Sometime in the summer of 2020, as the name of this post suggests, I took the Instagram app off my phone.
That timing is incredibly important. The pandemic started earlier that year, and I spent hours and hours scrolling, wasting my time staring at my phone screen. I started following many new accounts to swipe through, from influencers to artists to educators and everything in between. Though they made me happy at the time – and I can’t stress enough what a time that was – Instagram quickly became an ongoing source of stress and more mentally tiring than I thought it would be.
So I deleted it!
Before I Get Preachy, I Must Make Some Concessions
To be clear (and clickbaity), I haven’t deleted my Instagram account all together. I still access it from my computer, where I can view posts and stories mostly without added ads (shout out to uBlock!). For a long time, I considered it “a thing to distract me from work once in a while,” and only let myself look at it when on a laptop, which was usually only when I was working. (This was especially wild when I had a distraction timer on my work browser – which is another post for another day!)
I’ve also re-installed it on occasion when I’ve felt compelled to post something (like my engagement video, of course). There are also certain functions that, unfortunately, you can only do on the app, like muting stories for certain accounts. I will also admit that I’ve temporarily re-installed it while away from my computer for longer amounts of time, like on vacations. The app is addictive, what can I say!
Instagram Was Hurting My Brain AND My Body
The most distracting part of Instagram, by far, was the stories. I must have spent hours tapping through dozens and dozens of people and brands that I did not actually care about, just to get to the people that I did care about, clueless to the fact that I could simply… stop!
When I learned how to mute, I definitely spent less time swiping through stories… but I was still opening the app absent-mindedly in moments where I could definitely have been doing something else. I would keep swiping through my feed, searching for posts that I was actually interested in, and usually not finding anything, but still trying anyway.
I have also been dealing with neck and upper back pain on my right side for several years, even before the pandemic started. When I became confined to my home with nowhere else to go and nothing else to think about, I realized that my pain was likely related to the way that I was looking at apps like Instagram my phone: glancing down at my right hand for extended periods of time.
Anyway, I’m Never Turning Back
As I’ve written about extensively before, I’ve spent the last two years focusing very heavily on my mental health. Social media is such a powerful force! I’ve made conscious choices to cut out sites and feeds for my own peace of mind, including totally cutting out Twitter and previously deleting the Facebook app from my phone. In this way, I consider deleting Instagram off of my phone to be a gigantic success, and I don’t think I will ever add it back permanently!
I realized that I was wasting so, so, so much time scrolling and swiping. I wanted to spend that time doing literally anything else! Reading a book! Writing in my blog (ha ha)! Knitting a blanket! Going for a walk! Literally anything else!
When I started seeing friends and family again, I wanted to stay present with them, and it was much easier to do so when I didn’t have social media distractions on my phone to retreat into whenever there was a lull in conversation.
(Now, the only distractions on my phone are games! I’m addicted to solitaire, okay!)
Indirectly, I also felt like I became more observant of the world around me, since taking most social media apps off my phone has, frankly, made it more boring to look at.
(Am I really getting on a high horse about staring off into space more? How pretentious!)
I also realized that cutting off a never-ending stream of other people’s lives made me less prone to comparison and, honestly, envy. I can’t remember the last time I felt compelled to buy something from an influencer’s sponsored post, and I haven’t felt envious of the life of a complete stranger, based solely on their posts, in years. (I’m only jealous of friends now! Much more ordinary!)
Finally, pompously, I personally also feel more present when I don’t even have the option to document every remotely interesting moment in my life for my social media feeds. I know other people find joy in doing this, and I definitely don’t say this to yuck anyone’s yum! For a while, I definitely felt like I was posting just to feel as interesting as other people, and I wasn’t actually getting any creative or personal fulfillment from posting. In deleting the app, I indirectly decided to be significantly more picky with what I post, and that style has definitely suited me more.
My point of view is obviously dramatic for the sake of stretching-this-out-to-fill-an-entire-blog-post, but my underlying point of view remains the same. Get off your phones! (And get off my lawn! etc etc)