Shortly before the new year, I deactivated my Instagram account and uninstalled the app from my phone. The only reason I did not completely delete my account is that somewhere out there, I would like to have an archive of the memories I built up over time on my feed. I would love to say the main motivator was to escape the downward spiral that is constant comparison and scrolling; however, what pushed me to make such a significant decision was the knowledge that I would inevitably check up on my ex if I did not physically (digitally) prevent myself from doing so.
Like many during the pandemic, I have struggled much with my mental well-being. I initiated the healthiest relationship I’ve had, and, later, suffered the worst break-up of my life to date. I also received some very unfortunate news in regard to my family. And like many who go through break-ups, and may not want to admit it, I was obsessively checking and comparing my social media, my ex’s social media, seeing who unfollowed who first, etc. I knew this to be extremely unhealthy, but this realization helped me to grow– it ultimately drove me to a new philosophy on social media that I feel has significantly improved my mental health.
It is interesting to note that from the moment I got off Instagram, I had multiple people ask if something was wrong, or ask why I unfollowed them. This struck me very negatively. Why is getting off social media or unfollowing somebody so out of the ordinary, and possibly offensive? Social media has created a whole new set of social rules, and with those rules, anxieties. As someone who already has a lot of anxiety, it proved to be really healthy for me to get off social media, and I would highly recommend it for anyone who finds themselves sucked into the comparison cycle, or who constantly observes who unfollows them, or spends a lot of time on their phone in general.
Nowadays, the only social media I get on daily is Twitter. It still comes with what I call the “unfollow anxiety,” where every now and then when I see my followers drop, I try to figure out who it is. However, I like Twitter much more than Instagram, and I think it is a good platform to use if you want to cut down on social media or wean yourself off completely. Twitter is mostly text-based, which means users are forced to tell jokes (one of my favorite pastimes) or share their thoughts rather than post pictures where they are showing off their appearances. Of course, you can still do the latter, but it happens infrequently, making Twitter an ideal space for those who struggle with insecurity.
Meanwhile, there are some arguments about whether chat-based platforms like Snapchat are considered social media. To me, the only thing that makes Snapchat reminiscent of social media is their story feature. I keep my Snapchat circle pretty close– I don’t add just anyone. So, when I post a story, it allows only the people I want to keep up with me to see what I’m doing. Also, as an Android user especially, I almost exclusively use Snapchat to talk to my friends because of the cool, Wi-Fi-enabled features it has that I don’t get when I normally text someone.
On an average day, I scroll on Twitter when I have a small amount of time between obligations and I want to pass it. I also use it to keep up with news. Then, when I am not physically around my friends, I use Snapchat to message them. I check Facebook once in a blue moon to keep up with people from back home. And–this may be a surprise to you all–I have both Reddit and TikTok downloaded but use them maybe twice a month, if that. Not only have I cut down on which social media I am digitally present on, but I have made an effort to limit my time on it by engaging with friends in person, focusing on my studies, and taking time for myself (where I mostly watch Gilmore Girls).
It has been one of my healthiest intentions, and I would encourage everyone to use their phone as a tool rather than a way to pass time. Pass time by reading a book, watching a good show or movie, spending time with people digitally or physically, or going outdoors. Perhaps you could even do that thing you’ve always meant to do when you’ve had the time, but each time you “have the time,” you’re too busy scrolling on Instagram to remember all that reality has to offer.