You probably don't need your weekly screen time report to tell you you spend too much time on Instagram. It's just so easy to scroll mindlessly; when you first wake up, when you're watching TV, when you're meant to be trying to fall asleep.
Endless scrolling is one thing, but when you upload an Instagram story of your own, there's a whole other realm of stuff to pass time on the app, like watching your own stories back, and checking who's viewed them. But does doing this make you a bit self-obsessed? Is it if weird to find yourself re-watching an Insta-story you only uploaded three hours ago, or scrolling slowly through your watched list? We asked a psychologist to find out.
First up: If you regularly do all these things, don't panic. You're totally normal, and you don't need to go diagnosing yourself with narcissistic personality disorder. "It comes down to validation and wanting to portray a particular image of ourselves to the outside world, says Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. "We re-watch our stories to check back on what we’ve put out there and to see who’s seen it - i.e, who’s interested. In this sense, it can also help us feel more connected," she explains.
And actually, there's an evolutionary reason why we're so fascinated by the way others view us externally. "Human beings are tribal by nature. We have an inherent desire to connect and to feel accepted," reassures Dr Elena. "Back in the day, ensuring your place in the tribe was essential for survival. That’s why the pull to 'fit in' is so strong - it used to be a matter of life or death," she says.
The psychologist explains that it doesn't make you an egotistical person if you re-watch your Instagram stories; in fact, she says it may be an indicator of low self-worth. "External validation is more closely tied to low self-esteem," notes Dr Elena. "The drive to share, connect and receive affirmation are all normal, healthy human qualities. It becomes negative when we need external validation to feel good about ourselves. Self-worth must always come from within."
If you find yourself relying on a boost from checking out your 'viewers' list, then perhaps it's a case of needing to boost your self-esteem in other ways. "If you’re obsessively checking back-and-forth to see who’s viewed - or reacted - and you’re posting in the hope for validation, this would signal that the habit has become unhealthy," advises the psychologist.
"If we’re spending our days curating how our lives are perceived from the outside, we’re not living in the present moment," she adds. And I bet plenty of us are guilty of that.
If you recognise some of these behaviour patterns in yourself, and feel you want to establish a healthier relationship with social media, Dr Elena suggests you concentrate on using it mindfully. "Notice how much time you’re spending on it, and limit your screen time if you need to, for example an hour a day.
"Disable notifications, if it helps. And actively manage the types of accounts you follow," says the psychologist. "Make sure you’re following accounts with a positive message that makes you feel good about yourself."
Via Cosmopolitan UK