It’s no secret that Instagram has become one of the most addicting social media sites of our generation. It has evolved into so much more than the simple photo sharing app that it started out as, and is now one of the most popular and influential social networking tools. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t an Insta addict myself, but I do recognize that my favorite app has a dark side.

A problem that I have with Instagram is the same problem that I have with most social media sites: the fact that we can create perfectly crafted versions of ourselves to present to our followers. We often choose to put out false appearances on social media, and we begin to define and validate ourselves based on the amount of “likes” that we receive. A picture can make a life appear perfect, even if this perceived perfection is far from reality. 

With the social pressures that arise as a result of our growing dependence on Instagram, I (and I know I’m not alone in this) find it harder and harder to go on Instagram and not compare myself to the things I see on my popular page.

Maybe I'll find a fitness Instagram account that has seemingly endless posts of workout routines and healthy recipes. Or maybe I scroll down a little more and see a picture of chocolate-covered cookie dough brownies from my favorite food Instagram.

Within a 30-second span, I have found myself looking at two absolute extremes—the #fitspo that shames me into excessive working out and eating copious amounts of spinach and quinoa, and the #foodporn that allows me to think it's okay to binge on fried food and sugar. It is almost impossible to not let these accounts get to our heads. Either we are pressured into eating healthy and fitting one social norm, or feel a sense of shame or embarrassment for eating too healthy. 

The extent to which our generation is reliant upon Instagram as a source of validation is dangerously affecting the eating habits of so many millennials. In reality, nobody knows whether the person behind the food Instagram account is really eating all the extravagant things they’re posting, or if they’re just doing it for the likes.

Some of us see these posts and decide that it's okay to let ourselves binge on decadent desserts that would make our favorite food Instagrammer proud. Others see the picture of the salad captioned "post-workout meal" that shames us towards the equally dangerous, yet trendy path of exercise bulimia and malnutrition. 

Similarly, who knows if your favorite health account is really practicing that flawlessly disciplined exercise-based, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan diet that they have been preaching on their page?

Although Instagram has its flaws, there are also so many accounts that promote confidence and positivity. It's important that we remember not to compare ourselves with the often false realities that we see online, but rather that we use social media as a tool for discovering the things that make us our most confident and happy selves.

Don't fall victim to the "motivational" accounts telling you to workout three times a day and only eat lettuce, but likewise, don't convince yourself that you can indulge in #foodporn for every meal and still maintain a healthy lifestyle. Take these accounts for what they are with the knowledge that only you have true control of the life you live.