Instagram selfie collage (hero image)

I Deleted My Instagram: 3 Years On

In February 2019, I wrote a very raw Her Campus article detailing my negative experience with Instagram and listing the 4 reasons why I deleted my account the summer prior (you can read it here). I have now been Instagram-free for 2 years and 8 months and I have never felt more confident than I do now.

In order to best describe the positive changes my mental health has experienced since getting rid of Instagram, I thought I would follow a similar structure to my original article. 

Here are the four things that have changed since I deleted my Instagram account:

 

#1 I am now confident.

… nearly 100 times a day, every day, I stared at photos of women who made me feel horrible about myself.

When I re-read this sentence I can feel the pain that I caused myself by constantly and willingly comparing my appearance and lifestyle to others. Forcing myself to get rid of this source of self-deprecation allowed me to create my own sense of beauty and success, dependent on my individual desires and aspirations and independent of the desires and expectations of wider society. In the first months after I deleted my Instagram, I no longer had the image of the alleged quintessential women of social media to compare myself to. Instead, I just had me to compare me to, and every day I began to appreciate myself more and more. This allowed me to truly fall in love with who I was, internally and externally. At present, I see my ‘flaws’, yet I enjoy them and feel confident in their company. This is not to say that I am now immune to self-criticism, for I am surely not! Rather, lapses in confidence visit on occasion instead of renting a room in my mind.

 

#2 I am not self-absorbed.

My Instagram posts did not represent this person. My own posts - soft smile selfies, posing alone in a bikini, fake laughing, hotdogs or legs? - I was portraying myself as someone I was not.”

One thing that I will never forget is how I used to spend hours creating that “perfect” Instagram post. I would spend roughly 1 hour taking pictures of myself, 1 hour editing my top three favorites, 30 minutes thinking up the ‘perfect’ caption (at this point I’d have probably changed my mind about 50 times) and then finally post the photo on my Instagram account. But it did not stop there. Over the next few hours, I would obsessively watch as the number of likes would steadily increase - and if it didn’t, I would assume my post was not good enough, that I was not good enough. 

This was outrageous behavior so hurtful to my soul.

One of the reasons that I was apprehensive to delete my Instagram account in the first place was because I am a creative person who enjoys taking photos, editing them, storing them and staying in touch with my friends’ lives. What if there was an app that allows one to post photos without the nastiness of counting ‘likes’ and ‘followers’? Maybe if there was a way to just edit and share photos for the pure exercise of imagination and inventiveness that is creativity? Oh wait, there is an app for that! Luckily, I was able to continue my creativity by editing and uploading my photos onto my VSCO account. For those who are not familiar with VSCO, it is much like Instagram in the sense that users edit and post their photos, follow other accounts and have followers. The important difference between the two platforms is that VSCO does not display ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ and therefore there is no competition inherent to the social media platform itself. I do not use VSCO for an adrenaline high, as I did with Instagram, but rather as a way to express my true self.

personal screenshot of own photos Original photos by Julia Stockwell

I can say with all honesty that I no longer equate my self-worth with the number of likes and comments on my social media posts. I know this because I still continue to use Facebook and Snapchat, yet I no longer care to see how many people have liked my recent status update or how many of my Snapchat friends have seen my recent story. So for anyone who ever sees a selfie of me, you can know that in the moment I took that photo I felt joyful and beautiful and wanted to capture this feeling in a photo - I did not take it for anyone other than myself. Actually, I might have taken it to send to my mom!

 

#3 I no longer compare my life to the lives of others.​

I was also afraid of missing out on the lives of the people I followed; the lives of the people I did not know; strangers. I became infatuated with the lives of social media influencers.

I won’t lie to you and say that I have zero interest in the lives of others, even the lives of people with particularly large followings on social media. Recently my guilty pleasure is in fact YouTube. The reason why I watch strangers on YouTube is far different from the purpose for which I’d follow the lives of strangers on Instagram. I no longer follow people's lives because of some strange attachment I’ve developed, nor do I see what’s happening in their lives and envy them - I merely watch videos for pure entertainment (especially during Covid times). Most importantly, what I watch on Youtube, Facebook or Snapchat does not transfer into other parts of my life, particularly in terms of comparing the accomplishments of strangers to my own accomplishments. In my opinion, this is what a healthier relationship with social media looks like.

 

#4 My relationship is solid - though it’s no one’s business.

Unfortunately, all the above reasons for deleting my Instagram met at a three-way intersection and crashed together. This crash resulted in a series of events which nearly ended my relationship with my boyfriend forever.

Healing myself also helped to heal my relationship. I am thankful to be able to say that I am in a happy and healthy relationship with my best friend. One thing that I have learned from this entire experience is that plastering my relationship on social media just doesn’t work for me. So naturally, I will stop here!

 

I do believe that if I were to start using Instagram today, I would not have the exact same relationship with it as I had 2 years and 8 months ago. I don't believe that I would undo all of the progress that I've made, but at the same time I am not willing to take the risk. I thoroughly enjoy my life without Instagram in it and I am more than fulfilled with what I have. One of the greatest things I have gained from deleting my Instagram is TIME! Time not spent scrolling, doubting, pacing, thinking, and overthinking. The more time I have to spend time with the people I love, and doing the things I love, the happier I am. That's been a big contribution to my healing.  

glowing selfie of young woman Original photo by Julia Stockwell  

*Please keep in mind that every human on this Earth is unique. What has worked for me to help heal the relationship that I have with myself may not work best for you. In addition, deleting my Instagram account is not the SINGLE reason behind the various positive changes in my life over the past two to three years. If you are struggling with anything, please consider reaching out to a trusted loved one and/or professional for help - there is nothing shameful in doing so.*