30 days without Instagram

Over a month ago I decided to deactivate my Instagram and apart from Facebook which I very rarely check I have no other social media. I did so because I found it was becoming a distraction in my life and was subtracting value, rather than adding it. One of the best ways to find out the value of something is to temporarily, voluntarily deprive yourself of it. Here are my thoughts on the experience

I didn’t miss anything

Immediately on reactivating my Instagram I looked at a bunch of people’s profiles I’d been yearning to see and it turned out I hadn’t missed anything. Most of the people didn’t actually post that much and what they did post wasn’t anything groundbreaking or momentus. This made me realise that I can probably go a day or two without checking Instagram and still be fine.

Follow less people

Stop trying to keep up with everyone and everything, it’s simple not possible. I currently follow about 70 and want to get that down to even less. If that’s too extreme for you then try to keep it under 150 which is Dunbar’s number which is the suggested number of relationships we can maintain. This has a two-fold impact: there is less to keep updated with and the deeper and richer those remaining connections and interactions can be.

Use social media as a social tool

Like any tool there is a wrong way and a right way it can be used. I realised I had been doing it all wrong – jumping into the app, see what’s new, scroll, like, rinse and repeat. But that is a highly passive way to interact and doesn’t build much connection. Going forward I want to be more interactive on it by posting comments on posts and sending messages to people who have added value to my day, I want to continue the conversation that their post started or that sparked interest.

I replaced the time

Since I was no longer spending time in the app I found myself spending my time much more constructively by reading a lot more books. Also I physically replaced its location in my dock with my Kindle app and I’ve squirrelled away Instagram in a folder so it’s now less tempting.

What story do you want to tell?

The way I see it is that you can use Instagram as a personal account and post everything from selfies to quotes or you use it as a business/brand/personality and keep all your posts within a certain subject. Some people use it as a digital journal to flick back through and remember fond memories. Others to promote their business. Or as a creative outlet for showing their physical or digital creations. In my opinion I would just pick one and stick to it. This helps to solidify what you are using the service for and feel less that the service is using you.

I’d do it again

If you have a big project coming up, you’re feeling time stressed, noticing low self-esteem or any of the other negative effects of social media then don’t hesitate to hit that deactivate button! The beauty is you won’t lose anything when you want to come back and in the interim you won’t get any notifications and people won’t be able to find or interact with you.

During my time off I came across two great articles from Cal Newport who has been very vocal against social media:

  1. Beyond #DeleteFacebook: More Thoughts on Embracing the Social Internet Over Social Media

  1. On Analog Social Media

Here are Newport’s helpful tips:

I’ve evolved a more nuanced philosophy that I call slow social media.

Here are the basic principles:

• Only use a given social media service if it provides valuable benefits that would be hard to replace. Use these services only for these purposes.

• Delete all social media apps from your phone. (Few serious uses for social media require that you can access it wherever you are throughout the day.) Instead, access social media through a web browser on your laptop or desktop, once or twice a week.

• When logged onto a social media service, don’t click “like” or follow links unrelated to your specific, high-value purposes — these activities mainly serve the social media conglomerate’s attempts to package you into data slivers that they can sell to the highest bidder.

Adding these restrictions also has the benefit of clarifying the true value of the activities that keep you in the social media orbit. If you find that the extra obstacle of using a web browser instead of your phone prevents you from using a given service for more than a month, than you should quit it altogether.

(Emphasis mine) – admittedly I will find this hard but I’m going to try it.

I don’t think social media is an inherently bad thing. But I do think it has evolved too quickly for us to understand the longterm effects on our well-being. Added to that, the “free” business model and tactics these services employ to get us to stay engaged should lead us to use it with caution.

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