Everything I have learnt from a month off Instagram – has my mental health improved?

Everything I have learnt from a month off Instagram – has my mental health improved?

About a month ago I decided to stop using Instagram. There was a combination of different reasons why I decided the social media app was no longer for me, the biggest one was the impact it was having on my mental health. It might sound strange to those of you who have never suffered with mental health problems, but Instagram was really messing with my head. I felt invisible in the crowd of millions of other users, I felt like no one cared what I had to say and every picture posted that only received a handful of likes made me feel like no one liked me, not just that they disliked the picture. So, I posted a photo of myself and I told my 2000 followers that I’d had enough, that Instagram was making me feel lonely and miserable and for something that is classed a ‘social’ media platform, it was making me feel anything but connected to everyone else. Before I signed out for the last time, I was definitely an Insta addict, I was on my phone ALL.THE.TIME. So, how have I coped without Instagram for the last month? Would I recommend everyone take a social media detox to help improve their mental health? What have I learnt in my month off Instagram? Here are my thoughts..

Everything I have learnt from a month off Instagram

1. We don’t need to photograph everything

I am very guilty of spending too much time on my phone on family days out, snapping away and not being present and in the moment with my kids. Why? Well, to get the best possible photo for Instagram, of course! I’m so over that now though. I do still take photos when we are out but nowhere near as many. I don’t spend time trying to get the shot perfectly framed or the kids to stand just so, I just take a quick photo here and there and just hope that it’s not blurry. I love taking photos, it has been a hobby of mine way before Instagram was even just an idea. I have really enjoyed getting back to taking photos just for me this month and not trying to take ones that will be well received on Instagram.

Also, every time I used to go out for coffee or nice food somewhere, I would always get the urge to photograph it. Sometimes I wouldn’t bother acting on those photography desires but most of the time I would. So many photos of Starbucks cups, cappuccinos, fancy looking cakes and plates of food are clogging up my iPhone storage but since I have been off Instagram I haven’ taken a single one. It is a lovely feeling just digging into a meal or sipping a coffee and chatting with a friend, instead of looking like a bit of a fool and snapping a few photographs of it first.

2. We don’t need to know everything about everybody

I was really worried about FOMO when I stopped using Instagram. I have been using it for years and over that time I have built up quite a lengthy following list. I was worried that I would miss catching up with my favourite bloggers and Instagrammers every day, that I would be sat around wondering what they are up to and feel the need to log back in incase I had missed something important. The first few days off the app I did find myself reaching for my phone, my thumb going into auto pilot and searching my home screen for that little purple camera icon. After a few days though, I quickly got over it. I stopped wondering (and caring) what everyone else was up to and the pangs to watch story after story and scroll the day away rapidly vanished too.

I realised that knowing what someone I’ve never met had for breakfast, or what shops these influencers are buying their clothes in or what all the bloggers I follow and their families have been up to wasn’t enriching my life in any way. I was wasting time looking in on other peoples lives instead of spending that time more wisely enjoying my own life. The bloggers that had grown to become friends, I still see their things on Facebook and on their blogs and I feel like that’s enough for me now, I don’t need to be keeping up to date with hundreds of other people’s lives every day. I don’t know what my IRL friends are up to all the time so why do I need to know what someone I only know via an app is doing? Answer: I don’t!

3. People stop following when you stop posting

For research for this post, I checked my profile online to see where my follower numbers are at now I am no longer using Instagram. I had 2001 followers when I posted my last photo, I now have 1990. It’s not as big a loss as I was expecting but it is still 11 people who have decided now I am not posting daily I am not worth following anymore. I don’t care though. Instagram is now such an insignificant part of my life that I really wouldn’t care if next time I checked my profile all my followers had gone. Number of followers doesn’t equate to number of meaningful and real relationships with other people. I would rather have my real friends who know me personally (of which there may only be a few but they are all bloody amazing) than thousands of people who only know what they’ve seen me write on Instagram.

4. Comparison makes you miserable

Instagram has always been a serious comparison trigger for me. ‘Why does she have more followers than me?’ ‘Why did she get that paid op and not me?’ ‘Why has she got 400 likes and I’ve only got 40?’ ‘What am I doing wrong?’ – ugh, so much negativity from one little app! I always had a niggling feeling that Instagram made me feel this way but it wasn’t until I removed it from my life that I realised how much it was negatively effecting my self esteem and confidence. Going on Instagram was like a weird form of self torture, I would browse through accounts and make myself feel miserable because I felt inadequate to everyone else on there. Now I don’t compare myself to others multiple times a day, I don’t have an app forcing me into a negative head space and making me feel like my own creative efforts and words are a waste of time. I am so so SO much happier now I am not falling down the comparison rabbit hole every time I pick up my phone.


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5. Followers aren’t your friends

Sounds harsh but it’s true. I am not saying some of your followers aren’t your friends, I know a handful of mine definitely are, but for the most part they are people you will never meet and don’t care that much about you, if anything at all. Instagram can feel like a massive popularity contest at times and whilst it is lovely to connect with people you’d otherwise never ‘meet’, these people are not your true friends. Friends check in on each other, check if you’re ok, want to spend time with you and support you and have a laugh with you. Most of your followers don’t want to do that and the ones that really care about you will make the effort to keep in touch with you outside of Instagram.

6. Instagram is a time thief

Oh, if only I could go back in time and reclaim all those hours I spent scrolling through photos, taking a thousand photos of the same thing, watching stories, making stories and just generally being a zombie staring at my phone. Now I am not using Instagram, I am barely picking my phone up at all, half the time I don’t even know where it is in the house! I have so much more time to do other things. I am writing more, reading more books, playing with the kids more and actually watching their crappy TV shows with them instead of trying to take a sneaky peak at my feed during another episode of Mr Tumble. If I could add up all the minutes I have spent on Instagram it would be the equivalent to weeks of my life wasted, it’s sad really and I am so glad I don’t have this time sucking app in my life any longer.

7. Being connected can make you lonely

Instagram made me feel so lonely. Everyone seemed to have loads of best friend followers, all the other mums seemed to always be off on play dates or at soft play together or doing something or other with someone else. As a stay at home/work from home mum, I spend a lot of time just by myself with my toddler and seeing everyone else spending time together just made me feel miserable. Ignorance is bliss though and if I am not seeing photos of all these other mums going on big picnics together or fun play dates then I can just pretend everyone else is stuck at home with a toddler sat on their head as they are made to watch another episode of Peppa Pig or read That’s Not My Monkey for the millionth time.

I have friends, I have some mum friends and I have people in real life that I can talk to, it’s just I spend lots of time at home with Alex and my closest friends live far away. Instagram made me wish I had more when, in reality, I am happy with the amazing friends I do have, I just need to make more effort to see them, that’s all.

instagram

8. You will be happier without it

Unless Instagram is your job or the only people you speak to are your followers or you absolutely love the online community you have become a part of, you won’t feel sad to say goodbye to Instagram. It does feel weird at first, especially if you use it a lot like I used to, but after a while it feels almost liberating. Exaggerated as it may sound, I feel free. I feel free from the pressure to take the perfect photo, I feel from the expectations of others to post something every day, I feel from the negativity Instagram made me feel about myself and I feel free from the urge to share every moment or my life and know every moment of everyone else’s existence too. I am so much happier now and I wish I had stopped using Instagram sooner, there’s so many things that make me happier and I want to spend my time doing them instead.

9. The Insta-sham is real

People lie on social media, FACT. It might not be big massive porkies but people omit certain things and try and paint a rosy picture online. I am not painting every Instagram user with this brush (I followed loads of amazing people who shared and spoke their truth and they are some of the most inspiring people I know) but Instagram is mostly a highlight reel of perfect family days and moments people want to cherish. I have no problem with only wanting to share your best bits with the online world, I do think though that you need to be mindful that your photos may have a negative effect on someone who is struggling in their own life. Seeing everyone else’s happiness can really add to your own sadness. It is really important to remember that everyone has tough days, everyone struggles at some point, just not everyone is willing to share their bad days with their followers. Now I am no longer exposing myself to the daily onslaught of smiling faces, picture perfect holiday snaps and captions full of everyone else’s best bits, if I am having a bad mental health day I no longer make myself feel worse after a quick scroll through Instagram.

10. You won’t miss it when it’s gone

This may sound hard to believe if you are a hardcore Insta addict but I promise it’s true! I don’t miss using Instagram at all. I miss some of the people but I am keeping them in my online circle in other ways – Facebook, Twitter, reading their blogs. That first week or so I kept picking my phone up every few minutes and would look for the app icon, just going into autopilot but I had no real desire to scroll, I just needed to break the habit. I don’t do that any more though, I don’t crave the validation of likes on a new photo or feel the need to make stories and talk to my phone in the quite moments during the day. I am just living in the moment, spending less time looking at a screen and taking photos just for the benefit of myself and my family, not just so I have something new to share. My photo’s are no longer ‘content’ for other’s to consume, they are memories captured that I will hold dear forever, and isn’t that what family photographs were always meant to be for?

Do you use Instagram? Would you say you use it too much? Does it effect your mental health? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I have zero intentions of using the app for personal use or my blog again. When it comes to Instagram I think I can confidently say I am so over it.

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Everything I learnt from a month off instagram

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33 Comments

  1. October 16, 2018 / 11:51 am

    You’ve made some really good points. I wrote a similar post on my on blog and I often switch off from social media. I used to go onto instagram daily and post all the time, but about 2 years ago I realised that it really was more damaging to my mental health more than anything. I love not going onto social media daily and enjoy being present in reality. Thanks for sharing!

    Victoria | http://www.spokenreveries.co.uk
    Victoria recently posted…The Curve Fashion Festival 2018My Profile

  2. October 16, 2018 / 12:09 pm

    Loved this post Wendy, its so brutally honest. I can imagine there are lots of people who feel like you do. Is it terrible that I didnt notice you werent on Instagram anymore?? I follow 800 people on Instagram and really only check out the pictures, I barely read the blurbs! That was what used to be so great about instagram but it is becoming more and more like other social media with its stories. I just want nice pictures on there. I wrote a post last month on smartphone useage and it truky made me take a step back from it all. I am so much more aware of the impact it has on my kids and how much my attention is taken away. So I took a step back and try to be a lot more relaxed about social media in general now. i do what I enjoy. I post what I love and wether its facebook, my blog, twitter or Insta I make sure that it isnt impacting on family time. I hope your feeling a bit better since stepping away. I was definitely one of your insta followers that made you feel bad but it wasnt intentional. I follow your blog and for me thats where I find the real you.
    Pam lorimer recently posted…How to find the perfect hairstylist for you.My Profile

  3. October 16, 2018 / 12:56 pm

    Social media can be great, but I think you are so right to try and find a balance between being online and being present in the moment with your kids. They really need our undivided attention, so well done for taking this step (and sticking with it!).

  4. October 16, 2018 / 3:06 pm

    I honestly don’t get the appeal. I mean I use Instagram for my blog, but it’s the last network I’d use for personal use. It kind of bores me so I don’t have the problem about being constantly on it – I have the opposite problem; I have to remind myself to go look at it lol.

    I think with anything that’s meant to be social, if it makes you feel bad, leave. So for me, you’ve totally made the right decision.

    Debbie

  5. October 16, 2018 / 3:28 pm

    Very insightful, I seem to spend most of my day on the computer and not ‘with’ the kids. I would love to have your strength and be able to break the habit.

  6. October 16, 2018 / 3:31 pm

    Very insightful, I admire your strength. I wish I could spend some time away from the computer and spend time with the kids.
    Nicky recently posted…October 2018 Bullet Journal SetupMy Profile

  7. October 16, 2018 / 3:35 pm

    Such a good post Wendy and I totally agree. It felt amazing having a 2 week detox earlier this year. I’m fact.. time to delete my app again I think and live in the present instead! Xx

  8. October 16, 2018 / 5:48 pm

    It is so easy to agree with everything here. I post daily to Instagram then spend hours trying to get my engagement up in the hope someone might book a holiday from it. Will they really? I could probably spend my time somewhere better. I don’t think it bothers my mental state, I know Instagram pictures are a lie, I edit my own to make them not quite like the real thing, but it is a time muncher and I could do with saving some! Thank you for an eye opening post. #TwinklyTuesday

  9. October 16, 2018 / 6:59 pm

    I agree with everything you have said and I myself have a love hate relationship with it. I love it because I am trying to get my photos seen and it is a shop window for that, but I hate all the faffing that comes with getting your stuff in front of people. I wish I could switch off my app, bu then I would not have got an opportunity using my photos for our tourist office, so it’s pros and cons for me .
    Sonia Cave recently posted…Life In Sweden – 2 Years OnMy Profile

  10. October 16, 2018 / 8:45 pm

    I don’t really get Insta but I like travel photos, so that’s about all I look at. I don’t really get the rest of it.

  11. October 17, 2018 / 7:12 am

    I think these are all good points. And probably true of all social media if you are the type of person to either get addicted to things and struggle with some kind of insecurity about life. I’m terrible when I find something I love but I use social media for different things and don’t worry about what other people are doing with theirs.

    I use IG for photography sharing like i always have, and enjoying the photos. Yes its frustrating that I dont grow and dont get IG opps like others but that’s because its all kids brands who want pictures of children and mine won’t do that anymore. So I take fewer photos of him IRL and more of pretty things I like like flowers. I find if I don’t post I gain followers although they’re usually spammers and f/uf people.

    I think there’s a lot of people on social media (and a hell of a lot of bloggers) with anxiety- I don’t have any friends url with it – and social media can be so damaging if you’re not someone who can just take things for what they are and not worry about things.

  12. October 17, 2018 / 7:22 am

    Such an honest post Wendy. I’m sorry to read that Instagram had you in knots. It’s definitely not worth it at all and so glad things have changed for you. The social media giants are a bit of a must when you’re a pro blogger…. but there’s definitely a line where things can get too much. Xx
    Annette, 3 Little Buttons recently posted…Easy cheesy Halloween spidersMy Profile

  13. October 17, 2018 / 7:31 am

    You sound so empowered and that is wonderful to see! I want to throw an almighty tantrum and say come back! But hun I am so happy to see you feeling so sure of your decision. I think for me personally Facebook is where I found that people where posting to much fake stuff and just too much negativity too, so I am hardly ever on it and honestly don’t care if I don’t look at it. I did wonder if all social media and even my blog was too much for me. It takes time away from my real life for sure. Then I get a message, email whatever saying how I have helped someone and I feel bad to think of disappearing. Also I get confused, as sometimes it feels like the thing that keeps me sane and the thing that gives me stress. I actually find Insta to be more of my happy space, maybe as it wasn’t around when mine were little. Aspen is 14 so I actually didn’t have social media at all or know blogging existed until about 4 years ago! I think with Insta I tend to enjoy seeing nice things and I don’t compare myself to them as I know the prettiest perfect mum sights are a load of crap, I mean yes everything looks perfect, but I am positive they have piles of washing hidden and probably just yelled at their toddler for not posing the right way! The stories where people are talking openly about mental health seem to help me, and I honestly don’t care how many people view my stories. I think realistically only a handful of people would notice if I stopped posting, but for me it’s a little photo album of happy days. I will agree social media is like going down the rabbit hole, I can get lost there for way too long! I am not just saying this, you have been one of my all time favourites. You are gorgeous inside and out and so very real! It is funny in a way that you talk about the similar accounts that get loads of views, I find that one of the reasons you have remained a favourite of mine constantly is that you haven’t grown too big. There are a few accounts I used to adore and then they got big, and sold out, they became more fake and all about money and what products the can get. I understand that for some bloggers it is their income, it is what helps them stay home with their little ones and that is wonderful, but I get bored of them because they lose what was the best part of themselves in the beginning. Even when you reviewed you are still yourself! Anyway I always blab on, but I really want what is best for you and am glad you are happy, even if I am sad.

    • October 21, 2018 / 9:37 am

      Hi hun, popping back to say thank you for linking up this week with #ABloggingGoodTime Hope you are well, happy Sunday xx
      Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…Don’t silence meMy Profile

  14. October 17, 2018 / 2:53 pm

    I am guilty of having my phone in my hand way to much. I’ve also stepped back from social media a bit. I just post now and then and dip in and out. But I agree, life was better before it existed!
    Amy – All about a Mummy recently posted…My Sunday Photo: New HairMy Profile

  15. October 17, 2018 / 9:08 pm

    It’s interesting to see how you feel about it after a month off. I have changed up my account now, the way I am using it and what photos I post. I didn’t want to join in with pods and things like that as I had the pressure of making sure that I was on it all the time, making sure all the photos had the likes. I have taken the pressure off myself and it does feel a lot less stressful
    Stephanie recently posted…Calvin Klein Rose Gold Necklace With James Moore JewellersMy Profile

  16. October 18, 2018 / 8:00 am

    Oh this is a great post – and so very true! Every now and then I feel like having some downtime from my social media platforms and having a complete ‘digital detox’ – it’s got to be better for us all round doesn’t it? Besides, I’m fed up of thinking about the pictures I need to take next!! Popping over from #coolmumsclub
    Lauretta Wright recently posted…September Blogging Month: Blog & Income ReportMy Profile

  17. October 18, 2018 / 9:42 am

    Totally agree with this. I’ve actually found instagram the hardest platform to use or grow, and have practically given up on it too. It seems so full of falseness unfortunately. Which is really sad! #ABloggingGoodTime

  18. October 18, 2018 / 10:25 am

    You are very brave to take this step as a blogger Wendy but I can really relate to so much of it. It is easy to get sucked into the comparison trap and especially if you feel the pressure to grow a folloswing in order to work with brands. I love the writing aspect of blogging but I wish I could skip the whole social media side altogether. #coolmumclub

  19. October 18, 2018 / 10:43 am

    I think one of the last Instastories I saw of you was when you were having a particularly bad day. Wendy, I am so pleased you have managed to find a happier place by removing Instagram. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never clicked with it at all. Yes, I plough on with it because it’s part of Blogger life but I don’t post daily and I don’t scroll through it much at all these days, quite simply because it doesn’t interest me. I think the main reason I have kept it is because I opened the account when my little man was born and as I scroll through it, it’s a timeline of him growing up. I will continue to add to it, I will put the hashtags in, but I do it for me now. If people want to follow me, they’re welcome to but I’m done trying to ‘grow my following’, it’s too draining. Well done you and see you on Twitter! 😉 xx #coolmumclub
    Jaki recently posted…Coming Soon – ‘The Music To The Story Of My Life’ Blogger SeriesMy Profile

  20. October 18, 2018 / 2:48 pm

    Sounds like your month off Instagram did wonders for you! I enjoy the platform for the connection it gives me to other artists and tarot readers, as none of my friends are into either. So I focus on that aspect of it and don’t bother too much about followers and likes.
    Modern Gypsy recently posted…On building a mindfulness practiceMy Profile

  21. October 18, 2018 / 5:40 pm

    Ahhh my comment disappeared….

    I had noticed you had gone and I don’t blame you! Instagram has become so boring! People talking about their boring lives when really I just liked the pretty photos to be honest!! #coolmumclub

  22. October 18, 2018 / 8:51 pm

    This is quite inspiring Wendy. I too have reported on feelings of loneliness lately and with a two week half term / blog break on the horizon, I might just go for an instagram switch off too. I wonder how that would feel aaargh! I don’t know if I could commit to it long term as I do love instagram as a platform and I get a lot of positivity from it, but I do feel sometimes I’ve become unhealthily addicted…
    You’ve encouraged me to take a break… thank you x

  23. October 18, 2018 / 9:48 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. I dread to think how many hours I waste on Instagram and its ridiculous how refreshing your days out sound without feeling the urge to get the perfect photo! thanks for sharing and definite food for thought #coolmumclub

  24. October 18, 2018 / 10:03 pm

    I’m so glad you’re much happier. I absolutely loved it a couple of weeks ago on holiday when I basically didn’t post. Like you my followers just don’t change, they’re stuck and I analyse and wonder and trying up them with no success. I refuse to join pods as they’re not people who like my photo, I try to find hashtags but really i get half the likes I used to and no rhyme or reason why. I’m very tempted to do them same. My blog and family would gain a lot more time if I did. Well done again x
    New Mummy Blog recently posted…Cotswold Airport Revival Festival * 20% off Discount Code*My Profile

  25. October 21, 2018 / 6:38 am

    I’m glad you made a change for you mental health and family unit! I log into Insta at most once a day. My photos are always blurry or from the blog. I never pay attention to the followers, I just enjoy the accounts I like and use the app for fun. Once it impedes daily activities it is no longer a joy! #DreamTeam

  26. October 23, 2018 / 1:03 pm

    It’s a bit like marmite isn’t it? For me Instagram is just a bit of fun. I love finding beautiful photography posted by others and post shots that give me pleasure on my account as and when I have something to post, which is rarely to be honest. I have engaged with some lovely people on the squares and met some of them so I have found it be more a positive than negative experience but I think taking a break certainly has its benefits too because like all that is social media it is addictive! #ablogginggoodtime

  27. October 28, 2018 / 9:02 pm

    I cannot believe how much time I waste on social media. Insta was one of the last ones I got and I love seeing what everyone is up to! #coolmumclub

  28. November 8, 2018 / 7:04 pm

    This is really interesting Wendy – and you raise some very powerful points. It really can be a time thief. I enjoy how it allows me to be creative with captions and photos but really have to be disciplined about my use of it and have seen my use increase recently (though I use FB much less now). From this post you can tell you’ve been very wise for your own self-care and you’ve definitely given me food for thought. Much love xx

  29. November 29, 2018 / 6:24 pm

    Hi! I found you via Catherine (Not Lamb’s) #sharealllinkup. Thus is a fascinating insight and I think it’s something a lot of us are considering currently. Thank you sharing, love Lizzy xxx

  30. November 30, 2018 / 3:47 pm

    Looking at the comments, I wonder if leaving Instagram has even hurt your traffic at all? It doesn’t look like it has and that is inspirational to me. I went from posting a pretty long caption and high res image every day to now posting once a week-ish. I went from scrolling through my entire feed, liking and commenting 3-4 hours a day to maybe 20mins a couple of times a week. I put the work in because I was getting great traffic to my blog and I was getting great paid content to both.
    Now that I live in America that’s all changed. No more paid posts anywhere. I now have a second job to supplement the lost income and rarely have time to go on Insta at all! It pissed me off at first but now I don’t give a shit. Needs must right?
    I love everything you’ve written here and it’s all true. Best of all I’m happy to see how popular your post is and therefore your blog because it gives me hope that my blog will survive too. I love my blog and I’ll continue blogging but I see myself leaving IG altogether at some point. My account is slowly dying before my eyes anyway. Obviously the less I engage the less the algorithm allows my presence on it’s hallowed soil. It’s all bullshit anyway 😉

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