsellor who is passionate about mental health awareness and enjoys writing on the side.

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