Almost every time I go on Instagram, it ends up leaving me in a worse headspace than I initially had before logging on; yet, the cycle inevitably continues.
Whether it be about comparing my productivity, preparations for college applications, selfies, nutrition accounts, superficial levels of intelligence put up as a facade, overwhelming news, or petty arguments–all these things and more make me feel bad.
However, for a while I continued to hang on. I have this fear of missing out because I am not constantly active in group chats or replying to stories. But I must remember that this type of interaction, though it reinforces relationships, is hardly their defining characteristics.
At first, the deletion of Instagram was quite difficult. I kept having the urge to pick up my phone and scroll or catch up with my friends. However, it quickly became my new norm. It was a relief to not have headaches after a bombardment of posts, and my head was much clearer and better able to focus on the present moment. This new age of technology and instant gratification makes for very short spans of attention and a drive to continually look towards the future. Having a break from Instagram’s reinforcement of this was wonderful.
Deleting Instagram was like running away to the Walden cabin with Thoreau. I escaped the ideas of the masses, and was able to hone in on myself and my individual thoughts. Thoreau even writes: “…There comes a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion…” What he means here is that humans need to discover themselves; they need to figure out what they are going to do in this life.
However, none of us have a complete understanding of this from birth, so we often fall into conforming to other people’s behaviors and actions. This tactic, although very easy to do, is imitation; and effectively, as Thoreau says, suicide. As Stephen West from Philosphize This puts it: “…imitation is suicide…you going around doing your best imitation of what the people around you are doing in the interest of avoiding a difficult conversation with yourself…is effectively suicide…suicide of your individuality. No, self-reliance preaches a sort of radical non-conformity…” By leaving my main source of social media, I was able to become more of an individual. But the fact remains that objectively, this break was rather short (just a few weeks)—however long it may have seemed to me at the time. I firmly believe that I must continue taking these breaks in order to redefine how I view myself and my place in this world.
Unfortunately, my situation makes it very difficult to go completely without Instagram. Almost all of my interactions with my friends take place via its dms, I run a business where I message people through it, and I have an art account from which I take daily inspiration. I truly missed my friends, and from my hiatus I realized that there are quite a lot of opportunities to spread positivity and empowerment on the platform.
Therefore, what I have taken from this is to:
- Limit my time on the app
- Limit where exactly I am spending my time and energy (focus more on messaging with my friends than mindlessly scrolling)
- Actively use my platform to spread positivity and empowerment, whether that be through complimenting on people’s photos, reposting meaningful quotes, checking in on people, and overall making my stay less toxic and more joyful.
Another piece of advice I found to have helped me: Whenever you have the urge to scroll/open an app, instead opt for a breathing exercise.
I learned a lot from this small experiment. I realized that often, Instagram is a place for me to avoid myself. And I confirmed my suspicions that I should restrict my time on this and other unnecessary apps (albeit gradually, and not entirely cutting them out).
I hope my thoughts were interesting for you to read 🙂