My finger hovered over the button on the screen. Was I really about to do this? Then, with a single determined movement, I pressed ‘delete’ – and my life was changed forever… Ok, so it wasn’t quite as dramatic as this, but I must admit that my heart had a little flutter when I saw the notice “we’re sorry to see you go” pop up on my screen. I had just deleted Instagram.
I had decided to delete Instagram and cut down on my social media use as a personal choice even before writing this article. Partly because I didn’t have time to maintain a feed to the standard that I wanted to deliver, but also because being on social media was, well, exhausting. I hadn’t used Snapchat in years and although I kept Facebook, how I used it was definitely changing. But Instagram? It was time to let it go.
In a way, I’m glad I grew up before the big technology boom. I work around children and young people and their insight into the world and social media is fascinating – and at times, concerning. When I wanted information or entertainment as a kid, I mostly hit the books or had to wait for family to get off the phone (the joy of dial-up). As a teen, yes, there was Myspace and MSN chat, but most conversations were had over the landline (attached to the wall with a cord) at set times, so it’s not like I could be talking to my friends late into the night or scrolling for hours. And even when, joy of joys, I got my first ‘proper cool’ mobile phone (a Nokia 3310), I could call, text and play a cheeky bit of snake, but technology and media were just a small aspect of my life, rather than my life revolving around it. Simpler times.
Before you think this is going to be a hate piece on social media and Instagram, it really isn’t. I enjoy and appreciate technology and social media, even taking on job roles that made it part of my daily life. Without Instagram, I could have missed out on great opportunities to connect, collaborate and make new friends, learn something new, get my talents out there… There’s a reason social media is an amazing platform for musicians, writers, bloggers, photographers, fitness fans, businesses etc. It’s about getting yourself out there, opening up doors to the world and showing what you can do.
Instagram now has over 111 million active users. That’s a lot of chances to showcase yourself. But there is a fine line we walk as an Instagram user where showing yourself to the world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think most of us understand the impact social media has on our mental health. It’s been a continuous theme for media experts, psychology experts, health professionals, educators, parents and plenty of others. So we know this as fact, that for some, living your best life on “the ‘Gram”, isn’t actually the best thing for you.
And although like I said, I enjoyed Instagram, eventually I realised it wasn’t the best for me either. In a world where getting instant gratification, entertainment and validation is at your fingertips 24/7, the constant need for this addicting form of communication has proven to take a turn for the worse. And yes, like alcohol, gambling or smoking, it can turn into a true addiction.
Now, I certainly wouldn’t say I was addicted to social media or Instagram – I only had the Gram for about two years. But I definitely checked it daily, if not more so, I felt the happiness spike of dopamine every time someone liked my picture or gave me a follow. Many of us want to feel like we are someone in a world choc-a-bloc full of someone’s, and what’s better than having a life-affirming comment from a stranger from the other side of the world? (Granted there’s the potential for lots of unkind comments too).
But with those comments, likes and love come pressure. The more you get, the more you need to maintain and improve your content. I felt that, and I didn’t even have a big following or purpose on Instagram. We are told that Instagram is a highlight reel – and of course it is! It’s a super fun tool in many ways, but keep in mind that reality check; most of what you see on Instagram isn’t reality. It’s a brighter, shinier version of life. However, as humans, we tend to enjoy the brighter, shinier things.
Two main things really flipped the switch for me, resulting in my decision to delete my account. The first was being so busy that I ended up simply not having enough time to post. I had a life to live and often being in the present moment meant I completely forgot the photo ops. Eventually over a month went by without me even thinking or missing it.
The second was a little more concerning. Hearing young people panicking because their picture hadn’t received any likes yet. Why didn’t it? Can someone go and like it, please? What was wrong this the content? What’s wrong with me? Hearing the self-doubt in their voices, again and again, rang those alarm bells in my head. And I realised, with many forms of social media, especially Instagram, it is so easy to be reduced to FOMO (fear of missing out), self-doubt and low self-esteem. A warped sense of the world. Studies have shown that social media has played a massive part in how we view ourselves and our mental health – even physical health as we spent more and more time being sedentary, looking at screens. Seeing young, impressionable people stressing, arguing, even crying or self-harming, over their Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok etc accounts – made me think actually, is this something I want in my life?
I’m by no means saying Instagram is bad. I mean, I create content for a living! But having learnt to live happily without it, I honestly don’t miss it right now. A weight has been lifted, and I feel no pressure or expectations from those far-reaching corners of the world. Granted, there might be a time when I re-join the world of Instagram – and when I do it’ll be because I genuinely have something to share, as I don’t crave the validation. But for the time being at least, I’m good not being a someone, just being me.