…for a week!
It’s a Friday night as I’m typing this, and it’s my sixth day without Instagram on my phone (A MIRACLE!). I deleted the app on my flight back from Africa, when I landed in Changi Airport for a six-hour layover. I don’t know what went into me but I was getting too sick of it. *clicks X*
A little back story: as someone who’s spent most of her life online (I had been blogging since I was 13 years old), Instagram was a no-brainer when I decided to get on the app (around 2012). Back then, I had been building my Tumblr following and have been updating mostly about my daily life (in college) and travels. Years went on and people started to see my work on the platform, and eventually my following grew (no secret formula, promise—just consistency and ~quality content~). I changed careers, published books, made more art. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
During my “experimental years” (2015-2017), I used to diligently post every day and it made me worry a lot. Did people like what I was posting? Did I embarrass myself when I agreed to do sponsored posts for certain brands? Was I really projecting a version of myself that was real, or something that was just fit “for the gram”? I can’t believe I used to overthink each and every photo that made it to my Instagram feed. What kind of obsession was this? Eventually, I realized that I became desperate for validation through every like, comment, and story reply—from people I hardly knew.
Last September, while I was in New York, I had enough. I snapped, basically. Once I shared my whereabouts in Stories (during my first few days there), I was shocked. Every day I’d get 10+ replies from people commenting about how amazing it is that I’m in New York. “Wow, ang ganda!” “Wooooow inggit” “OMG” and my introverted self just couldn’t keep up. I would get e-mails from people asking what classes I’m taking, where I’m studying, how much budget I allotted for this. It was like invading my personal space, and of course I despised it. Posting felt like an obligation to put up this banner and say, “I’m in New York!”, when in fact, I craved for privacy during my time there, because it was my only way to get away from my life here in Manila.
During that period, I shut down Instagram for two weeks—it was great. I felt that I really needed those days to fix myself and adjust to everything. I didn’t want to make it seem like just because I was there, I was happy. In fact, those four months were actually one of the lowest points of my entire life. So pausing for a bit helped me recover and recalibrate how I viewed myself (I have zero self-esteem and I used to hate myself so much that I never even looked at myself in the mirror—now I’ve changed) vs. how others viewed me.
In recent months, my relationship with Instagram has become better (I’d like to think). I started to post less. I didn’t feel the need to share about personal stuff, especially if it didn’t really matter to my audience. I started to distance myself from social media (I deleted Twitter and Facebook on my phone too) and focus on other things. My time limit became an hour a day, after seeing that 90% of my phone activity is actually browsing Instagram (wow). Every time I post something, I close the app and turn off my data or wi-fi. I didn’t want to base my happiness on how many people liked my post—particularly now that the algorithm has drastically changed the way our timelines are shown to us.
Anyway, back to the detox bit.
So, what did I do during my week of no Instagram? Here’s a list of the many things I did.
- I became more focused with work.
- I left my phone charging yesterday and just typed away for 3 hours on my computer, not even bothering to see if I got a DM on Instagram or someone viewed my story.
- My Screen Time statistics reduced significantly. From 6H to 2H? YES PLEASE.
- I read more informative articles. Now, Chrome is the most used app on my phone (apart from Messenger, where 90% of my friends are)
- I got up and had breakfast instead of checking my phone. Nothing like starting the day gadget-free, amirite?
- I enjoyed the present moment, without the urge to document it. My addiction to Instagram Stories made me want to document everything real time, and for once, it actually felt nice not having to do that. What for, right? I had the best time seeing friends, catching up, having another batch of tarot cards read, and got rid of my bleached hair (FINALLY). I didn’t have to share it real-time and it was a huge sigh of relief.
- I finally started reading books again. Because my eyes were becoming sensitive from the screen, I picked up my analog friends and did a lot of reading after so long (it’s been 3 months since I read from a book!). Currently loving Rookie Yearbook Two.
- I felt lesser anxiety because I didn’t have to check the app Instagram. My heart used to skip a beat when I see numbers popping out of the DMs icon (I hate numbers. I try to clean out notifications ASAP and yes, I have a problem). Now I didn’t even have to think about it!
- I took less photos. This is a good thing for someone like me who has 10,000 photos yet to be sorted on my phone. I also have a tendency to take too much photos so yes, this was a good break from that.
- I became more productive. I used to scroll mindlessly during downtime at the gym, or when I’m waiting in line, or while stuck in traffic. I spent those idle times instead thinking more about work or what I needed to get done. Yay for productivity, I guess?
- And lastly: I had MORE TIME. More time to work, sleep, work out, meet up with people, clean my room, watch series, and do activities that felt more necessary for my well-being and growth.
In short, the amount of focus I had increased, and my anxiety significantly decreased. And I couldn’t believe it. As I’m writing this, I’m not even 100% tempted to download the app again.
I know what you’re thinking. So you’re not gonna be back on Instagram? What about your job? Yes, my job is partly related to Instagram, so of course I’ll be back. I’ve also been logging onto my shop account using my iPad (I only follow 10 people so it’s nothing, really) to update every few days but that’s basically it.
When you see this post up, you’ll see that I’ve started to update again on Instagram. It’s because most of my work is time-bound, and I do need to share some updates on events and things. It’s funny, because now that I am less than two weeks away for another long trip, I am looking forward to do more spontaneous Insta-detoxes while I’m away.
Ultimately, this experience has humbled me in the best way. You’d think being a public figure and having thousands of people view your stories daily and like your posts is pretty cool. Yes, it is—but it is also very scary. At some point, I felt so vulnerable knowing that I’m being “watched” by the world, and that all of their opinions mattered. Of course, who was I kidding—after all these years, I learned that the only opinion that mattered was mine, really. Heck, it’s my Instagram. I can do what I want with it. That’s a fact.
My (love-hate) relationship with Instagram is still a work in progress. But progress is better than nothing, so there’s that (for now).
I’m back. But who knows when I’ll delete the app again? *ponders*
Photo by Sophie Yu