Lessons Learned from my Instagram Fast

how-to-run-an-instagram-event-to-boost-your-cafe-engagement.jpgI 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

A Neurotic’s Guide to Small Talk

06loose-master675.jpgHave you seen this article from The New York Times.com? I first found it on the lifestyle blog Cup of Jo, and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. It is entitled “A Neurotic’s Guide to Small Talk” and serves as a “helpful” road map to navigating social interactions this holiday season. I really relate to the picture above, as I have a bad habit of going over everything I said during the day and mentally kicking myself for it! But I also relate to some of the following situations outlined in the article below:

Q: “Hey, how’s it going?”

In this instance, the speaker is somewhat interested in knowing how you are, but only the smallest details. Don’t over-share, but don’t under-share, either. Keep your answer succinct and stop doing that thing with your hands. Everyone is watching you do that thing with your hands and the longer you stand there, the more prominent the hand thing becomes.

Q: “Where do you work?”

Go to the bathroom. Now, now, now. This conversation has shifted dramatically, and you need to get out of there. Say something like, “Be right back,” or “Gotta go pee,” but don’t say it too loud, or too weird. Say it normal, for crying out loud. BE NORMAL.

Q: “How’s your family?”

Wait. Didn’t you see on Facebook that this guy’s parents recently split up? If you say your family’s “good” it’s almost like rubbing it in his face, like: “Look at my good family. I’m so lucky. No divorce for this guy.” Say your family is “fine,” but don’t smile while you say it, that way he knows that you sympathize, but you’re not trying to steal his sadness thunder. Also stop doing that thing with your hands, you literal monster.

Q: “Are you still living in Brooklyn?”

Leave this place. They know too much.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who relates to this?! Human to human interaction is hard. Especially after spending a year in Germany, where small talk is virtually nonexistent, my American small-talk skills are severely lacking. Sometimes I drink a lot of water before parties just to have an excuse to go to the bathroom multiple times for a much needed time out….introvert problems! If I had to add a few of my own scenarios to this article, they would be:

Q: (Person knocks on bathroom door) Hello?

You’ve been discovered. Don’t panic. Be COOL! How should I respond? Should I say “hello” back? Or maybe “I’m in here”? No, that sounds too conceited. They already know you’re in here stupid. Too much time has passed, now it’s awkward to respond, the window of opportunity has closed. Just wait it out silently…they’ll go away eventually, then you can sneak out and hide behind the appetizer buffet in hopes the person won’t see you.

Q: What’s new with you?

Do they really want to know? Didn’t they see your latest Fbook status about your grandma passing away? This is a trap. I repeat, a trap. They probably don’t really want to know, they’re just trying to be nice. Respond with a quick “Nothin’ much” and pose the same question back to them. Keep it casual. Well played, my friend, well played.

Q: You’re leaving the party so soon?

Busted…You’ve been caught. Come on man, you’re work is getting sloppy. You used to be able to exit a party early without a single person noticing. It’s your spiritual gift. Mumble an indecipherable response such as “I have work tomorrow” or “I’m not feeling too well” and flee. Don’t look back.

Question of the Day
Do you ever feel this way? Don’t get me wrong, I love people as much as anyone, but sometimes I just.can’t.function. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!