I’d always thought Instagram was pretty innocent, as far as social media went.
Whereas Facebook has always been a bit shit and Twitter seems to be where all the angry humans like to hang out, Instagram (when it first started) was a really nice, untouched creative space to simply share photos and like other people’s content.
It’s not only become a massive time sink but also a source of anxiety for me.
Listen, I have no self-control when it comes to something I enjoy so falling out of love with Instagram is partially my fault. I go steaming in, full pelt and rinse whatever it is for all it’s worth. Such was the case with Instagram and I realised at the start of the year that I’d slowly replaced all the things I loved with scrolling. Instead of reading, I was liking posts. Instead of writing, I was saving outfits to copy. Instead of calling friends, I was sending memes to them. And instead of watching films, I was ogling people’s Instagram stories. I realised I’d probably read about three books and written no more than five blog posts last year because I was spending so much time on Instagram. And by anyone’s standards, that’s not great.
But Instagram hadn’t only been stealing time from me, it had been taking a hit at my sanity, too.
Of course, there was the comparison you get with all social media platforms, but Instagram is on a different level to Facebook. Over on Zuckerberg’s creation, we tend to compare our lifestyles with those that are similar to our own. You might feel a twinge of jealousy that someone managed to go on an extra holiday this year or tried out that restaurant before you did, but with Instagram, it’s so easy to start comparing our lives to completely unattainable ones. Ones where buying a Gucci Soho Disco bag is as affordable as nabbing a New Look pleather clutch in the sale. Or where wintry weekends are spent heading off to Bali as opposed to wandering around Borough Market.
Before, people knew that lifestyles of the rich and the famous were hard to come by, but because we have access to tiny windows into their amazing houses, luxury holidays and walk-in wardrobes on a daily basis, we start mistaking that for the norm and are left feeling dissatisfied with our own, actually pretty great lives. We start wanting for things we don’t need (multicoloured faux fur coats and tartan trousers being a fine example of this for me); we feel fat even though we’re not and nothing is ever good enough.
If you think these feelings sound ridiculous, they’re actually not. They’re a product of the changing face of the platform.
Hear me out.
Instagram’s sole reason for being has changed. It’s no longer about sharing pretty pictures but has instead become more about influence marketing and ads. We’re being sold lifestyles instead of products. Don’t get wrong, I have nothing against it. I work in blogger outreach so understand the benefits of it, I’m just saying: there’s a reason Instagram can make you feel this way and it’s not all in your head.
But it isn’t just distraction or comparison that are the thieves of joy when it comes to social media. It’s the exposure of our own lives that can cause us some anxiety, too.
Although in my right mind I knew the people who followed me over on Insta weren’t fussed if I posted or not and didn’t think much when they were double tapping (or not double tapping) my posts, I’d become so interested in everyone else’s lives I started to believe everyone was really interested in mine, too. Might be embarrassing to admit or make me sound like a dick, but so be it. I’m fairly certain I wasn’t alone in thinking that way.
Anyway, a combination of all the above meant that a week into the new year, I decided Instagram wasn’t making me happy anymore and I quit it for a while. There was no epiphany or moment of realisation, I just decided I didn’t like how it was making me feel and so I logged out. I thought it would take a while for me to feel the benefit and I assumed I’d miss it straight away, but I instead felt an immediate thud of relief that came quickly and all at once.
That’s when I knew I’d done the right thing.
So, if you’re thinking of logging out of Instagram or Facebook or putting down those fashion magazines because they’re not making you feel so good, then do it. You don’t have to set a deadline, just see how it goes. I said I’d log out until the end of January, but it’s been around a week now and I actually don’t miss it one bit. I’ve started to seek inspiration in the everyday as opposed to carefully curated grids filled with half-truths or extreme privilege and I’m reading and writing again. It feels good.
I’d ask you to wish me luck in my endeavours, but the way I’m feeling, I’m not sure I’ll ever log back in again.
Let me know if you’re going #instafree at the moment – would love to hear your thoughts.