Why I love other people’s happy, beautiful Instagram posts

I’m a big fan of Instagram, it’s my favourite social media tool, for the moment at least.

But I know that many people have a love/hate relationship with social media. They see what looks like someone’s perfect life with a high follower count, photogenic family, busy social life and beautifully styled home, and feel their life doesn’t match up.

There’s something so important to keep in mind when you’re scrolling through your social media feed – what you’re seeing are the edited highlights of a person’s life, not a factual, minute by minute documentary.

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Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that someone with a beautiful Instagram feed is being dishonest or putting on a fake persona. I’m saying their fabulous feed is just that – a collection of gorgeous photographs. We can only guess at the reasons behind why they choose to post what they post, but I can understand why anyone would prefer to show a pretty shot of a bunch of fresh flowers on a clear table rather than the pile of dirty plates, post, homework and whatever else is cluttering up the other end of the table.

Deep down we all know that no-one’s life is perfect, nor do they have an immaculate house, well-behaved children and feel ecstatically happy all the time. I know that out of shot of the beautiful flowers there’s quite possibly a pile of mess, a crying child, a barking dog and that the photographer themselves is wearing three-day-old clothes and hasn’t brushed their hair. But that’s just what I’m guessing. I don’t know, and it’s not really any of my business to know.

Without documenting every moment of a person’s life online it’s impossible to know what their life is really like, the highs and lows, the struggles and the joys they may be going through. The posts someone has written or photographed or filmed to add to their feed are snippets of their life.

When I see a gorgeously styled shot of a pot of tea, a mug, and a slice of cake on a vintage plate all on a pretty tablecloth, it’s up to me how I react to that image. I choose the story I tell myself about the photo and the photographer. I might decide I fancy a cuppa and put the kettle on. I may wonder what the cake tastes like and promise myself a visit to my local tea room soon. I could think “that’s pretty” and scroll on. More often than not I take note of the composition and styling of the shot and choose to see the image as inspiration to improve on my own photography.

I don’t choose to let the photo make me feel bad and I don’t tell myself a story about the photographer’s idyllic life where she bakes from scratch every day in her pristine kitchen, has only unchipped vintage crockery, and every piece of linen and clothing is ironed and crease-free.

By being mindful of the thought processes you’re having, the stories you’re telling yourself as you scroll through your feed, you can choose how you respond to what you see. You can choose to let the images wash over you, to find them inspiring, and to make you smile. You can opt for being uplifted or amused by the photos or just scroll on by without another thought. You can’t control what other people post in their social media feeds but you can control whether you see it or not, and how you react to it.

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