I remember first setting up my Instagram account senior year of high school. It was a young app with little hype and relatively few users. Since then, it has grown into a massive online platform where people share their photography, their lives, and even run entire businesses. My love of Instagram has grown along with its popularity, and I soon found myself posting at least one photo a day and checking it every chance I got. Without realizing, I began wasting hours a day on Instagram– editing photos, writing captions, trolling other accounts. It was the first thing I looked at in the morning and the last thing I checked at night.
Then at my internship this year, we began planning a week long campaign called “Look Up” which explores the impact of technology on our social, spiritual and emotional lives. The week is full of events aimed at igniting a discussion we can all benefit from. On one of the days, I was asked to speak on a panel about technology’s impact on our relationships with family and friends in particular. Part of the requirement for panel members was to take on a technology challenge for the week prior to the event, and discuss the changes you observed. I immediately knew I needed to give up Instagram.
This sudden conviction was the first indicator that I had a real problem. And as hard as I knew abstaining from the app would be, I was determined to meet the challenge. So with shaking hands, I deleted the app from my phone, and felt immediately relieved– right?
WRONG! I felt horrible. For the first day or two, I would instinctively reach for Instagram every few minutes like some sort of sick junkie going through tech withdrawals. I worried about everything I was missing in other’s lives, and was eaten up by curiosity. I seriously considered breaking my fast multiple times, but was always stopped by sheer determination to prove myself wrong.
But slowly by day three or four, I began to feel better. I found my craving for the app had diminished, and almost vanished all together by the end of the week. I stopped taking pictures of the things in my life and started genuinely appreciating them. I no longer removed myself from the moment by trying and capture it, but rather fully lived in the moment. I noticed myself being bored– an emotion I hadn’t felt in a long time. In the past, whenever I would feel boredom creeping in, I would quickly fill the space with Instagram. I had forgotten how wonderful it can be to simply let your mind wander off on tangents and day dreams, to stare mindlessly at the ceiling or reflect on your day. As a writer, it is crucial that I leave space for boredom, because that’s where some of my best ideas originate!
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I observed a decrease in my nasty habit of comparing myself to others. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I definitely saw an increase in my joy this week. I used to see a beautiful girl in an Instagram photo and think her beauty somehow detracted from my own. As insane as it sounds, I regularly tricked myself into thinking someone else’s beauty or success made me a little bit less beautiful or less successful. When I removed the source of that comparison from my life, I was no longer able to get trapped in those negative thought patterns. Of course I still struggle with comparison now and again, as most of us do, but I can honestly say using Instagram less has significantly helped.
Today is the first day of Lent. If you are like me and don’t have the guts to give up something like chocolate or coffee, consider giving up one aspect of technology. Maybe delete Snapchat or Facebook, or commit to only checking emails once a day. Whatever it is, I can promise you will see a difference in your daily life over time. And it doesn’t have to be forever. So go on, challenge yourself to some sort of fast for the next few days, weeks or months! Though I’m not yet sure when I will return to Instagram, I am sure I will return a more confident, creative and joyful person, someone actually worth following.
P.s. Photo via here