a month without instagram

One of my resolutions for the new year was to stop using Instagram. It was the only social media account I had and it's been my favorite since I joined in 2012. I started using social media around the time MySpace was still relevant - I never created an account - but instead I used Orkut, a super famous network that was huge in Brazil. After Orkut started phasing out, I migrated to Facebook, like all the cool kids were doing. I deleted my account in 2015, when it became a pointless way to spend my time and get angry at strangers.

My idea to leave Instagram wasn't a spur of the moment, but more of a conscious decision to better spend my time. I started to notice that I would spend hours a week just staring at a screen and trying to keep up with everyone else's lives, while putting aside tasks that would better my own. Not just that, but there was that constant feeling that the grass seems always greener on the other side, and that no matter how caught up I was, my FOMO (fear of missing out) would always kick in.

Between the places I'd love to visit, restaurants I couldn't afford, concerts I missed out on, there was also climate change, politics, animal cruelty, ignorant people and gossip. The constant scrolling would sometimes leave me feeling anxious, angry and sad. So when I started to really consider deleting my profile, I thought about the reasons why I wanted to do it and questioned why I used it to begin with.

Because I have so many friends that don't live in the U.S., Instagram and WhatsApp were always the best and fastest way for us to keep in touch. It was convenient to open my app and see what they were up to, instead of having to message them or schedule a Skype call to catch up. At one point, later in the year, I told all my friends that I would be leaving both social medias, and they were not happy about that.

They had a point. If I deleted both apps, the communication between us would suffer immensely. In a world where we expect everything to be immediate, communicating with friends via email was bound to fail, and that could jeopardize our friendship. So I caved and returned within a few days, but the benefits of going back to Instagram were minimal. I soon went back to the habit of scrolling mindlessly and wasting my time when I could be doing anything else.

In the last week of December, as I thought about my new year's resolutions and all the things I wanted to change and accomplish in 2020, I decided it was time to leave Instagram for good, so on January 1st I did just that. The first couple of days were weird, I would grab my phone to check if there were any updates or if I had any messages, because that's what I used to do when I got bored or took a small break from work. After the first week, I would unlock my phone less and less each day and soon I was able to break that habit.

Now I only have three apps on my phone that I check frequently, WhatsApp, messages and Google News. And I made sure to turn off all my notifications, so I only check them when I remember and not when I am reminded. Another thing I noticed was the overall time spent on my phone, after I deleted Instagram my average went from 1:53 hours a day to 35 minutes. That's a whole hour I got back each day to work on more important things.

I will say that during the last five weeks I did check Instagram from my computer once, I wanted to see if a YouTuber I follow had any updates, but didn't scroll for long. Yesterday I reactivated my account and logged in from my computer because I wanted to see photos from my friend's trip, turned out she hadn't been updating her profile either. I checked on all the people I felt I was "missing out" on only to find out that they too hadn't been posting lately. After 10 minutes or so, I decided FOMO was the real reason I felt the need to reactivate my account, but as it turns out, I hadn't missed a thing.

This experiment turned out to be a positive mental break. I've read more books than ever, spent much needed time outside, started working out, went to bed earlier and for longer and have been feeling less anxious and stressed out about the state of the world. As a result, my FOMO has turned into JOMO (joy of missing out), and I am excited to see what this new state of mind will bring to my life. Will I go back to Instagram after this sabbatical? I probably won't, but I will leave my account active for now. As for my friends? I went back to our long Skype sessions and message them on WhatsApp anytime I want an update on what they've been up to. Our friendship has not changed one bit!

What about you, have you ever taken a break from social media?