It happens so easily. One minute you’re innocently scrolling your Instagram feed, and then suddenly you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of lifestyle envy.

You know what I’m talking about.

Whether it’s that gorgeous female traveler who seems to live at tropical resorts or that jealousy-inducing couple with the perfect home and kids — there are countless Instagram accounts out there that scream #goals and make us all feel a little less awesome.

But could it be that all these beautifully polished photos are actually hurting us? If you’ve ever found yourself months deep in someone’s account lusting after their life in squares, you can probably relate. It’s far too easy to get swept away with these perfect, posed images and begin to feel dissatisfied with your own life.

The problem, however, is probably not with your life. It’s with the unrealistic lifestyles that we’ve all begun to portray on social media, and particularly on Instagram. And I know I’m guilty on both sides of the spectrum. As a travel blog couple, my husband and I have certainly spent hours crafting a “flawless” image for our feed. The reality behind the photo is far less glamorous. The two of us struggling to strike the perfect pose where we both look good. Maybe arguing a bit out of frustration. Battling wind, the Sun, and occasionally the curious onlooker. Holding unnatural positions (and forced smiles) for a questionably long time. Oh, the things we do for Instagram.

But I too have sat there pouring over my feed and feeling incredible envy of other couples and other women on Instagram. I know I’m not the only one, and that fact makes it even more heartbreaking. I have an extremely happy life filled with love, adventure, and freedom. How is it that pictures can make me start to feel that I’m not “good enough?” While it’s nice to appreciate quality photography and to enjoy peering into the lives of others, there comes a point where being on social media can become unhealthy. When did photos start telling us how we should be living our lives?

These perfect images are making many of us feel less than, and studies prove it. Huge numbers of people report increased depression and anxiety, merely from looking at the photos and updates of friends and even strangers.

But what can we do about it?

After speaking with several friends about this at length, it seems to me that we need more authenticity on social media. Especially for bloggers and influencers with large followings. People are looking at us. Let’s do something really good with that.

Those browsing Instagram want to see pretty pictures, sure, but they also desire a look behind the perfect image; to see real humans having real experiences. We want to observe travel and lifestyle experiences that inspire us, but that we can also relate to. This doesn’t have to take away from the stunning, curated nature of Instagram galleries. A photo can be beautifully crafted while still capturing a genuine moment.

Maybe we need to plan less. If you’ve ever chosen a perfect photo spot, planned your outfit in advance, and designed your entire image ahead of time, perhaps a bit of spontaneity is in order. Showcasing those imperfect, impromptu moments is not only a positive step forward, it is a new way of creating art. Let’s get back to that with Instagram.

Let’s show our teeth more! Let’s truly smile and show the joy we’re feeling in our lives. Or if we’re sad, why not share this with our circle? Imagine the people who we could reach who might feel less alone knowing others experience the same highs and lows. Being real and being unafraid to show the gritty, vulnerable moments is very important in life…and on social media, it’s almost an obligation.

For our part, I’m going to strive to share more of those imperfect moments in my life. I’m not going to waste hours attempting to get that *exact* photo. I’ll try to post genuine images even if I think I don’t look my best. And I won’t try to create scenes or shots that are untrue to life. I won’t focus on perfection. I’ll aim to share what is true. Maybe if we all start to show what’s real just a little bit more, the world of social media will be a happier place for everyone.

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