Two weeks ago, after listening to a podcast with Tavi Gevinson, I immediately logged out of my Instagram. This felt like a fairly radical act because like most people my age, I’m addicted to Instagram. But, just like a lot of people, it was starting to drag me down. I noticed that I was spending an insane amount of time on it, using it as a source of inspiration but not actually making anything. I was starting to feel every negative emotion that has been associated with Instagram use--jealousy, incompetency, hopelessness. But at the same time, Instagram also made me feel good and feel connected. My city can sometimes feel like the most suffocating small town ever, so when I needed to be reminded that there was something much bigger than what I was feeling, Instagram was a great reminder that there were people out there making the art I wanted to see, talking about the things I wanted to talk about, etc. I'm sure there's a study about how that's actually a negative effect but I don't care. Instagram made me feel good. Until it didn't. I needed to take a break. Pretty much all the testimonials from social media detoxes are extremely positive: "I read more! I actually read the news! I felt whole!". I had a lot of expectations.
At first I just wanted to see how long I could spend logged out before I broke down and went back to my scrolling ways. I was further challenged--I couldn't just delete the app from my phone (out of sight, out of mind) because I had to keep maintaining an Instagram account for my internship. Thankfully, the account doesn't follow anyone but our company, so I was less tempted to scroll through Stories. The first few days were hard. I realized how bad my addiction was when I would pick up my phone, open the app and scroll, JUST FOR THE SATISFACTION. That was straight up scary. When I realized that, I knew I had to take a full on break. I deleted the app from my phone. That lasted about three days before I downloaded it again because I had to post a picture for a lil' opportunity I had with Lil' Shop Vintage. Then I deleted it again. The app is back on my phone because of my internship, but I've been two weeks without regular Instagram activity, which for me is MAJOR. I'm no longer spending 20 mins of my waking moments desperately scrolling through last night's InstaStories.
What I Learnt
I had hoped that after a while, I would be like, WHATEVER I’M OVER INSTAGRAM, I'M FREE OF SOCIETAL CONSTRAINTS! I also had half hoped that I would be able to call bullshit on social media detoxes and go back to my endless scrolling and refreshing without any feelings of guilt. But neither of those things happened. I ended up somewhere squarely in the middle. Being logged out of Instagram has been great--I've been able to concentrate when I'm working, I have been able to read more, and I've had less time to compare myself to other people, instead using that energy to gas myself up. At the same time, I miss some of the accounts that I follow and I find myself looking for photos or quotes I had saved on Instagram.
I don't think Instagram is a wholly bad thing (feel free to disagree) but I do think that I would benefit from a lot more time off of it. My internship will soon come to a close and it won't be necessary for me to have the app on my phone anymore. There's a project that I want to work on this summer, and I want to see what I'm capable of without Instagram. Who knows what will happen but I'm willing to give it a try. I know now that I'm not powerless against social media. And that's really the lesson I needed to learn.