Before I begin, I just want to let you know that I've just released a podcast on this exact topic that goes into much more detail. If you're interested in that, you can listen here:
Why I Deleted My Instagram
In January of this year, I deleted my Instagram for about 2 and a half months. A few people have asked me why I did this, but I never posted about it.
I'm not narcissistic enough to think that me being gone was that big a deal to people. However, I've since realised that what I learned might be of interest to some people.
There were a few factors that led to me deleting Instagram.
The more I used Instagram as a business tool, the more my screen time went up. I'm ashamed to say that barely 10% of my screen time was spent on building my business. I would go online to post a video for my page, and end up getting sucked into an hour of looking at dog memes (they're class in fairness).
2. Sick of the Virtual World
On a visceral level, it's easy to say Instagram isn't real life. But if that's how we really feel, why do we spend so much time on there?
On social media, everything is portrayed at its extremes, because normal life is boring. This leads to two types of content: outrage and vanity. Outrage is the stuff that's posted to play on people's addiction to negative emotions (fear, anger), and usually oversimplifies complex issues that people feel passionately about. This gets lots of engagement (think 'left versus right' political posts).
Vanity, which is far more prominent in the fitness sphere, is basically just people trying to depict their life exactly as they want you to see it. From looking at most fitness influencer profiles, you'd come away with the impression that they are all jacked, happy and constantly doing cool things. The obvious next question we ask ourselves is: why doesn't my life look like that? Why am I not that happy?
That's a very dark road to go down, and I worry a lot for the young generation who are growing up with this technology.
3. Attention Span
This all came to head at Christmas when I was given a book. I was really interested in it, but I found that I really struggled to read even a paragraph without feeling the urge to just find something more instantly gratifying content online. As someone who had been a book work when I was younger, this was the point when I said 'no more'.
What I Learned
1. FOMO is (probably) all in your head
A lot of people stay glued to social media because they're worried they'll miss out on something happening, being invited to something, or just talking with their friends.
Firstly, anything that was really important to know, I heard from word of mouth. People want to talk about big stories, so you will hear them, it just won't be as fast.
Secondly, if anything, my relationships improved. Friends knew that I wasn't able to view a meme if they sent it to me. This necessitates real conversations, and much more of an impetus for meeting up.
2. Real life is more fun, and far more rewarding
After deleting the apps, I became far more engaged in the real world. I found myself striking up conversations with strangers, because I didn't have a phone to bury my head in whenever I was bored. I also realised how important it is to really see people face to face. If a friendship is important to you, you should see that person more than just a few times a year.
3. Social media isn't the issue
Yes, when I deleted Instagram, my screen time dropped by about 50%. But then I started using Facebook more. When I deleted that, I used YouTube more. I'm sure that if I got rid of all of those, I would have started playing video games more.
The point is, social media addiction, like any addiction, is really just a symptom of a much deeper problem. I think that problem is discipline. Until you become the master of your own mind, you'll always find a way to distract yourself from the big things that need doing.
Returning to Instagram
I honestly was really enjoying life without Instagram. What brought me back was mostly the COVID-19 situation. I wanted to help people who would be stuck for home workout ideas and, yes, serve my own interests to a degree as my own business had to move 100% online. I'm now a lot more disciplined with how I use Instagram, and my attention span and mental health is better for it. For the time being, I plan on keeping it active, but that could change.
I want to finish by giving you a little tip. The screenshot above is of my private Instagram. I only follow people who I am close to, and the same is true for who I allow to follow me. The overarching philosophy is: I'm not interested in what people who wouldn't come to my funeral have to say about me. My newsfeed is barren, as 20 people doesn't exactly provide a constant stream of content, so there's no incentive for me to scroll. I post when I like, and what I like, as I know I can only get a maximum of 20 likes regardless.
Consider approaching social media more like this, and you may be a lot happier for it.