Exactly one year ago I made a decision. On January 1st of 2018 I decided to quit my favorite place for inspiration, funny memes and celebrity news - Instagram. Why leave this platform, you ask? Let me tell you.
Typically I would enjoy January 1st slightly hungover watching movies and ordering in. But this time was different. I had this New Years melancholy, my food delivery just got canceled for the second time and a few days before, my boyfriend and I had broken up - I felt horrible. To flee from this hole of cruel self-pity I had dug for myself, I turned to my favorite social media platform and started scrolling. I spent all day looking through a virtual peephole into other people’s lives (that, at the time, seemed so much better than mine).
That’s when it dawned on me: Why am I doing this to myself? Why do I know how people that I don’t even know spend their New Years eve? Why do I take part in breakfast routines of people that I don’t even really like? Why do I know their dog’s name and what perfume they wear? What does this information (that is not even information but mostly pure self promotion) do to me?
All of a sudden I felt like an intruder to people’s lives. I had this feeling of having seen something I was not supposed to see - even though (and that’s the crux) all these photos were solely created for others to be seen.
So despite the hangover, the empty stomach and the broken heart I made an important decision - I deleted the application Instagram from my phone. So here is what happened to me after quitting Instagram:
More phone battery
This is probably the more obvious effect of my decision, as I spent almost 90 % of my screen time on Instagram before deleting the app. And I also had more iPhone storage due to...
More real memories
In 2018, I took only half of the pictures I did the year before (with Instagram). That is not because I experienced less, it is because I experienced differently. I experienced this very freeing feeling to be at a concert and not feeling the urge (or even pressure) to take a quick video of the concert to post it on Instagram. I was living in the moment.
A long time ago I noticed, that after picking up my smartphone my thumb would automatically move to the small Instagram icon on my screen. That would even happen when I intended to use a different app. Using my phone became synonymous to using Instagram - unconsciously and involuntarily, that’s scary! I used to spend up to 3 hours per day on Instagram.
So with, literally, more time on my hands I was now able to establish more healthy habits riding the train in the morning or before going to bed: I was now listening to podcasts or reading a book - things I always complained I had no time for.
I am talking friends, not followers. A follower is someone who likes a picture or tells you how pretty you look on that selfie or asks where exactly that beautiful beach is that you’re tanning on. A friend is someone who does and knows all these things without following you on Instagram.
Leaving Instagram forced me to prioritize in-person interaction instead of hiding behind a screen. It takes more courage, but it pays off. I started calling people more often or texting them to see how they were - because since 80% of my friends are on Instagram I didn’t know what they were doing anymore unless I actively asked.
Now after one year I have better relationships with the people that matter and less meaningless, superficial connections. I now know who the people are that message me without knowing my whereabouts or cool lifestyle from checking Instagram. More importantly, I now am very much aware of the ones I actually, truly care for.
Not being confronted with people that are (seemingly) more successful, more beautiful or richer and skinnier has a very healthy side effect. If you stop comparing yourself to others (which most of us do unconsciously) it becomes much easier to be grateful for what you have and what you’ve achieved.
I believe that since I started reading (even if it is only two pages) before going to bed, I fall asleep much faster. It has been scientifically proven that recreational screen time messes with our sleep. If Instagram is the last thing you use before you sleep and the first thing after you wake up (like it used to be the case with me) you are much more likely to have difficulties sleeping.
More real information
Most Instagram users are not aware of the fact that they are slaves to an algorithm. No one really knows how it exactly works, so we can only guess. Instagram today, more than ever, is an advertising platform. It shows you what it wants you to see. It informs you about the things that other people or companies pay it to inform you about.
Now that I quit Instagram, I might be the last to find out about the fourth Kardashian-West pregnancy - but instead I read about the things that I want to read about. It also influenced my shopping behaviour: I don't spend less money on clothes, but I buy the things I see in stores or on the street and not those I see in ads in my Instagram feed. I believe now my style is more me and less algorithm than ever.
Certainly this is not a solution for everyone. Some of you may use this platform for work and simply can’t quit it. Maybe you use it and don’t see it becoming an unhealthy habit. But it helped me to see how much influence social media had on me - in my case more negative than positive.
I am very well aware that deleting the app is a rather drastic measure. But no matter if you decide to use Instagram, quit it like I did or do something in between - we should all sometimes take a step back and (re)evaluate the influence social media platforms like Instagram have on our health and behaviour - and then chose the path that we feel most comfortable with. Nowadays there are apps like offtime und moment that help you to limit the usage of certain applications so you scroll a little less and live a little more!
Oh and in case you were wondering: It's February now and I did not go back - I even deactivated my profile for good.
Preview Photo by Gilles Lambert