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.
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.
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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