To her 10,000-plus Instagram followers, Kashlee Kucheran had the perfect life. She sold 90 per cent of her possessions to travel the world with her husband as a travel blogger.
Her journey was all documented online with glamorous pictures of the places she visited and hotels she stayed in. But her hobby of uploading photos soon became an addiction: staging photos to get the perfect shot.
“It was ruining my life in the moment,” Kucheran said.
She told CTV News Vancouver about how it took hours to get a shot of her in a bathtub overlooking rice fields in Bali.
“I was trying to make it so the lighting was just right on the fields, trying to make the bubbles as fluffy as they could be," Kucheran said. "The water kept getting cold. It was a three- or four-hour affair just to get a simple photo."
It’s something Vancouver counsellor Robert Grigore sees often: social media users becoming addicted to the likes.
“Basically it's, 'Hey world, look at how awesome I am,'” Grigore said. “And there's a little boost of dopamine, which is the reward chemical in the brain, which makes us feel good.”
He said it also becomes a cycle of needing constant validation.
“You need about 10 compliments for everyone one criticism, so if you get 10 compliments and someone said something negative about you, those compliments didn’t matter,” he said.
Instagram has one billion active monthly users and 60 per cent of them access the app every day. With social media so much a part of people’s lives, the question then becomes how to know when it’s an obsession.
“Put your phone away, put it on silent and see if you can go three or four hours without checking,” said Grigore. “And if you can't, you probably have something you need to look at.”
Kucheran said she had to do some reflecting when she broke down in a shopping mall because she couldn’t get the perfect shot. She says she’s now changed her relationship with social media and her phone.
“I've made a rule that I cannot touch my phone for the first hour of my day.” she said. “And if I can get a picture in the moment great, but if I have to add props or fake something or create something that’s not there, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”
“I'm still on Instagram, I'm just not obsessed with it.”