The Instagram Effect

My friend scrolled through her camera roll on her iPhone, flitting back and forth between some recent show photos. She selected one and passed the phone to me for approval. I nodded. “That’s a good one! Look how nice and round he is – he looks so strong!” She grinned and started editing the photo to post to her Instagram, which was several thousand followers strong. “Thanks! We’ve really been working hard. I’m feeling really good about next year!”

But then something odd happened.

As she sat there, she started to make other comments about the photo she was about to post.

“God, my thighs are so big. I need to slim them up.” “I think my reins are a little too long, hopefully they [her Instagram followers] don’t notice.” … “I look like a lump on his back!”

Wait, what? Not two minutes ago, my friend was smiling, happy about her horse’s progress. Now? Her brow was furrowed and she squinted at her screen, zooming in on parts of the photo she’d determined to be critique fodder for her followers. Finally, she blew out a breath and added the hashtag #hatersgonnahate before hitting post.

This, my friends, is something I’ve dubbed The Instagram Effect. It’s subtle at first, how it starts. You start to look at your photos with a more critical eye before posting them, finding the things – as minor as they may be – that your followers might call out and deciding whether or not the jab is worth the post. You may get some critical comments on your photos. “Um, why are you jumping your four-year-old horse? Isn’t that bad?”… “LOL your leg is so weak” … “If I had hands like that, my trainer would never let me leave the barn.”

Confidence is something you fight for, something you earn.

So then you start to take the offensive. Using #hatersgonnahate or putting a disclaimer in your caption: “Side note, I was really sick that day so please excuse my riding!”  …“Yes, I know my leg is swinging, we’re working on it.” And yet, the haters keep hating.

Why do we continue to let this determine our value? Why do we feel the constant need to seek approval or silence critics? Why do we allow ourselves to feel this Instagram Effect, likely without even realizing it?

Read This Next: Imposter Syndrome In The Horse World

Confidence is something you fight for, something you earn. And yet, it’s so easily taken away by words typed on a screen. Let me tell you one thing: You – yes you, with your swinging leg and your stuffy nose – are not defined by what others think. Your thighs are, in fact, not too big. Your reins? Sure, they might be long, but so are everyone else’s. You are enough.

Your horse doesn’t get on Instagram. He doesn’t know that people are talking smack about him jumping a cross rail at a young age. He doesn’t know that people think his rider is a giant buffoon who doesn’t know a horse from a cow. He doesn’t care.

So the next time you pull up Instagram and compose a post, do me one small favor. Just hit post. Don’t worry about filters. Don’t worry about how your right thumb isn’t on top and oh God someone will notice. Just hit post. Take a breath. And then put your phone down and go have a great ride. Maybe even let your leg swing a little. You know, just because.

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