Here’s what happened when I deleted one of the worlds most used social media platforms from my phone and life for 12 months.
Spoiler: The world didn’t end!
For some time, I’ve been evaluating my relationship with technology and where I invest all of our most precious commodity of time. Now I’ve never been addicted to tech or apps (well not in my eyes anyway!), I’ve always made the conscious effort to take breaks from technology through leaving it out of my bedroom, workouts and even taking holidays in the middle of a forest with no reception or WiFi to grab my attention.
Before I delve further into this, let me just say that I believe that Instagram is a great app with the potential to provide a lot of positive experiences if used with the right intent. I’ve actually found IG to be quite useful in the L&D space, especially helping to connect me with a number of experts in my fields of interest to evolve my knowledge and skills.
Of course the main focus of the app in sharing photos with friends and family is what originally drew me to jump on this platform back in 2013. I loved the ability to create a photo collection of my life throughout the years that I could look back on at anytime.
So with saying all these positive things, you’re probably wondering why I decided to drop IG from my phone. There is a somewhat deep but simple answer to this.
It’s not me, it’s you……..or maybe it’s actually me!?
The simple answer to my exit from IG is that it didn’t make me happy anymore – it’s as simple as that.
For a number of reasons the user experience, content, endless targeted ads in my feed and what felt like the constant sensation of being plugged into the matrix watching fake lives, fabricated experiences, charlatans and rising human negativity on a mass scale finally made me click ‘delete’.
Now I didn’t wake up one day, think about all of this and say “Fuck Instagram”
No, it happened over time and it all started with little thoughts on why do I use this app? My commute to work was filled with mindless scrolling through my feed, and one day it stopped making sense why I did this activity everyday.
So, I started thinking…what if I didn’t use the app for one day?
I went off, didn’t use it for one day and thought what if I don’t use it for the whole weekend? again, I went off, completed the experiment and it started to evolve. from there.
Slowly, it turned to no access for one week, then 2, then 1 month and now I’ve gone nearly a full year with the app missing from my phone.
It was never actually planned. Just a random thought experiment that continued to evolve. One that I was seeing a number of positive benefits from, so it made sense to scale this and see where it might go.
And how do I feel about all this now? pretty damn calm actually.
I believe that the question ‘does this make me happy?’ is the single most important metric you can measure when using a product or service. I mean does anything else really matter if something is not making you happy?
And this is where I am right now – without Instagram, probably happier and certainly with more time to use without going down the endless black hole of my feed.
I figured out that I like my world to be a little bit smaller, a little bit more authentic, a bit more real to me. Instagram wasn’t supporting this anymore, so like any relationship, when it’s time is up, we move on.
So do I miss it?……No, not at all
I sometimes drop in from time to time via the web app, but rarely and only to connect with my real world friends. The absence of the app from my phone actually means access to the 24/7 drama stream of planet earth is far easier to avoid. So, I’m much less clued up on the latest internet outrage, which I’m pretty happy about.
I have noted just how much better I feel to not be scrolling through my phone and being exposed to content that I don’t have much control over.
Some of it made me happy, some of it inspired me, but unfortunately too much of it put an laser like focus on a scale of human negativity that made me feel like shit.
Overwhelm + toxic tribalism
Two things became apparent to me during my sabbatical from Instagram.
My mind was suffering from content overwhelm, mainly from a lot of stuff that was of no value to me and toxic tribalism.
As a species we are social creatures, we need to be part of a community for survival. That I get, but sometimes it gets a little bit too fucked up.
The communities of the size that a tool such as Instagram can create are not always healthy. They can lead to the rise and focus of what has been coined as toxic tribalism – essentially a movement of people focused on negativity.
These things led to my exit and the realisation that I had no intent in my engagement with the platform.
Unless you define intent as scrolling through my feed as some form of training for a thumb scrolling contest that does not exist, than I was just passing time.
So, you’re probably thinking, what does this all mean? and why have I read this far?
All very good questions.
Essentially, like my own tale, we probably all waste a lot of time with distractions. We engage with things that we mostly have no set intent with. This piece is not about leaving Instagram or any social network.
I don’t promote that as I love technology and these tools have positive benefits too.
What I invite you to reflect on, is whether you’re using your precious blocks of time on stuff that’s actually preventing you from getting some more important and/or far beneficial stuff done for your life.
Sometimes scrolling through our feeds and losing ourselves can be a good use of our time, if we deem it so. But mostly, our behaviour is set to that of crack addicts and social networking apps are our drug.
You’ve got 5 mins to kill, so you jump into your instagram feed and all of a sudden it’s 2 hours later, then you remember you’ve missed your window to do the things you really wanted to. These are the things we need to challenge. Our behaviours and the effect these have on getting stuff done.
Let’s consider this – when Instagram ends… how will you feel about all that time invested on this platform. The hours, weeks, months, years even perhaps decades of time that were swallowed up in consumption rather than connection.
Will that investment help you get to the place you want to find yourself? if the answer is no, then we have some work to do my friend.
Before you go…
If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.