Why Social Media Is Just A Highlight Reel | Mental Health Matters

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Social media is often labelled as being a “highlight reel” which means everyone shares their best moments that they want people to see.  

We find ourselves comparing our lives, the way we look and the way we dress to other people on social media as it’s so easy to ‘access’ someone’s life from their online profiles. The truth to the matter is, you’re not really accessing their life. You’re only seeing a small portion of it that they’re marketing to you and rarely do people share content that shows their bad days or bad angles. 

Everyone’s guilty of experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) from viewing a friend’s Instagram or Snapchat story of them out in a bar or at a restaurant whilst you’re sat at home feeling sorry for yourself. Or maybe you’ve seen a friend’s Facebook pictures from their holiday abroad, and you’re wishing you could experience a break like that too whilst sat in the office (We’re a culprit of this too). 

However, these unhealthy comparisons can really have an impact upon people in society’s mental health. This is because it can make us feel worse about our own lives, when in matter of fact, someone else is probably scrolling through your social-media posts wishing they had your life. It can be a toxic habit to compare yourselves to friends, celebrities, colleagues or even strangers through using social-media channels.  

One study found that Instagram was rated the “worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing”. 

We’re not saying by any means you should feel guilty for posting whatever you want to on social media, they’re your profiles after all. We just want to change the way society looks at social media and help shed light on positive ways to use it. So that you don’t compare any aspect of your life or yourself to anyone else because of what you’ve seen them post online.  

Social media

How social media can impact your mentality 

There are many studies showing that social media can increase the likelihood of people feeling anxious, depressed, or lonely. Further studies have also tied social media use to decreased sleep and poor academic performance. This isn’t to say that social media is the sole cause of mental health issues, but it can be a contributor. 

Such impacts upon mental health can be caused through a variety of ways on social media which we have discussed below. 

Unrealistic Beauty Standards 

Much of the content that appear on our feeds are edited or enhanced in some way. Meaning that unrealistic beauty standards are becoming more and more prominent. People who post heavily edited content may even act as if it’s a true representation of their appearance. When in fact, they’ve created that unattainable body type through using Photoshop or Facetune. 

This then leads to body image insecurities and even body dysmorphia for people who consume that content and believe it to be a true reflection of that person. On apps such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter you can end up feeling like you’re not pretty enough or not skinny enough, in comparison to celebrities, influencers and models.  

Many people critique The Kardashians for promoting unrealistic beauty standards online by posting filtered and edited photos of themselves without disclosing the truth about how they achieved these ‘perfect appearances’ such as through surgery, editing software’s or filters. 

In addition, social media often tells us that we need to be good looking by society standards such as be in a certain weight category to be worthy or successful, which is very far from the truth. 

Fear Of Missing Out 

Fear of missing out

Social media can cause FOMO when you see people posting stories of them out and about, you end up wanting to go out and make plans with friends or colleagues just for the sake of it, even if you planned for a quiet night in. You feel like you can’t miss out because your friend group all uploaded a video of them dancing in a bar, but often when you get there, you realise you were not missing out on much. Remember, its okay to miss out on activities sometimes, there will always be next time.

Cancel Culture

Cancel culture 

Social media can also be a playground for bullying or rumour spreading online, and cancel culture is now at the forefront of the digital world. Cancel culture is a process of shaming celebrities and regular people for things they said or did on their social media channels, even if they were young and naïve in their opinions. Sometimes, boycotting a certain brand or individual for offensive things they said can be deemed as being valid, such as if a person has shared racist or homophonic opinions.  

However, in a lot of cases, we’re not too sure if cancel culture is the right approach. Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes and those subject to being cancelled can experience an extremely negative toll on their mental health, and it can even lead to self-harm or suicide. We need to allow people within society to grow and move past their own mistakes. For sure we can disagree with a person’s actions but cancelling an individual and shaming them online might not be the best option. It can also give more publicity to the person or the brand. 

Cancel culture can also target people without valid proof, this happened with Johnny Depp where he became the target of media and online abuse for years from his relationship with Amber Heard, where he was dubbed to be an abuser. However, it has now came to light in their recent court case, that evidence points to him being the victim in the situation. 


If we can give you anything to take away from this blog, remember that your mental-health and others mental-health matters too! 

Using social media to contribute to a positive lifestyle  

When you catch yourself feeling jealous of how good someone looks, or how nice their holiday looks or how happy their relationship must be, remember that platforms such as Instagram are a highlight reel, not real life.  

You can maintain a positive relationship with social media by following these strategies: 

  • Limit your screen time – If you find yourself struggling to switch off from scrolling through social-media, then limit your screen time. You can do this on an iPhone by going to Settings > Screen Time, then turn on screen time if you haven’t already. Tap App Limits, then tap Add Limit. Then you can choose which apps you want to add a screen time limit for. 
  • Take breaks from social media – If you’re beginning to have a toxic relationship with your own social-media channels and constantly checking how many likes or story replies you received, or maybe you don’t like the content you’re putting out there, then step back and take a break from posting. 
  • Put things into perspective – You don’t know everyone’s full story because you follow them on TikTok and see videos of them daily, you don’t see what happens behind closed doors. Just like how people don’t see everything that goes on in your life. Everyone has ups and downs, but most of the time you’ll see the ups.  
  • Take some time to yourself – Do things that make you feel good like self-care nights with a bath and a facemask or watch films rather than aimlessly scrolling on social media for hours. Sometimes you do it without realising! 

Screen time

  • Write down things that are going well in your life – Focus on the things that are going well right now and remind yourself. If you’ve just passed an important exam or you’ve been promoted at work, then praise yourself and write it down so your future self can look back on these good moments! 
  • Change up your following – If there are certain accounts such as influencer profiles that you always click on and compare yourself to, then hit the unfollow button or if you don’t want to unfollow if its someone you know then mute their account. Instead, follow people that make you feel confident and positive about your life. 
  • Compare yourself to your past self not someone else – Take time to appreciate where you are and how much you have grown into the person you are now. Yes, you might think that other people are more successful or better looking than you, but no one can live your life and chances are, that you’re accomplishing a lot now which you once wished for. Think of your younger self!  
  • Connecting with family and friends – Engage with those that matter most with you, if there’s certain family members or friends you don’t see often, connect with them through social media, bring those wholesome vibes in. After all, social media was created to bring people together.  

Social media engagement

We’ve reached the end of this blog; we hope you’ve taken away some important tips on using social media positively and learn that content you see on your feed is only small parts of someone’s life.  

We are not mental health experts. If you are struggling with your mental health, please get in touch with professionals or reach out to your friends or family. We have listed some helpful sources to go to for mental health support: 

  • Student Minds – The UK’s student mental health charity. If you are looking for support for your own mental health or support for a friend or loved one, help is available from student minds here. 
  • Mind – Mind is a charity that provides advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem, help is available on their website. 
  • NHS – The National Health Service offers help with mental health for teenagers, young adults and students.