I, like most teenagers my age and below, was addicted to social media. It has changed modern society in so many ways. While it has led to a more connected and informed world, I think there were a lot of unintended consequences that stemmed from social media use over time that has changed an entire generation who are growing up with it. There are a plethora of research studies out there that document the negative effects of social media on the mental health of younger people. Reading about a lot of the research on the matter has made me question my usage of the platforms and consider whether they were propelling me in the right direction. Upon checking my screentime on my iPhone, I realized I spent the most amount of my time on Instagram in comparison to other platforms. So I thought to myself, what would happen if I deleted the app abruptly for a month. Little did I know of the amazing benefits that would soon follow.
Here are the 3 main ways that my life changed after deleting Instagram for one month.
Instagram Paid Me Back My Time
Time is arguably our most valuable resource, yet we spend it like it is unlimited because it seems like it will never run out. Spending a few hours a day on Instagram intermittently may not feel like much until you see the total hours spent on it after a week. On the day I deleted Instagram my weekly time spent on the app was around 6 hours. After deleting it, I got that time back. Since I did not have Instagram to spend that time on, my brain found a natural substitute. However, now instead of scrolling on Instagram, I was scrolling on Medium or listening to podcasts and audiobooks on Blinkist as opposed to laughing at cringy memes. At the end of the first week, that 6 hours that I would have lost in mindless entertainment, now was spent consuming and producing value. Getting time back and using it productively was the first big change I noticed. Fortunately, that was only the beginning of the rewards I received from this change.
No Mo’ FOMO
FOMO stands for the Fear-of-missing-out, a common symptom that comes with social media usage, especially among adolescents. Since Instagram has become the place to post all your best moments, highlights of your life, and social events that you engage in, there is no surprise that it has become a breeding ground for FOMO among users who only see these things whether it be on your story or directly on your feed. A 2018 sociology study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has found that “there was a consistent relationship between FOMO and the usage frequency of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram,” and indeed, I found this to be the case. It was not until I had cut my usage of these social media apps and completely deleted Instagram that my levels of FOMO began to diminish. Now on a Friday or Saturday night, while people were posting about parties they were attending and festivals and whatnot, instead of seeing these things and wanting to go as well, my eyes would be glued to a nice book or completely shut because I was already asleep. As a result, the third major change kicked in.
My Levels of Happiness and Fulfillment Shot up
As a result of the first two big changes, I noticed I felt a lot happier and more fulfilled at the end of each day than I did back when I used Instagram every day for hours. I was also able to perform better and more efficiently in the gym, whilst writing, and my sleep improved overall because I no longer had the ability to scroll right before bed. Furthermore, during social hangouts, I would not be on my phone as much, and my conversations with people were more meaningful because I had cool things to talk about now because of all the time I was spending learning and expanding my areas of knowledge. I knew I was happier because my frequency of feeling stressed out or anxious or even just feeling plain boredom decreased dramatically. I found myself able to focus on tasks for much longer without burning out and needing to get a shot of dopamine from my phone. My life overall had just improved to the extent that by the end of the month, to be honest, I did not want to poison my phone by reinstalling it. I did eventually, but it didn’t survive for very long.
Getting rid of Instagram is not necessary to achieve all of these changes, however, it certainly helps. My personal preference now is to not have it on my phone and if I need to access Instagram for some reason, I will just use my laptop. The experience on the laptop, in my personal experience, is less likely to leave you mindlessly scrolling for hours so checking it once a day does no harm. The experience, in my opinion, was necessary especially as an 18-year-old who needed a rewired brain to deal with a hectic daily schedule of work, body-building, and developing my side-hustles. I also learned that not being up-to-date on what everyone is doing or posting on Instagram did not impact the interactions I had with people, I was still able to participate in conversations with my friend groups, and not feel left out in any way. Basically, I learned all the initial fears or excuses I gave myself for keeping Instagram or needing to check it on a daily basis were practically invalid and not supported by my findings in this little experiment.
To close, If you have issues with time, FOMO, or overall happiness, I think it is safe to say that this is a sacrifice worth making.