Hello, Hunter: How to Combat Social Media Anxiety

SI Swimsuit model Hunter McGrady shares her advice for combating social media anxiety.

Welcome to the third installment of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Hunter McGrady's monthly column, "Hello, Hunter". Through this platform, Hunter will take a long, hard look at some of the most frequently asked questions she receives in her DMs and answer them candidly. Body positivity? You bet we'll cover that. Dating, relationships, sex, finding confidence in a bikini — she'll take care of all of that, too. 

Hello, Hunter!

"How do you handle the anxiety that comes with looking like you have the perfect life on Instagram?"

Have you ever stumbled across Instagram and seen one of those “Instagram vs. Reality” photos?

Celeste Barber, one of my favorite Instagram content creators, is one of the best at doing this type of content. Maybe it's a photo where someone is in Bali with a gorgeous 180-degree view of the ocean with an idyllic sunset and some large fruit basket is involved. The colors in the photo are so vibrant you can’t even believe a place like this exists. Or perhaps someone your age just bought a very expensive car, that you could only afford in your dreams, as they are also carry designer bags and couture that seems entirely unattainable.

One of the questions I get all the time centers around how I combat anxiety when it comes to social media? How do I not get down on myself when my discover page features girls and guys who are living lavish lifestyles and traveling the world? I totally get it. I have found myself, on many occasions, scrolling Instagram in my pajamas looking at people who seemingly have the most perfect lives. I get down on myself and wonder, “What am I doing wrong?!” And then anxiety creeps in and I fall down the very inconvenient hole of self doubt.

The truth of the matter is, you’re doing everything right. Instagram allows us to paint a picture of the lifestyle we want to. We put our best foot forward, when in reality, we're only showing and you’re really only seeing one percent of our lives. We are able to choose what we want to reveal about ourselves and filter out any negative characteristics, which can be extremely deceptive. We also listen to any and all feedback we receive, which a lot of times comes from trolls leaving negative or unwanted comments. We essentially place our happiness in a variable that we cannot control. I see so many women and men, teenagers, and even children now, feeling the inadequacy and anxiety that comes with having to perform on social media.

This May Be Hunter McGrady's Third Year With SI Swimsuit, But It's Her First Wearing an Actual Swimsuit!

The truth is, we are ultimately missing human connection! I remember going to a concert once and almost everyone in the crowd, including myself, was watching the concert on their phones. I had major FOMO that I wasn’t going to have a great Instagram story or get as many likes as other concert attendees, so I jumped on board. Many of us no longer know what it means to be in the moment. No phone. No fear of missing the perfect picture. No scrolling. No comparing. No anxiety.

I believe that we need to evaluate how much Instagram and social media impact our actual wellbeing. As much as it is a great way to connect with our friends, or make new ones, and share our lives, there has to be a realization that we are not seeing the story in its entirety. We’re not seeing the days that influencers feel sad, the bad days at work, the fights with loved ones, the mornings that start with zero motivation or hope.

I recently read an article featuring Samantha Boardman and this quote stuck out to me. “Rather than making comparisons to people who are in the same boat as we are, we now have a global landscape to draw from. Mass media is one of the commanding influences today for social comparison and studies show it takes a toll on our wellbeing."

So the next time you find yourself scrolling, remember it's not reality. Let's shift our mindset and use Instagram as a platform to become inspired! Follow people who make you feel good, as well as those who share your same struggles and victories. Live your own purpose, not someone else’s. Social media, like any media, is part truth and part fiction. Never forget that. Comparing your life and lifestyle with a fractional and perhaps fictional rendition of someone else’s is just crazy. Do you. Live your truth. Enjoy the authentic and genuine satisfaction that is derived from living and sharing the very REAL experiences of YOUR own life.

SI Staff