Whilst scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, I came across a quote by Nayyirah Waheed which stopped me in my tracks.

“Would you still want to travel to that country if you could not take a camera with you.”

Now, I’ve never been to the Taj Mahal, but I can guarantee that if I had, I’d have spent significantly more of my visit staring down the lens of a camera than I would have admiring one of the Wonders of the World. Ever looked around at a concert and noticed that most people are watching the performance through their phones? A beautiful sunset is a photo op you simply can’t pass up, but by the time you’re done switching positions and hitting your angles, the sun’s gone down and you’ve missed it. People claim to be making memories when they whip out the camera, but what’s to cherish if you can’t honestly say you were present in the moments captured? By sacrificing our own experiences for the imaginary audience of our followers, have we stopped living for ourselves?

The social media takeover took little more than a decade and has become so embedded that most people our age couldn’t imagine life without it. Nowadays, if you meet someone and can’t find them on Facebook OR Instagram, that’s a big red flag. Why aren’t they out here commodifying themselves in search of approval like the rest of us? Must be a weirdo.

Labelled ominously as end-of-the-line Generation Z, millennials have lots to thank these platforms for: a microscopic attention span, the need for instant gratification, a surfeit of mental health issues. Growing up in the viral culture that sent six-second videos to stardom one week and condemned them to irrelevance the next, insecurity is inevitable. Apps intended for our convenience and entertainment have flipped the switch. Apparently, we now work for them, obliged to prove ourselves incessantly.

Feeling anxious and even depressed by these platforms is standard. First thing in the morning, last at night – we find the worst possible times to turn to our phones and scroll aimlessly through the highlights of others’ lives. University binge drinking culture doesn’t help either. Nobody wants to wake up and see Alexis Ren frolicking in the Bahamas when their own day will be spent contemplating their overdraft with their head hanging over the toilet. Deep down, we know that the content of someone’s Instagram is not the reality of their life, yet we all fall into the comparison trap.

With disillusionment growing, when will we say ‘enough ’to social media? It’s safe to say we’ve lost the plot in our efforts to equate ostentation with validation, and it makes us all feel like crap. We must address toxicity when we see it, no matter how ingrained it seems.Given the recent meteoric rise of self-bettering initiatives like “wellness” and veganism, is there a chance we could come full circle and throw social media out of the window while we’re at it?