My Temporary Breakup with Instagram
A month or so ago I got this strong feeling that I needed to take a break from Instagram. I felt like the app had this weird control over me that both makes sense in this social media-filled world and makes me feel icky. Apparently icky enough to use the word “icky.” So, I disabled my Instagram and moved the little app icon to its own page on my iPhone so I didn’t have to see it all the time. I had no real plan for how long it would be disabled or if there were any epiphanies I was looking to have or conclusions I was looking to come to. I just needed a break for me.
And let me tell you, it’s been so damn freeing.
I’ve listened more closely to people as they’ve told me stories (even if they were simultaneously talking and sporadically checking Instagram). I’ve had the urge many times to take a video of something funny while in my car only to remember I don’t have an up-and-running Instagram story to post to, and I was surprisingly relieved every single time. I didn’t have to deal with that little twinge of bittersweet feelings that you can’t control when an ex’s photo pops up in your feed. I didn’t have to worry so much about trying to stay as active and interesting as possible on Instagram because “I’m trying to be a blogger, mannnn.” I kinda just lived my life.
I worked my butt off and made great money and hung out with friends and went on dates and worked out and visited my family and friends in New York and attended a wedding and took creative online classes and listened to podcasts and saw a great concert by myself and attended a baby shower and did lots of writing and planned a trip to a new city with old friends and got closer with people that were only just acquaintances before. (And then wrote a run-on sentence about it.)
I did lots of things that I would have still done if I had Instagram to check and post to, but I was more present and carefree without the ole Insta. I didn’t feel the urge to keep checking my phone for “likes” on a new photo (ugh we’re all just the worst for this) while out with my neighbors. It was easier to put my phone away for longer periods of time. I was able to read more before bed instead of scrolling through Instagram until my eyes told me I was tired. And I kept beautiful moments and memories for myself.
It was really, really nice—somewhat of an escape that I needed. But I did miss Instagram. I definitely had photos I wanted to post and other posts I wanted to see, so I would look up certain people on the non-app version of Instagram (a.k.a. a regular Internet browser) every now and then. I missed seeing my friends’ faces and escapades. I missed the travel and adventure photos from bloggers and wanderlust-y strangers who make me want to get out of my comfort zone. I simply missed all the wonderful people I follow that inspire me to be a better version of myself. And I missed being able to show my support for people in the form of a “like” and/or comment, as silly as that sounds. (Don’t worry, I do call and text and message people to show my support also.) I enjoy being a part of different positive communities, and Instagram allows me to do that.
However, on the other side of things is the people I feel like I have to follow but don’t get anything positive from. I’m sure a lot of us have certain people in our lives that we’d feel weird making the effort—a quick effort, but still an effort—to actually unfollow, but at the same time… are we obligated to follow anyone who doesn’t add something of positive value to our lives? Absolutely not. Buuut, then again, there’s a weird line there. There’s real people on the other side of the screen who have feelings and opinions and deal with their own confusion and self-esteem that we’re not always aware of (even if they do post shitty things). We have to care for ourselves and our personal well-being, but it’s also important to take others’ well-being into consideration. It can be tough to balance how to do what’s right for us with what’s right for people beyond us.
The thing is, Instagram offers a lot of good. It’s fun to see beautiful photos. It’s cool to see other people making a living from posting good content on this crazy little platform that has so much opportunity. It’s nice to have positive interactions, whether in person or through social media. And at the end of the day, I’m a fan of Instagram. The problem is that there’s been a huge rise in depression and a fall in self-esteem amongst people since Instagram. But, in my opinion, this isn’t necessarily because of Instagram. It’s because mental illness is a real thing that isn’t always taken seriously. It’s because far too many parents don’t, or don’t properly, open up the lines of communication with their kids about confidence and self-esteem and comparison. It’s because most parents, also, didn’t grow up with social media and don’t know how strong its effects are. It’s because people shame other people. And Instagram, unfortunately, intensifies all this.
Instagram wasn’t really popular until I was out of high school, so I can’t fully comprehend what it’s like to go through grade school, middle school, and high school with it around. I see how easy it is for people to compare themselves to one photo and caption, or a series of seemingly aspirational photos and captions. I know I do it sometimes, but I’m, luckily, really good at checking in with myself and getting my mind right. For people that really struggle with self-esteem, I can only imagine how difficult it must be living with Instagram and seeing everyone trying to appear so damn cool and fashionable and interesting—and succeeding. And while I’m so proud of movements like #Realstagram, which urge women and people in general to post real moments of imperfection free of filters, there will always be people out there comparing themselves and their lives to others they see on Instagram and feeling shitty about the conclusions they draw. In response to that, I have this piece of tough love: If you find negative or jealous feelings brewing inside of you when looking at other people’s posts, that means you have to work on your own confidence and productivity. Is it really that person you have negative feelings towards and don’t want to see in your feed, or does that person just remind you that you have more work to do to further your own goals and happiness? That’s just something to think about. I know I ask myself that all the time and have to get real with myself.
Welpppp, I’ve had a great break from my favorite little app, but after a busy weekend and some alone time in the mountains (which always helps get my mind right), I’ve decided I’m ready to rejoin. Instagram, like every social media platform, has its pros and cons. Ultimately, for me, I know I enjoy the app and am excited to get back on it. But, I’m going back having learned two important things:
1.) You don’t have to follow anyone.
Unfollow who you need to unfollow for your own well-being. Go through Instagram cleanses every now and then in which you check on the list of people you’re following (maybe even the people following you) and rid yourself of any people and accounts that don’t serve you, grow you, and make you happy. And try not to worry about the silly “who unfollowed me?” apps that people have.
2.) Take a break when you need one.
I know it can be hard to disable or delete the app, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need. I can officially say I know this from experience.
Wishing you (whoever you are out there) confidence, happiness, and an Instagram feed that makes your soul feel good. Because that’s what it’s come to, and that’s okay.