June 7, 2018

Ah, summer. The season of soaring temps, ice cream cones, fireworks—and serious social media jealousy.

Instagram envy is a year-round affliction, but it feels like it spikes in the summer. Suddenly, your feed is full of friends on vacation, celebs on swan pool floaties, classmates holding freshly grilled burgers, coworkers snorkeling somewhere exotic—you get the picture (pun very much intended).

There’s nothing worse than spending your lunch break wishing you were anywhere but your job—or, spending what little time you do have off trying to fake a carefree vacay. Family BBQs become photo opps, and, next thing you know, you’ve forgone R&R in the stressful quest for the perfect Lo-Fi pic.

Sound exhausting? It is.

Research has shown that upward comparison on social media—aka judging yourself against an idealized image of someone based on what they share—may lead to lower self-esteem and depression. One 2013 study linked Facebook use, and the comparisons that it triggers, to a decline in wellbeing and life satisfaction levels. Another study of young adults found that heavy social media users were more likely to report a perceived social isolation—a feeling that can translate into loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Instagram envy is a year-round affliction, but it feels like it spikes in the summer.

So, what can you do, short of taking a summer vacation from Facebook and Instagram? Try ditching the seasonal jealousy by performing our Follow Refresh and checking in with how the accounts you follow make you feel.

It's Time to Refresh Your Follows

When we get intentional, we can make Instagram a place for good vibes—even a confidence boost—rather than self-shame. The 2017 Common Sense Media study, found that social media can actually help users have more realistic image ideals, thanks to trends such as #nomakeupselfies. Following motivational influencers or accounts, such as those who promote body positivity or shatter the stigma around mental health, can help you feel better, not worse.

As you feel the first signs of Summer Social Media Envy, click over to your “following” list and ask yourself the following:

1. Why am I following this person?

If it’s because you’re motivated by their can-do attitude or genuinely learn something from their posts, carry on.

Follow more accounts that make you feel good.

But if you’d categorize the account as a “hate follow”—meaning you follow someone you despise just to delight in judging them—or just follow them because you feel like you have to, then hit that unfollow button.

2. How do I feel when I see (or read) their posts?

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If you’re on the fence about an acquaintance, brand, or jet-setting influencer, scroll through their most recent uploads. Are they inspiring? Demoralizing? Vaguely upsetting? Jealousy-inducing? Here’s a shocking secret: Future posts will probably resemble past posts.

Don’t keep a toxic follow around just to see what happens—unfollow, and move on.

3. Are we still friends?

Unfollowing randos is easy—unfollowing friends on social media is trickier business. A friend might notice that you’ve dropped them, and they’ll definitely notice if you add them back on. But if you break off a toxic friendship IRL, you should probably break it off online, too.

"I always recommend going cold turkey for a little while," Tara Marshall, PhD, a research psychologist at Brunel University London and a scholar on social media and relationships, told Cosmopolitan of cutting off lost friendships on social media. "Once the dust has settled, the negative feelings will subside, and maybe then you can have a normal [social media] friendship."

Seeing an old pal’s vacation pics and beach trips will likely bring back up old resentments, and won’t get the two of you any closer to reconciling—or moving on.

If you’re upset or jealous over a friend’s posts and don’t want to upset them, consider muting their account instead. You can block a pal from your Facebook newsfeed by clicking on the three dots to the right of their post, and a new Instagram feature is coming soon that will let you mute someone’s posts, too. Remember: You can always unmute them, and they’ll never have to know.

4. Who should I follow instead?

As you purge your following list of unhealthy accounts, add in those that do feel good or useful.

Want to get outside more this summer? See if your local state park has an account or follow an active influencer from your area.

Want to use in-season fruit to bump up your kitchen skills? Follow an account that posts healthy recipes—without triggering captions.

Need a confidence boost next time you hit the beach? Look for an account that offers up some body positivity.

Curate the good vibes you need in your feed.

5. How do my posts make me feel?

Finally, once you’ve cleaned up your feed, take a look at your own account.

Are you proud of what you post, or do you feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up? Are you spending quality summer time crouching by the side of the pool, trying to get your angles right, or catching up with friends?

If you love what you post, more power to you. But if your own photos are a source of anxiety, consider taking a step back—or, taking a break from social media for a day, week, or even the whole summer. It may seem like a big deal to you, but that’s the upside to social media’s immensity: it’s easy to slip away, unnoticed.

If nothing else, your followers will think you’re offline living your best summer life.

Read next: Stuck in a Social Media Comparison Trap? Here's How to Shake It Off