Ever since my first year at university, I have gotten into the habit of deleting my Instagram app from my phone during term time. Nonetheless, like every other toxic relationship, Instagram creeps its way back into my life during the holidays and once every couple of months. And like every toxic relationship, I let it in time and time again.
Some have asked why I don’t delete my account all together, many have scoffed at my incapacity to limit its use when I do have it, others shrug and say that they don’t get the big deal: they have it but they manage to keep it under control.
There are two things to be said about social media that perfectly explain my perspective on its use. On the one hand, social media is quite literally designed to be irresistible, in the same way that junk food is designed to be delicious. The mechanisms and algorithms behind it are such that a procrastinator like myself can spend countless hours being drawn in by tailored posts and information. The second thing to be said is that, as of recent years, giants of the tech industry have been trying to ensure their own offspring grow up without said technology. This is somewhat alarming and should make up rethink our use of it.
When it comes to me personally, I noticed many things when I first deleted Instagram from my phone. Although I know that people with more self-control than me might find this unhelpful, I can’t help but list the advantages I encountered and the explanations I gave myself:
- Sleep. Not only is looking at a screen before bed not good for us (can’t believe that took me 10 years to figure out, sorry mum), but filling our heads with information about people we barely know before bed and first thing in the morning keeps us from truly switching our brain off and relaxing. It quite literally takes up a space which our mind should be freeing up in order to recharge itself. I’m not a neuroscientist but I notice the effects of this when I’m lying in bed thinking about the new car my ex bought himself or the meal that my friend from primary school ate and posted on her story. It is quite literally useless information.
- Friendships. Seeing frequent social media updates from friends near and far (and occasionally responding to them) can give us the impression of being close with people with whom, frankly, we are not. Since deleting Instagram, I am forced to call or text the people with whom I wish to remain in contact. This goes specifically for my friends who live abroad. Responding with an emoji to an Instagram story is hardly keeping tabs on the lives of people we love, and we should not confuse the two things.
- Anxiety. I am a self-professed sufferer of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). If I see anything going on without me on a Friday night I quickly spiral into the mindset that, whatever it is, it must be more fun that what I’m doing. Since deleting social media, I simply can’t see whatever social engagement my friends are at that I’m not. Furthermore, when I do see what my friends are up to, I manage to remind myself of my FOMO condition before it can hit me, much reducing the effects of it. This acts as a reminder that everything looks more fun on social media, even when it might quite literally be shit. An example of how easy it is to make something look fun, could be the many vloggers who faked being at Coachella this spring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pau_joGIhc0
Although these reasons have convinced me to get rid of Instagram in daily life, I still download it during holidays because, overall, it is a fun medium to use. When it’s summer, for example, and the quality of my sleep doesn’t really matter, when whatever I’m doing is too fun for me to compare it with other people are doing anyway, that’s when Instagram is innocuous to me. Thankfully, the same can be said for my ex.