20/10/2017 13:19 SAST | Updated 20/10/2017 13:21 SAST

Instagram-Induced Depression Is Real. Here’s How You Can Avoid It

Instagram was ranked the worst social media network for mental health.

Girls taking a selfie.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Girls taking a selfie.

A growing body of research is proving the negative effects Instagram can have on one's mental health.

In a recent U.K. survey, the social media network was ranked the worst for mental health and well-being. While it got points for self-expression and self-identity, over half of the 1,500 respondents reported a heightened sense of anxiety, specifically relating to body image.

"The platform is very image-focused and it appears it may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people," said Shirley Cramer, an executive at the Royal Society for Public Health -- which published the report.

Depression, bullying and Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) followed anxiety closely as the top well-being health issues affecting Instagram users.

"Seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out, can make young people feel like they're missing out when others are enjoying life," stated the report. These feelings may result in feelings of depression.

Researchers also recently proved that social media users were likely to suffer from depression when they felt envy, triggered by observing other people's social media posts, accepting ex-lovers as social media friends and obsessed over their virtual identity.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

There are five ways a user can protect their mental space while enjoying Instagram:

1. Limit the time spent on Instagram

The more time spent on a social media network, the more time you might feel like you're missing out. You can manage how much time you spend on social media by giving yourself time to be on Instagram and time to log off. Further, you do not have to continuously refresh content.

If you are very bothered by the feeds, you can also take a break and remove the app for a week or two.

2. Get your news outside social feeds

If you use social media as your primary source of news, this can lead to distractions causing you to mindlessly browse your social feed. Going directly to the news website or downloading a news app can help.

3. Fill 'the social media gap' with other fun and productive activities

If you like reading, carry an extra book around for when you ache for your "social media fix." Watch a movie, go for a walk, visit a food market or an art gallery, go to the gym -- any productive activity that will consciously "force" you to shift your focus.

4. Actively build strong relationships

Regularly connecting with family, friends and colleagues over dinner or a night out can help fill your time productively. This would need, however, a conscious decision to be fully present with them without resorting to social media.

5. Constantly remind yourself that it is someone's 'highlight reel'

"Because platforms like Instagram and Facebook present highly curated versions of the people we know and the world around us, it's easy for our perspective of reality to become distorted," pointed out health vlogger, Laci Green in the report.

So it's important that you constantly remind yourself that this is not everything, there are difficulties that most likely won't make it online.

Notably, Instagram introduced mental health support tools for its users in late 2016.