I started taking indefinite time off from Instagram starting on 21 May 2023.
11 years into using this platform as a consumer and creator, I haven’t realised how my sanity and emotional health was decaying:
- Most sh*t isn’t my business. Your awesome post-pandemic trip, your boss, your new business venture have absolutely nothing to do with me. But they’re all pushed in front of my eyes, competing for the little attention I have left in this technology-driven world. The real problem is everything you take in has an impact on you: it stirs emotions within you, sparks comparison, and changes your worldview.
This is when I realise I need to take my information diet to the next level: instead of unfollowing or muting people, I’m better off quitting.
2. Vanity metrics. Let’s be really honest here: I’ve been tracking my stats weekly for both my “personal” and professional accounts. This is what I realised: I felt nothing when numbers went up, but I felt some kind of “lack” and “inadequacy” when they went down. I’ve effectively created a rat race for myself when I decided to grow my social media platforms with stories, posts, videos and reels. And I could never catch up with the ever-changing algo. The result of spending 2-3 years trying to grow this platform (mind you, I was very consistent) was clear.
What is it all for?
That said, I’m still grateful that I’ve made tons of Internet friends on this platform. But I firmly believe that friends I care about/who care about me will find other ways to connect.
Recently I’ve also been enjoying watching videos of calisthenics drills or high protein meal prep recipes on Instagram and I’ve benefited a lot from these amazing creators.
Yet, they can’t compensate the disadvantages of staying on the platform.
It sounds insane to even think about “how am I going to survive without Instagram” – like, it’s not air or water, for God’s sake.
It’s more insane realising how much control all those social media platforms have on us.
To give you more context, as a millennial, I grew up with Facebook and Instagram but I moved away from the former years ago (I was convinced that it’s for “old people” lol) and I never used TikTok. See, I have strong opinion on that platform since it goes against my values.
I never felt the FOMO.
After all, quitting Instagram is just like quitting other bad habits/things that don’t serve us anymore, right?
My Journey of Claiming Back My Attention, Sanity and Mental Wellbeing
last updated 26 Jun 2023
21 May 2023 (day 1)
- Today is the day i decided to quit Instagram after 11 years (started using it when I was in high school). it took me half day to design the farewell 9-grid posts to direct target audience to where they should go (e.g. reading this blog post, subscribing to my weekly newsletter, YouTube channel or taking the emotional health quiz). I felt quite liberating immediately after i completed this project.
- No more vanity metrics checking and tracking. no more subtle comparison. no more attention being stolen from seemingly-harmless content and information.
- Went out with a friend in the evening and felt that the interaction was more meaningful.
22 May 2023 (day 2)
- 1st day quitting officially. Last night i felt the itch to scroll, esp. before bed and when I was waiting for a friend in shopping centre but managed to suppress the craving.
- It reminded me of what Dr. Andrew Huberman said about compulsiveness vs addiction – sometimes it’s not that we are addicted to social media, but we just had the habitual instinct to perform certain action. I could easily pull out a book from my bag while waiting for my friend instead of my phone.
25 May 2023 (day 5)
- I’ve been putting more focus on my work and jotting down thoughts on Notion at the clinic during non-clinical time. Just imagine how many blog posts I can write with those bursts of downtime instead of scrolling mindlessly…
- At night I used my iPad to access the IG app to retrive a post I saw before for a friend for event brainstorming. Managed to not see anything from the timeline, check likes/mentions or stalk anyone. It reminded me of the dark times when I compared my worst states with others’ filtered posts and I remembered vividly how bad I felt. I almost felt sorry for myself for sabotaging my emotional health time and time again.
- This is how I explained to friends this week about the decision to quit IG: I’m a visual person, and I don’t react well to subtle comparison especially coming from a background of constant competition and as someone who had body image issues growing up. I’ve always benefited from quitting something cold turkey and this is no exception.
2 Jun 2023 (day 13)
2 weeks into not using Instagram and here is the most profound lesson I learnt so far:
You have to do absolutely everything you can to control your time, energy and attention.
Everything comes with an opportunity cost, and we can never make perfect decisions because we don’t know the alternatives.
But there’s one thing I’m certain: I can do so much more instead of spending at least 1 hour per day scrolling social media.
That’s the real FOMO.
You’re not really missing out if you don’t care.
And you don’t have to give a damn about the news, your ex-colleague’s holiday or celebrity gossips.
6 Jun 2023 (day 17)
I found myself checking Pinterest more.
Now this is interesting. First of all, Pinterest is not dead, and there is not much interaction going on. It’s just a visual search engine – at least that’s how I use it.
Similar to my Instagram explore page, my Pinterest feed consists of endless high protein meal prep recipes and home decoration ideas (japandi style, to be exact).
All the information I need for my current fun projects.
And I found it fun and helpful.
Maybe I just don’t like what I see on Instagram (and how it triggers my brain) but couldn’t be bothered to mute/unfollow everyone.
I still had not regretted my decision.
7 Jun 2023 (day 18)
Was hanging out with some overseas friends who were very active on social media. We went for a little hike followed by good food. I felt a little urge to share the beautiful scenery and amazing food with people I know on messaging apps but not on social media.
As I was just standing in front of the Echo Point taking in the scene and the vitamin D, my friends were busy taking videos.
I was reminded how I actually perceived and altered my experience and behaviours based on the online world (a.k.a. how I wanted the world to see me): finding empty spots to pose, waiting for all the food to arrive to get the #flatlay, doing multiple takes and so on.
The real world was right in front of me.
I could just enjoy the moment. The time I would never get back.
Why would I spend the same time editing my life for audience I don’t know, or for social media companies who only see $ opportunities?
I still enjoy cafe hopping and exploring exotic places. But my intention changed.
I guess that’s what mindfulness is?
8 Jun 2023 (day 19)
I have a compulsion to scroll when I’m walking, waiting or bored during work.
I know I don’t have the Instagram app on my phone but I still felt the urge to take my phone out and scroll, swipe, whatever.
12 Jun 2023 (day 23)
Back from a 3-day road trip. Definitely felt more at peace with being in the moment (especially during an incredible stargazing experience) but also rediscovered the fun of taking good photos without having the need to showcase to the world.
13 Jun 2023 (day 24)
Okay I logged into the Instagram webpage for personal reasons (lame, I know) and briefly scrolled through my feed. Out of compulsiveness I completed a stalking routine. I realised that my feed was perfectly curated for my workout and diet programs (things that I mostly interacted with previously) – which meant that I was creating troubles and anxiety for myself through undesired behaviours.
I acknowledged that.
I wasn’t even ashamed to admit I had bad habits.
The point is, I was able to create some distance this time and looked at myself like a fly on the wall: this perfectly functioning human being was sabotaging her emotional health through acting out habits fully aware that it wasn’t beneficial in any way. like wth?