No, I’m not a self-professed Instagram health and fitness blogger about to share with you all my overnight oats recipe and my best 15 minute bum and thigh workout. When I say Insta Cleanse I am referring to the decision I made a few weeks ago to delete my Instagram account. I wanted to document the reasons for this for both my own and possibly others benefit. Although only recent I wanted to write this while the feelings that contributed to this decision were still fresh.
Before I begin a disclaimer. Firstly, if you are not on Instagram you probably won’t understand this – stop reading now. And secondly, I think the Instagram app is mad, this post is specifically about the negative ways in which people (myself included) can use it.
I remember back about a year ago when I first got Instagram. It was a completely foreign world to me but I was intrigued. As I explored its different facets and discovered the Valencia filter the beauty of Instagram slowly unfolded and made itself known. One (embarrassingly) notable moment was the first time I hit 11 likes. It was on a photo I had taken of the sunset. I made a pic stitch and imaginatively hash tagged ‘sunset’ as the caption and boy did the likes pour in. I remember my joy when that little orange love heart thing popped up showing how many likes I had received – 12 to be exact. From this moment on I was hooked and my obsession began to develop.
The obsession remained somewhat subconscious (or possibly denied) until a few months ago when I began to assess my life and what I gave my time to. It became obvious that an unjustified proportion of my thoughts and time delegation were Instagram related. This is really embarrassing for me to admit, but having had much experience with the app I know I am not the only one to feel and act this way. I have created a list of symptoms as follows that I believe can signify an unhealthy obsession with Instagram. Do you:
– Plan and wait for the optimum time to upload a photo in order to pull the most likes?
– Delete photos if you think they don’t get enough likes?
– Feel the need to get photo evidence of everything you do? (E.g. reading a book, drinking a smoothie, doing the Bronte to Bondi walk)
– Have the Followers app?
– Scroll all the way down to the last photo you looked at when you re open Instagram?
– Post hashtag spam on your photos?
– Regularly stalk certain people who are not celebrities?
– Purposely do/buy/say/eat/drink/wear certain things just to put it on Instagram to get a particular reaction?
If you answered yes to any or all of the above I want you to ask yourself some questions – what effect is Instagram having on your life? Is it bringing out the best facets of your personality or encouraging the worst? Is it helping you feel content or creating narcissism? Is it allowing you to capture memories or is it distracting you from making them?
When I thought about all these things in depth I didn’t like the conclusions I came to. Instagram was preventing me from living in the moment and enjoying the experiences I was having. It was bringing out bad qualities in me – jealousy, greed, discontentment and a complete misconception of what is really important in life. It was encouraging my own self-obsession – the desire to document what I was doing in order to attain ‘likes’ and as a result the approval of others. But this approval was coming from people who I either didn’t really know or didn’t give a shit about. What did their opinion really matter to me? Instagram provides the perfect outlet to construct a persona of what you want yourself to be. It creates the façade that there are so many perfect humans out there because it allows you to pick and choose only your best traits and then put these forward, edited to perfection with the desired filter. When you step out of this bubble you can come to see it for what it really is – fake and frankly, embarrassing. The fact that people (myself included) put so much effort into building this persona that only exists in the cyber world is weak and unproductive. Imagine the person you could be if you cut this bullshit and put this same effort into being the best person you can be?
Overall, I realised that to a certain extent I was using Instagram and specifically ‘likes’ to validate my own existence. That is depressingly unsurprising considering I am a social media baby coming from a generation where ‘likes’ = self-worth. When I finally took the plunge and deleted my account, I immediately felt a very noticeable sense of relief. I found myself asking why I hadn’t done it sooner. The whole idea of Instagram very quickly felt foreign to me now that I was no longer a part of that world. Since deleting it I have felt empowered and free. Empowered because I am going against the social norm and taking control of the way I view myself and the world. And free because it is like a weight off my back, an entire world which once mattered to me no longer exists and I am able to spend that time any way I please. I find this surprising but there has not been a single moment where I have seriously regretted deleting it.
A couple of days after writing this I found this video which I think illustrates perfectly some of my thoughts and feelings towards social media and specifically Instagram: