Over winter break, about halfway through the pandemic, I found myself in a really weird state of mind. I was at home with my family, had no work to do, and was constantly on social media – especially Instagram. I found myself checking what other random people I went to school with were doing on a daily basis. I also found that because I had less content to post on Instagram due to the pandemic, I was feeling less validated. My mood almost became too dependent on social media; if I saw Harry Styles post something, I’d be excited, and if I saw a random influencer traveling to the Bahamas, I’d get sad. Too much of my energy was going into Instagram, and the only things I got out of it were feeling sad and unmotivated. That’s why I deleted it before I returned to school for the spring semester, and it’s honestly been great so far.
Up until last year, I never thought that I’d be able to go without Instagram – I used to spend a big chunk of my day scrolling through it aimlessly. But, after being on an extra-long break at home, I realized that I got major FOMO whenever I’d see people (my friends, random strangers, celebrities) doing fun or cool things. It hit me that a lot of what we post on social media is really curated, and that I was making that same effort to promote a certain image of myself. I’d worry if I got less likes on one photo than the other, or if my friends posted a photo of me that I didn’t like. That’s what prompted me to decide to delete the Instagram app indefinitely, and it’s been really improving my mental health so far. I definitely feel like I’m out of the loop on a lot of stuff, but honestly, that’s not such a bad feeling. It’s freeing, and I don’t find myself worrying about missing out on things as much. It’s given me time to focus more on cultivating my relationships with other people in my life. Plus, Tik Tok and Snapchat still take up a big portion of my day.
There are definitely some drawbacks to not being on Instagram anymore; my friends post cute pictures or interesting activities they’ve been involved in, and I sometimes contemplate re-downloading to feel more connecting to them. It can also be mildly frustrating when I can’t Insta-stalk someone that I’ve just met. However, I feel like both the mental space and time in my day that have been freed up are worth it.
I also find that I’m slightly more productive without Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, I still face the perpetual problem of going on my phone every two minutes when I do work. Nonetheless, having one less app to meaninglessly scroll through when I don’t feel like watching lectures has definitely nudged me in the right direction, and encourages me to focus on other things!
A digital detox of any kind can be hard, whether it’s just taking a break from your phone, or swearing off social media as a whole. In my experience, just removing myself from one sphere of social media has alleviated some of my anxiety and hasn’t hurt any of my social connections or friendships. If you’ve been struggling with your mental health and feel like social media might play a part in that, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try!