I deleted Instagram and here's what happened

11:07 PM

Everyone reacts the same when they hear the phrase "2020". Their eyes widen, heart rate increases, and a sense of doom starts to creep. For the entirety of the last calendar year, we all muttered hysterically to ourselves, "2020 will end soon, it has to end..." As if once "2021" flashed on our smartphone home screens, the world would instantly become a better place. 

Well, it didn't. 2021 is here, and while it seems that the pandemic has become less of a worry in the United States (yay, vaccines!), scary, and frankly downright depressing, things didn't stop happening. It seems that the avalanche of negative news will never come to a halt. Our mental health is constantly teetering on the edge while we struggle to balance our personal and work lives without collapsing into a breakdown. If this doesn't sound familiar to you, well, I am deeply envious of your home under a rock. 

It was during these trying times that I decided to delete Instagram off my phone. I was slowly growing conscious of the fact that every time I doom-scrolled through my feed, my mood was souring more and more. I was constantly fearful and negative due to the bad news that was being shared by peers. It was growing to be a very toxic place for me.

So I deleted the app! And it's been a while since I've felt this...free.

1. I stopped mindlessly opening Instagram. I was growing aware that I was developing a terrible habit. I would tap the Instagram app on my phone without even thinking. I would scroll through my feed and read through the content over and over again. I was doing this when I was between meetings at work, eating meals, during a slow TV show. It was such a time suck, and I never got anything productive out of it.

2. I stopped reading negative news that other accounts were sharing. I believe in staying informed and aware of what is going on in the world. But I also believe that there is marginal utility. At a certain point, information becomes too much and it is not longer helpful. In fact, it became really negative for me. This isn't just applicable to social media; over the course of 2020, I had the New York Times delivered to my inbox daily. That did not fare well for me since, as you can imagine, the news sensationalizes everything. And the more negative headlines = the more traffic and readers. When I unsubscribed from everything but the New York Times' "Breaking News". I felt my mental health improve.

3. I realized how repetitive most updates from people are. Don't get me wrong, I genuinely enjoy seeing some (keyword: some) people's updates. I care about my friends. But what I don't care about is a daily picture of your baby or meal. 

4. I value real-life conversations more. I knew what my friends were up to by looking at their Instagram updates. But let's face it - that's not very personal at all. If I only know what's going on in your life because of social media, we're probably not that great of friends. Since deleting the app, I've had some really great conversations that I appreciate even more. Shoutout to my real homies, you know who you are.

5. I am more productive. This goes hand in hand with #1, but not having my time sucked into this app has given me more time to do things that I actually enjoy. For one, I'm writing a blog post for the first time since 2016. And for another, I sat down and read a physical book. 

While I have deleted the app, I do sometimes login via my mobile browser to check my direct messages on my personal account and scroll here and there. (Sidenote: I heartily recommend this approach - it is harder to mindlessly open and scroll through Instagram this way. I have to manually log in and use a clunky mobile experience. I never stay on for long.) I also use a platform to schedule my Trader Joe's recommendation for my @anibblebit Instagram account

And you know what? Nothing's changed when I do log into Instagram occasionally. Bob* is still posting about how the government wants to take our rights away (I couldn't believe this person was still getting my attention, so I muted him), Sally* is brunching it up with her homegirls in the Marina (complete with a "HaAYYy girl hAYyYYY" commentary in her story, ah, classic), and Joe* is still eating a lot of takeout (your fiber intake ok there, buddy?). So I haven't missed anything at all. 

*Not real names 

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