I keep trying (and failing) to quit Instagram. Now I’m taking back control of my experience on the app.
I’m hopelessly addicted to Instagram. Every time I try to quit, I relapse. hard.
This article was originally going to be titled. “How I finally quit Instagram”
I’ve started writing it several times. Usually a few days in when I feel like I’ve FINALLY been able to break free. I’ve even laid out all of the steps of what I did in order to curb my addiction. And every time, right as I feel ready to hit “publish” I relapse, hard.
It usually starts with a “well let me just see what I’ve missed,” and turns into hours of scrolling followed by hours of self-loathing.
I so badly want to be the person who quits social media, reclaims her time, and completely turns her life around because of it. I’ve gotten close. I rarely log-in to Twitter anymore. I haven’t had the Facebook app on my phone in over a year and the mobile site is so bad and frustrating that it’s a natural deterrent from using it.
My problem is with Instagram.
Instagram is like the drug that I cannot quit. It’s like the secret addiction that no one knows about and I’m ashamed to even talk about. One of those addictions that you only do in secret and no one really knows about it until they watch my episode of Intervention and all of a sudden it makes sense why I can’t keep a job or have any real hobbies.
Once I start scrolling there is no stopping. It’s fun for a while. Then it just turns me into a terrible person. I immediately start comparing myself to everyone around me. I lose all hope and productivity is out of the question. I feel worse about myself but also a tiny bit inspired by the things that I see.
Needless to say, this is no way to live life. Especially on an app that isn’t even paying me and that I don’t even have an audience on. It’s not like I’m an influencer who relies on Instagram to make money or talk to my audience. I’m just a millennial with no self-control and an insatiable urge to know what everyone is doing every minute of the day.
I have to do something. Every time I quit the app, it does feel like I’m a little bit close to regaining control. I’m trying to find ways to make it work better for me so I don’t have to quit cold turkey. Here are a few of the things I’ve done so far that work in their own way.
I muted almost everyone and everything.
I muted everyone’s story except for a handful of people who genuinely help me and bring me joy. I muted all of my friends from high school who’s babies I don’t care about. I know you can just unfollow, but I like the people that I follow and I would like to check in when I want to. But I’m trying to curate my own experience and their child’s finger paints just didn’t make the cut this time.
I went on an unfollow SPREE.
I went from following 1,500 people to following about 220 people. I actually get to the end where Instagram tells me I’m all caught up, something I didn’t even think was possible with their new algorithm.
Most celebrities didn’t make the cut.
I unfollowed pretty much every celebrity except for a select few who post things worth reading. I was following every celebrity from every television show I had ever watched for no reason other than FOMO. There was no reason to be following the entire cast of Pretty Little Liars when I fully stopped watching that show 5 years ago.
I actively (try to) avoid the Explore page.
The explore section is my guilty pleasure. Weird internet videos of cheese pullings, ASMR fried chicken eating, and slime videos calm me more than my Xanax ever did. But they turn into a time warp. Because there is literally never-ending content on Instagram. Once it knows what you like, there will be a constant stream of those videos dating back years just to give you a quick fix. I’ll admit, when I’m done for the day and just need to turn my brain to mush for an hour, I’ll start scrolling just to see where it will take me.
Btw, Apple’s ‘Screen time’ feature is pointless.
I’ll be honest. Screen time doesn’t work for me. When it’s as easy as saying “give me 15 more minutes” or “ignore for the day” with a click of a button. I definitely don’t have enough will power to say no. One of my favorite apps is Forest, which makes you get off of your phone entirely. I’ve been using that instead to limit phone time altogether.
I feel like the key to overcoming my Instagram addiction is to curate the experience in a way that serves me and doesn’t turn into a black hole where time and space stand still.