My Year Off Instagram
It’s Thanksgiving 2020. I’m chilling at my in-laws house for a few days while I’m off work. Here I spend 99% of my time on a sofa that I seem to be magnetically attracted to. This is the place and time where checking my Instagram doesn’t feel like a crime.
The posts are the same as usual. Some wow me. Some fill me with envy. Some fill me with wanderlust. Some annoy me. Some drive me crazy. But today they hit different.
I’ve been an active user on Instagram for the better part of a decade. A decade that started with my first heavily-filtered post of a pigeon through my toothless art-on-Instagram phase to this moment when I function more as a silent observer. Many of my social connections are on the app. It functions as the oxygen keeping many of them alive. Many of these ‘friends’ are probably as aware of my gaze as Twitch & Youtube personalities are. There’s that saying that 95% of people are in your life for a season, four percent for a reason and one percent for a lifetime. The idea of letting go of these weak ties is terrifying. I want to believe I’m the guy who’s able to conquer the statistics. The guy who never let’s a friendship fade. I believe each person is carefully selected to accompany me through life.
I’ve burned so few bridges in my life that I can remember each individual time I lit one up. There’s the ex-friend in college who made me cry when I found out he was disparaging me to my other friends. There’s my first boss who triggered a stress twitch reaction every time the phone rang. More commonly in my life relationships that were meant to end have faded naturally. The work friend who quits at work and becomes a lot harder to keep in touch with when you don’t see them every day or the high school buddy who lives across the country. Instagram is supposed to keep this from happening!
Each time I use the app I’m graced with the presence of the latest goings-on of these folks, and updating my mental wiki for their lives.
Of course Instagram also serves me many people I had never met irl. It serves me the art of Hugo Pereira, the beauty of the floors from IHaveThisThingWithFloors or Hilton Carter‘s luscious green life. I have a feed carefully curated for beauty and inspiration. Every time I open the app I’m wowed by people’s talents.
The problem I experience sitting here on the couch, full after another delicious Thanksgiving dinner, is that even though Instagram keeps many of these relationships from flat-lining, Instagram itself is a fickle friend. I feel guilty when I use it most of the time and, unlike these relationships that survive within the scope of my time on the app, my relationship to Instagram doesn’t end when I close the app. The thoughts persist. Even though Instagram is my go-to cure for boredom, idle hands or life support for some relationships that the universe meant to wilt, its impact on me skews negative. It hijacks my attention and drives me down a path of anxiety, insecurity and guilt.
I’m not someone who gets on the app and just scrolls and scrolls. I am someone who studies each post. Each poster carefully selected what to share so it must deserve some attention, right? I scroll, see something interesting, and neurons fire, triggering connections in my memory. I’m sure if I had an fMRI machine handy my brain would be lighting up like the Christmas tree across the room from me. And this happens for every post. I see a post and need to consume each post *just* the right amount. After I wade in four or five posts it’s just too much. I get off.
Then comes the hangover. The next few minutes (or hours if my brain is tired) I’m preoccupied with what I saw on the app.
It is then, as I lay digesting on the couch with season 1 of Bridgerton humming along in the background that I decide to quit Instagram.
It is not worth my peace of mind.
Of course making this decision is easy. Uninstalling the app is hard.
But I do it. I uninstall the app and immediately feel a weight lifted off me. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic.
After a few days I find myself forgetting about Instagram.
Life is still in wondrous technicolor and it turns out my relationships are less fragile than I thought.
Thanks for reading. ✌️& 💜.
Written while listening 🎧 to Will & Amala Live.