I unlocked my phone, swiped to home page, swiped again. I couldn’t find what I was looking for after going through the same four pages over and over. Frustrated, I dragged down the search pad and type Inst… Oh yeah, no wonder I couldn’t find what I had been looking for, I deleted it!
Deleting the app Instagram — it could be just for a break, a vacation or putting an end to the habit that leaves you scrolling through spring break post after spring break post when you should be studying. You don’t have to delete it forever, it could just mean for sometime. But it’s a start to taking a break. I deleted the Instagram app from my phone a few weeks ago to put an end to the distractions, anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out) that came with scrolling through the app every day. And I have never felt better.
Of course the first few days I felt like I was quitting an old habit (because I kind of was.) I experienced withdrawals from the tiny kitchen videos that popped onto my explore page and instinctively reached for the front pocket of my backpack, ready to unlock my phone to check my follower requests and who posted another mountain picture for Earth Day. Only to find that the only choice would be to re-download the app I deleted.
But I wouldn’t give in after a week. Not yet.
Instagram has been controlling my life since 6th grade to be exact. Maybe it doesn’t control everything but it does control what I wear, how I present myself and what I say.
Wearing the same outfit to different photo-worthy events? I couldn’t — because that would be awful if I posted in the same outfit! I have to go through a few VSCO filters and friends opinions on what I post because I have to make sure I look good enough for 500 plus likes and the caption has to be clever and fitting to the picture. This could take hours or even days.
So maybe saying Instagram controls my life isn’t that much of an exaggeration.
There can be a few drawbacks to taking a break from the ‘gram with all the hype around clothing accounts, the funny videos that always popped up in my feed and having access to anyone, anytime, whether it’s Kim K, my cousin who just had a new baby boy or the new kid in my second hour I swear I’ve seen before.
A report called #StatusOfMind, published by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK studied the effects of social media on young people’s mental health. In the study, Instagram was found to have the most negative effect on young people’s mental health with negative factors affecting FOMO, bullying, body image, lack of sleep, anxiety and depression.
After reading this the results of my own experiment made sense. Depression stemming from the pressure of trying to keep up with the unrealistic expectations of a fake reality. Along with people constantly comparing their negative moments to only the positive moments they are seeing on social media and that’s not realistic. Seeing a posts of a picture perfect model after eating a 4 course meal can make someone second guess every bite they took.
There are still some positive outcomes of the app, like self expression, self identity, community building and emotional support. At this point, I think the negatives outway the positives. I did enjoy seeing artsy pictures, but I can still see the artsy pics that may not have made it all the way to Instagram on VSCO.
I don’t want to grow up and be that one mom that posts a picture of every crayon drawing her kid scribbles and is too focused on getting the perfect lighting rather than noticing the addicted-to-social-media example she is setting.
Instead of enjoying the clear blue Turks and Caicos water this spring break, I was focused on capturing every droplet of it when I could have been enjoying the waves with my family.
Although Instagram may seem like the ideal way to stay up to date with your family in Colorado, there are other options. FaceTime and iMessage work just as well and they don’t require the stress of having a “perfect” profile picture or maintaining a strong like-to-minute ratio.
I found that going to CAT and getting a 20/20 on my homework quiz is much more rewarding when I’m not checking my feed in the middle of notes every 30 minutes. Mrs. Kossen would be trying to explain the Unit Circle, and instead of listening to her I had my eyes glued to my phone watching satisfying videos.
After understanding what paying attention in class can do to my grades, I keep my phone zipped in my backpack during the whole hour, wondering how the other kids scrolling through their Instagram feeds while Mrs. Kossen is explaining right triangles are going to do on the homework quiz on Friday.
I recognized that one of the reasons I was struggling to focus is because my brain has been trained to refer to the app when it’s in need of a distraction or something to do.
I realized I need to break these habits to retrain my brain to avoid the urge to go on the app every hour.
I used to check my feed right when I woke up and before I went to sleep. Google’s former Design Ethicist, Tristan Harris, says that waking up in the morning and checking your phone right away is like waking up to a menu of all the things the reader has missed since yesterday, fueling major FOMO.
Staying in sick on a weekend night can make you feel even more sick after waking up the next morning to the plans you couldn’t attend posted all over the internet.
It’s hard not to redownload the app to find out which celeb announced their engagement or which high school had their prom last weekend. But it’s posts like these that made me realize that I was wasting a lot of time and energy on things I didn’t even care about.
I am not encouraging everyone to delete their Instagrams all of the sudden and ghost the app forever. I am just suggesting a small break — a simple hiatus — to help you realize how much that app really controls you.
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