I Deactivated My Instagram And I’ve Never Felt So Free

If you’ve never had a love-hate relationship with social media, you’re either lying or you’re my new hero. I didn’t seriously get into social media until I started college and realized that’s the only real way to keep up with people, since no one gives out their phone numbers anymore. And although I barely used it at first, with time, I got sucked into the rabbit hole. 

There’s something about both strangers and people you know in the real world crafting an Internet identity separate from what they really are. It’s a bit like a second self. You start sharing details of your life for all the world to see, attempting to put your best self forward to create a digital portrait of a person that’s more fun and interesting than you really are—or perhaps aspire to be. You plan outings to places that are “instagrammable,” so you can get a good picture for your feed to show off your active social life. You follow all the photo hacks to try to get more likes. You try to get more followers to increase your “social clout” (and if you have a good amount, maybe it can turn into a side job). You share links and info that everyone else is sharing to show how “woke and informed” you are. 

Exhausted yet? Woman staring at phone at night Photo by mikoto.raw from Pexels

The thing about social media platforms like Instagram is that when your use becomes habitual and almost compulsive, you don’t notice how it changes the way you see yourself and the world. Everyone posts the highlight reels of their lives, and it makes you hyper-aware of what’s lacking in yours. It’s like a checkerboard for comparison, and the only way to win is to play your way to the top.

When I deactivated my Instagram over a month ago, it wasn’t an easy decision. I’d deleted my Snapchat months earlier and felt guilty that I wanted to get off Instagram too. It felt like I was suddenly being anti-social and cutting off contact with everyone I’d ever known. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the people I kept close contact with would reach me other ways, so would it really matter if I disappeared from that part of the Internet for a while?

I decided no.

In truth, the culmination of global tragedies that reached a breaking point this year accelerated my departure from the platform. I’m glad that people are bringing awareness to the injustices around us, but for me, opening the app changed from mild anxiety to stress. Besides the compulsive need to post what I’m doing or share reposts, the information overload became too much to bear. To preserve my sanity, I would only go on Instagram every few days, but that still wasn’t enough. I noticed I would see more ads and sponsored posts than posts from people I actually know, so trying to keep up started to seem fruitless. 

I first experimented with not opening the app for a week, but to avoid being drawn in again, I finally decided to deactivate my account. I wasn’t sure I could go without it for two weeks, but now it’s getting to almost two months, and I barely miss it. I don’t get constant updates on what old friends are up to anymore, but maybe that’s just what I need—to step away from the noise and focus on myself in the real world.  

Since I left, I’ve noticed I have more free time to work on personal projects and improve other aspects of my life without feeling like I’m not doing enough, or I’m missing out on something. Most importantly, I feel happier and a lot less stressed. I think it’s important to note that I didn’t delete all of my social media—just the apps that were no longer good for my well being, so it’s not all or nothing. Social media can be an amazing way to build connections and stay informed, but you have to do what works best for you.

Will I ever go back to Instagram? white phone charger Unsplash - Steve Johnson

I’m still enjoying my time unplugged from that part of the Internet, so only time will tell if it’s a permanent departure or not.