How Deleting Instagram Improved My Mental Health

I’ve never been an anxious person, but constantly comparing myself to people on Instagram turned me into one.

 

Something I always took a lot of pride in was the fact that I was never super addicted to social media… or so I told myself. I checked Instagram a few times every day, but always had notifications turned off. I was never one of those girls who posed the same exact way in a cute outfit every day, cared about color schemes of my timeline, or counted how many followers I had. I just shared what was going on in my life, usually followed by an absolutely ridiculous caption that was only funny to my close friends and me. I was happy with that just as it was.

 

While abroad for a semester, I wanted to share my adventures. At the same time, I didn’t want to flash my life online for people who may not have the same amazing opportunity that I did. I have always loved photography and writing, so started my own blog that pretty much had the same overall vibe as my Instagram… just me being funny (I think) for my close family and friends to enjoy. People could follow along if they wanted to. It also served as my journal, something for me to look back on and reminisce on my absolutely incredible 5-month stay in Europe.

 

Coming home and seeing my family was amazing (which is really all I wanted while I was in Spain), but the transition back into my “normal” life was rough. I had been living in an absolute dream for the last semester- I went from strolling the streets of southern Spain to living in middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts. Reverse culture shock is real! I came home to a different life than I left, as my dad got a new job and my whole family’s schedule changed. I was having trouble adjusting back to my diet in the U.S. and was constantly uncomfortable after eating anything. On top of all of this, I immediately started working around 40 to 50 hours a week between two jobs. I loved my job as an ABA therapist, but it was really hard. I constantly felt like I was doing everything wrong.

 

Through all of this, I felt my mood shifting. The first two weeks back home were definitely the Honeymoon Phase, but as time went on, I became flat-out cranky. I lost sense of my usual, happy, easygoing self. I was irritable 24/7, short-tempered, and I just felt dull. Part of me wanted to go hang out with my friends, and the other half of me was completely antisocial. I was a ball of frustration because I hated how I was feeling and acting towards other people, but I couldn’t pinpoint the reason for it or a solution. At work, I pulled it together but as soon as I started my ride home, all I could think about was going to bed. I never wanted to talk to anyone about how I felt because I didn’t want to sound ungrateful. Every college kid works during the summer, and I had just studied abroad living my dream life. In my mind, I had no reason to complain.

 

I found myself comparing my life to other people’s lives way too much. I would see people through Instagram at the beach, out with their friends, or on vacations and I was completely jealous. My FOMO (fear of missing out) was through the roof, which definitely contributed to the way I felt. I constantly compared my body to others’, as “hot girl summer” meant pictures of my Instagram friends in bathing suits by the pool.

  

The only thing I could think to do was delete Instagram from my phone. As soon as I did that, I felt like I could breathe again. Deleting the app from my phone for a few days wasn’t out of the ordinary for me when I had a busy week at school. This time was different- I wanted absolutely nothing to do with Instagram and I couldn’t see myself re-downloading it anywhere in the near future. I figured I’d just take it one day at a time and see if I felt any differently.

 

Flashforward to last week… I looked at Instagram for the first time since June 23rd. I didn’t miss it at all. I stopped worrying about what other people were doing, and what other people thought of me. It was refreshing to just have to worry about myself, and not pay attention to the lives of the 800 people I followed on the app. My FOMO was gone, or at least not so intense to the point where I was on the verge of a breakdown every day. I didn’t feel disconnected from people at all… I actually feel like I was more connected to my family and friends. I felf 100% present with the people around me. People who really wanted to me to know what was going on in their lives would call or text me.

 

Now, I’m back at school living with my amazing friends and back in my routine. I’ve had the app back on my phone for less than a week, and I’m feeling like I’m back to having a healthy relationship with it. That being said, there’s still a high chance it’ll be deleted by next week. I feel less anxious knowing that the app doesn't even exist on my phone. My 3-month break from Instagram reset my attitude towards it. I don’t need to check it all the time, and my posts don’t have to be “perfect”. I can just be me and that’s okay. My biggest takeaway from this whole thing is that I don’t have to try to be someone that I’m not, and nobody is perfect even though social media makes us think that. Being present in today is something I enjoy far more than living through a screen. It took me a long time to get to this point, but I’m truly happy now that I’ve finally got that figured out.