Deleting Snapchat and Instagram: The Uncomfortable Comfort of Social Media

Whether you favor Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook or any of the other social media platforms that exist on phones across the world, it’s hard to avoid having an account on at least one, if not more. I got Snapchat and Instagram around the same time in my freshman year of high school, and I got them hesitantly- excited, but a little wary of something in which I and everyone on it had so little guidelines and so much power in terms of our own and others images. I started off slow, rarely posting, only checking the accounts once a day at most.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked. I checked my accounts every spare moment, before bed, in the morning before getting up, in between classes (if not in classes), and with my friends talking to me two feet away. On Snapchat, I had a dozen plus streaks, was racking up “best friends” and was getting “trophies” for all the time I spent on it. Instagram’s role in my life grew too: I started counting my likes and designing my posts to get more likes. I felt good when I got a record number. My friends congratulated me on it. I compared my Snapchat score and the number of followers I had on Instagram to other people and tried to “do better” when my friends had more followers or higher scores than me. Part of me knew that the habits I was sinking into didn’t feel good, but it was uncomfortable in a very comfortable way. It was easy to believe that these things, these numbers and prizes, they were important, crucial, to my ability to function in a social society.

I couldn’t deny that there were negative feelings involved in my social media presence, but I made excuses to stay on. Snapchat was how I stayed in touch, communicated with everyone important in my life; it was how I flirted with the guy I liked, checked up on people who lived across the country, and besides, my friends would murder me if I lost our three-hundred-day-plus streaks. Instagram made me feel good about myself - when I got a lot of likes - and it was fun to have a platform to share pictures I loved.

 

 

With these awarenesses hovering around in the back of my mind, there were a few brief moments over high school where I deleted Instagram or Snapchat, usually alerting everyone who “depended” on my presence on those platforms well in advance, but these breaks never lasted more than a week. They always felt good, but I saw them as very temporary cleanses, nothing more. I was always happy to redownload the apps.

About three weeks ago, I was feeling a little down, and I noticed myself getting deep into the worst aspects of social media, making myself feel worse and worse. I spent increasing hours of my day scrolling through Instagram, and I slipped deeper and deeper into a pretty negative state of mind about myself. Other people’s lives were better, obviously. I felt like a living failure, boring, and not happy. I didn’t feel good about myself and I didn’t feel good about the people in my life either.

I decided to delete the apps.

Snapchat was pretty easy; I hadn’t been so active on it in a while, and I’d been saying I wanted it gone for practically years. Instagram, on the other hand, I missed. I now had nothing to do while I lay in bed in the morning before getting up, or before going to sleep. I had no buffer in awkward social situations and no ability to scroll through social media while waiting for a friend to show up for lunch. I wasn’t up to date on the things my friends were posting. For a few days, I felt deeply out of the loop, bored, still a bit depressed, and I wanted to scroll through my feed more than anything else. But I didn’t redownload the apps. Not yet, I told myself. Just hold out a little more.

About a week in, I missed it less. I enjoyed telling people, “No, I didn’t see what you put on your story last night, I deleted the app. Tell me what happened!” I got conversations and descriptions instead of an outsider looking into other people’s lives through the window of their Snapchat camera. I started getting out of bed in the morning after turning off my alarm instead of spending twenty minutes checking all my apps. My homework got done faster, as I no longer took fifteen Instagram breaks while doing it. I’ve been spending more time with friends, and when we do something fun or goofy, I don’t lose time having fun considering whether or not to post it my story or whether or not I’m getting enough good pictures to post on Instagram, or what my caption will be.

 

The fun parts of Instagram– seeing what people no longer in my life are up to, being able to share pictures I love– they’re still there, and I won’t lie: I have gone and checked Instagram on my computer a few times. However, whenever I do, it feels a little stressful and just kind of icky. The good things about it got small enough that they were significantly overshadowed by the feelings of being left out, or being less beautiful, or less loved. Feelings that are addictive in a sadistic, sad, egocentric way. I imagine it’s like going off gluten for a month and then eating bread and realizing it no longer feels good at all. Those feelings are the uncomfortable comfort of social media.

Look, I’m only human, and a teenage human at that. I make no grand promises or declarations that I’ll stay off social media for the rest of my life. Frankly, I’m tempted to redownload the apps every day, and I’m sure it says something about me that I only deleted the apps, not my actual accounts. But still, I think it’s important to think about how the platforms we spend so much of our time on are affecting us.

Here’s my challenge for you: Think of the reasons you are on social media, whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or anything else. Push yourself to find answers beyond “keeping in touch,” because texting and calling exist for that very purpose. And then if you say, “But what about the people I don’t talk to over text?” think about how much you actually want to or deserve to know what’s going on in someone’s life if you can’t even bother to send them a text. Then think of how you feel on social media. Does it make you happy? Stressed? Relaxed? Upset? Challenge yourself a little. Don’t let easy answers pass for truth. Poke at the reasons you do what you do, and if you find out (which by no means am I saying you will) that you are doing it for the wrong reasons, whatever those may be, maybe give yourself a chance to break out of those habits. See how it feels to delete an app you think you need. The account will be there when you want it back, but not being able to open it every time you go on your phone makes a huge difference.

 

Who knows, maybe in the end you’ll find you don’t want it back at all.

 
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