We’ve all been there. It’s about 11:00 p.m., you’re scrolling through Instagram, and an inspirational meme pops up and reads something like: “Positive Mind. Positive Vibes. Positive Life.” And a 5,600 “Likes” in two minutes shows you someone else had a crummy day, too.
Instagram has exploded with inspirational quotes and memes to help us become happier, give us more confidence, and even, so it seems, teach us self-love. They’re part of every social platform—and an incredibly popular form of social media self-help.
In addition to readers of their books, modern spiritual gurus like Gabrielle Bernstein, Mastin Kipp, and Danielle Laporte have a crazy amount of Instagram followers, who patiently wait for them to deliver their next dose of self-discovery and self-acceptance via meme-like messages, daily love notes, and #truthbombs.
And challenges that promote self-love like #30DaysSelfLove and #100HappyDays have taken off. #100HappyDays started as a way to cultivate it by posting happy-making images for 100 straight days. It has more than 23 million posts associated with it on Instagram.
But is it possible, through Instagram, and other forms of social media, to hashtag our way to self-love? Or are we’re just creating unrealistic expectations, while sitting on our sofas at night during the commercial break for Scandal, often passively swiping through these ephemeral posts?
The real question, can real self-love or a change in the way you regard yourself come from an Instagram challenge? The truth is, yes,” says Terri Cole, a life coach and psychologist. “Because if you have people modeling this positive behavior, leaders in the field, young pop stars saying ‘be good to yourself,’ ‘take care of you’—that makes a difference. That can plant the seed in someone’s mind.”
And the medium doesn’t have to be as serious as the message to make a difference, like those inspirational quotes you might read, she says. “Someone can have an epiphany from Instagram just as easily from a deep conversation.”
Cole obviously doesn’t have a problem with learning self-love from Instagram. For her, it’s great to have moment where you felt uplifted because of something you read. What you don’t want to do is start comparing yourself to other people on Instagram, she says.
If your BFF is participating in #100HappyDays, for example, and posting photos of her green smoothies and morning runs every day, the last thing you want to do is feel bad about yourself because you’re not doing what she’s doing. (Easier said than done.)
“Let it inspire you,” Cole says. “Maybe tomorrow you’ll be in that space. Maybe you will feel that way eventually.”
Kass, who created the Happiness Blueprint as a “spiritual mentor and love pioneer,” views her posts about everything from finding self-love after a breakup to surrounding yourself with people that inspire you, as more than just inspirational—but as something that might cause you to change the way you’re thinking or acting. Like right in the moment.
“My mission with my writing and my audience is to actually create the experience of a shift…not only gradually in their lives, but when they read the post. The post is written in a way so you can experience a shift in that moment,” she says. It’s going deeper than telling someone what to do.
And her readers and followers have reached out to her to tell her how helpful the posts are, some saying that they’ve left toxic jobs or started daily spiritual practices because of them.
So, the next time you’re scrolling through Instagram wondering how all of this affecting you, don’t over-think it—and if you do, in a positive way, that’s great.
“An [Instagram] quote doesn’t have to change your life,” says Cole, “but it can.” —Molly Gallagher