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i deleted instagram

screenshot of invalid instagram account page

I fucking did it. Well kind of.

Disdain for social media at this point is almost universal. I’d estimate that most of us use it begrudgingly, only because we want to be wired into something.

A bevy of wellness studies in recent years try to correlate the quality of mental health to the usage of social media in individuals, but I have reservations. One, everyone uses social media to their own purpose, and they may not all be in the toxic sense. In our digital lives, sharing a few key moments with close friends and faded acquaintances is great, you might find out something you didn’t know about someone. Or it gives you a great reason to not text what’s up?. But I had this creeping feeling that my mental health wasn’t as great as I believed. As someone who is managing moderate anxiety, FOMO popped up on a daily basis. Sometimes I’d make a social media post just to get some sort of interaction from people.

screenshot of invalid instagram account page

artwork by Liana Finck

In 2019, I started taking steps to assess my relationship with my digital reality, which in some ways contributed to my exit from social media:

  • Use Apple’s screen time feature to track my weekly average on phone usage.
  • Cut down on the number of accounts I follow on Twitter and Instagram
    • I narrowed down the numbers to the low 100’s with only the accounts that I felt added to my daily routine
      • IE: my Twitter follows are mostly news publications, music blogs and basketball-related outlets (mostly New York Knicks beat writers)
  • Set my phone screen color scheme to greyscale to curb usage
  • Limit the number of application installed on my phone
  • Hide applications in folders groupings on home screen
  • Use the web version of social media sites such as Facebook mobile and Instagram
  • Storing my phone in a hard to reach place on my desk at work
  • Turned of vibration when on silent
    • Reduced the number of applications that would give me notifications
      • Apps allowed to send notifications
        • Text messaging apps
          • Apple’s Message and Signal
          • Transit - NYC subway alerts
          • Banking - to alert on any transaction
          • Dark Sky - daily weather

In late 2019 around the holidays, a few of my friends had already gotten rid of their Instagram accounts or at least stopped using them. When they were discussing their positive experiences, I had my doubts. I wasn’t sure that the tradeoffs were good, in the sense that you’d be left out of things, moments that only surface on this application.

delete button gif

Mulling over the idea for a few weeks, I suspended (note - not full deletion) my account and its been a whole month since. Here’s a few takeaways from my experience thus far:

Positives

  • No more FOMO
    • Not worrying whether I’m living a full life and comparing to others
  • My anxiety is way down
    • Headspace is much more clearer
  • Texting my friends more
    • Not having that accessible window motivates you to reach out
  • Hanging out face-to-face more with friends
  • Spending less time on my phone
    • According to screen time I’d spend roughly 1 hour a day on Instagram

Negatives

  • Some IRL relationships did change
    • A few friends had communicated a lot via Instagram and since then I haven’t really talked to them
      • Even being with them physically feels different
  • You miss out on the funny stuff

It’s only been a month, so initial findings and results might stem from any sort of placebo effect or afterglow. The main side-effect I was worried about would be losing out on a social life but that hasn’t happened… yet.

back to the future erased from existence quote

Is there anything learned from this past month with no Instagram? Not really, while it does feel like a significant amount of weight has been shed, unsure how this would affect my mental health or relationships.

Up next [playlist] a set of cut gems from 2019 [quarantine: day 51] releases i purchased on bandcamp’s fee-waiving day (may edition)
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