Going the extra mile for the perfect Instagram photo is just one symptom of trying to curate a polished aesthetic. Ratios are another. (Image via Jake Parillo)
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It’s time to accept the fact that we can’t all have Selena Gomez numbers.

Imagine this. You and your friends get together to go to the city. You find a beautiful mural on the side of a building and immediately decide that it’s perfect for the ‘gram. Your friends huddle around the mural exchanging phones to get that Insta-worthy pic. Before you know it, your friends are giving you advice on how you should pose for the perfect “candid” picture. Your friends stand up on garbage cans and crouch down on the concrete all in the name of Instagram.

Many of my friends spend hours or even days choosing a picture and coming up with the perfect caption every time they post something new. They edit multiple pictures at once for the right filter and add small tweaks to their captions like changing from the excited emoji to the smiling one. Let’s not forget the Instagram ratio that people try to increase by following and unfollowing accounts.

The societal norm has become that more people should care about your life compared to how much you care about others’ lives. This is the basic idea of an Instagram ratio. Defined as the follower to following ratio, your ratio is higher the more followers you have and less people you follow.

People have gone through the ends of the earth to make sure that they have a high ratio. Buying followers or following a thousand people to unfollow them the next day show the importance Instagram ratios have on modern society. Social media isn’t vanishing anytime soon, but has transformed from  being a communicative platform to stay connected with others into a monster eating away at its users’ self-esteem.

How?

British-American author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek explains the millennial norms best in his viral interview with Inside Quest. He says that millennials are raised in an environment to have lower self-esteem than previous generations.

One of the factors that contributes to this mentality is the social comparison among peers on social media. Editing, applying filters and posting the perfect Instagram picture paints a fake representation of your actual life. People are unintentionally competing with each other as to whose life is better. Because of this, insecurities arise in getting the validation of others via likes, comments and followers.

“We’re good at putting filters on things,” said Sinek. “We’re good at showing people that life is amazing, even though I’m depressed. Everybody sounds tough and everybody sounds like they’ve got it all figured out. The reality is there’s very little toughness and most people don’t have it figured out.”

The two generations most knowledgeable about social media, millennials and Generation Z, are addicted to their phones. Whenever a notification pops up on someone’s phone they get a temporary blast of dopamine, which is similar to hormones released when you smoke or drink. When someone unfriends you, there is a moment of sadness where you don’t feel wanted or liked by someone. When you attend an event or go out to dinner with friends, it didn’t happen unless you post a picture or add it to your Instastory.

Now, you’re probably asking, How does this have anything to do with an Instagram ratio?

Social media is an escape into a utopian world where everyone’s life is perfect and happy. People place an importance on their ratio to ensure that level of perfection is maintained. However, nobody can attain a perfect life without some sort of hardship. Trying to portray this flawless lifestyle is in itself a struggle, like a light at the end of a tunnel that can never be reached.

It’s easy to tell you to stop worrying about your Instagram ratio and another to actually do so. The thing is, many people know that they use Instagram way too much and hate themselves for it, but can’t seem to get enough of it. People look at their Instagram feed walking down the street, lying in bed, sitting on the bus or just taking a long time in the bathroom.

Then there are people who are addicted to their phones … How many times have you been walking on the street or driving in the car and suddenly wondered where your phone is? If you can’t find it within five seconds, your heart skips a beat and you start to have a mini panic attack frantically searching for your phone.

The thought of where your phone lingers in your mind at all times Your addiction starts with your phone and eventually dwindles down to the obsession of small features within apps your Instagram profile pic, bio, caption or photo.

All the money in the world can’t help change an addiction to technology. Ultimately, it comes down to your mentality towards phones and social media by asking the right questions to yourself: Should I be focusing more on my social media or real life relationships? Why am I addicted to social media? Do people really care about my Instagram ratio? And if they do, how does that affect me? What can I do to get rid of my addiction?

Chances are your real life relationships are more important than likes and comments on a picture. If you are worried about what people think about your ratio, trust me when I say that people do not pay attention to that number let alone the pictures you post. The reality is that hundreds of people look at your photo for a second or two before continuing on their mindless scroll for the next hour.

To end the misery of the looming Instagram ratio over your head, all you have to do is delete it.

If that’s a little too much for you to handle and don’t want to part ways with the app just yet, you can start with the amount of screen time that you get with your phone. You can charge your phone outside of your room at night, so that you don’t feel the need to look at your feeds before you go to bed. There are also surprising benefits to turning your colorful screen to black and white.

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