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Subliminal Happiness: Why do we love motivational quotes on social media?


By Erin Lindsay
15th Mar 2018
Subliminal Happiness: Why do we love motivational quotes on social media?

Scrolling through your Instagram feed of a morning commute can be a double-edged sword; you feel as if you’re missing out on the day’s trends (both fashion and cultural) if you don’t have a scroll, but starting your day with a dose of staring at other people’s ‘perfect lives’ can’t be good for our self-esteem. Maybe that’s why we’ve turned increasingly towards the self-love train on Instagram – motivational quotes, aesthetically pleasing layouts and mantras that will turn us into the #girlboss of our dreams are a staple in feeds worldwide.

There has been research done into why and how we find these little quotes so uplifting, but the results aren’t exactly promising. According to a 2015 study called ‘On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit’ (tell us what you really think guys), it was found that those who find themselves more motivated by these posts tend to have a lower IQ overall. But what if these quotes are tapping into a darker side of self-confidence?

Social media makes us feel like our lives aren’t as exciting, happy or eventful as our friends’. We know we shouldn’t compare the extended cut of our life to someone else’s highlight reel. Very few people put up posts about their anxiety attacks or their nights spent at home crying in front of crap movies, because it doesn’t portray us in as good a light. This extends to our use of motivational quotes as well. We fill our feeds with words that fit the life we think we have (or the life we want). A bit like a mood board. We’d all love to be a Miranda Priestly-esque career woman with a perfect wardrobe and flawless self-care routine, so we make sure to fill our screens with that vibe.

In reality, with so many people dealing with varying levels of anxiety and depression, sometimes these so-called ‘motivational’ posts can serve as more of a trigger than a boost of happiness. Looking at them day-in, day-out can make us feel like we aren’t aren’t quite living up to the standards we are setting.

If we treat our social media feeds strictly as a mood board, however, and not something to put us under pressure and think of literally, our obsession with Insta-quotes can be healthy. The benefits of traditional mood boards include boosting creativity, assisting with planning and organisation of future goals and visualising of important ideas – all great for a well-balanced lifestyle. They’re used in large corporations and creative agencies as a way to brainstorm campaigns, so even in a professional sense, they’re useful.

Using an Insta-feed as a way to curate encouraging imagery and language can be very helpful in elevating our mindset and achieving goals, but there’s an important condition. As long as they’re used as strictly aspirational and comforting and not to put ourselves under unnecessary pressure day-to-day. Take some time to clear out your feed and make room for more encouraging posts and you’ll achieve that glow-up in no time.