After an enjoyable break from Instagram, I logged onto the app yesterday for the first time in a couple of weeks and was instantly engaged and ignoring my "time limit" notifications for the day. Instagram is simultaneously the most forgettable and most irresistible part of my life on the internet. Anything I learn from or laugh at on there is forgotten within a couple of scroll pushes from my thumb. As with most of my friends, I feel my own imagined pressure to "be present" on the platform bc it has proven to be a place of random connection to work opportunities for my art over the years. It's a place to be "discovered". But towards the end of last month, I realized our relationship wasn't working for me. Instead, I felt like I was working for it.
The precipitator for my most recent break was an international honeymoon coupled with a phone that only functioned in wifi. As a side effect of not looking at my phone all day, I started to notice how much less frequently Parisians have their heads buried in their phones than do New Yorkers, and how much more present the city felt. (Kirk might suggest this was also a side effect of having a tourist mentality, which is a boon to presence in and of itself.) Upon returning to the US, I ran with the idea of not being pwned by my phone and its apps- starting with deleting instagram.
As I'm sure many have done, I go on hiatus from ig once in a while, cuz I read some article about how it is killing teens' brains or bc I'm especially annoyed with the Zuck and surveillance. Other times I am on a roll where sharing the things I am making feels really awesome, and I genuinely want people to know what I'm working on. Prior to the trip, I felt like I was sweating the self-imposed pressure to take photos and slipping into thinking about my life in a "how/if I'll post about this" kind of way. I saw myself in the cycle, and my neo-hippie, anti-establishment independent self HATES being manipulated by things. So I deleted it. Trust me, if you want to quit and take back your time/life, bypass the easily ignorable Time Limit function and get the thing completely off your phone. The difference between not looking at it and not looking at it for long is night and day. It's like doing "just a little bit" of heroin. You gotta get away. Far, far away. This is because your brain has to figure out what to do with the withdrawal, and this means your brain has to witness when you're reaching for your phone and consider what you're really craving from your life when that happens. Is it in the morning? Is it late at night? Is it afternoon boredom? Is it loneliness? Is it wanting to gain some recognition? For me, it is/was all of these things. And toss in the "I'm working on my career" part of it. In truth, what I'm writing now is more helpful to my art practice and to connecting with others than the past 100 hours of screen time I spent.
The weekly screen report from the phone seems impossible. How many hours of screen time on my phone per day?? On just my phone? Barf! No wonder I feel too busy from morning to night. All those hours of pounding random imagery into my brain with no rhyme, reason or result. Of course I feel like my train of thought is constantly derailing. Hands down the most wonderful part about being off ig is feeling more continuously connected with my thoughts from morning to night.
Some suggestions to help ease your way into your post-ig reality:
- If there's someone or some group you follow whose messaging you enjoy and feel a positive benefit from, see if they have a newsletter or other communication you can keep up with them through. (I do, and you can sign up for my almost-never newsletters at the bottom of this page.)
- Use other apps and ways of connecting with people you love such as the telephone (haha) and Marco Polo (a video messaging app a bunch of my mom friends are on). I'm more likely now to directly text people I think of throughout the day rather than having an ig-comment/dm-only connection.
- It doesn't have to be forever, but I would say give yourself a genuine 7 day break to start. For me, seven to ten days is a good length of time to get to a place where I feel kind of gross going back on the platform. After seven days, try looking at ig only on your laptop. This is unquestionably the least interesting way to view the app.
- If you need a really smart, incredibly grounded person to listen to talk about the psychological effects of social media, give this podcast from Dharma Punx's Josh Korda a go:
That's all I can think of for now, but if you feel like you need a break or are feeling manipulated/tug of war about logging out, I hope you give it a try! I would love to hear about your experience- I'm currently on email, text and phone!