I gave up Instagram and Snapchat for 6 weeks

Waiting for the bus, avoiding revision, zoning out of a lecture – what did we do before we had Instagram to scroll through or Snapchat to entertain us?

If you’re anything like me, social media is your first port of call in a multitude of situations; it’s the perfect solution for coping with boredom, procrastination and awkward situations. It wasn’t until I discovered the Instagram feature that allowed me to see how much time I was spending (wasting) on the app each day that I decided it was time to take action. I needed a break, not to remove myself permanently, but just to take some time away. I decided that going cold turkey was my best bet and deleted the app the next day, shortly followed by Snapchat, because I don’t like doing things by halves.

Cold turkey

The number of times I unlocked my phone and tried to select the app, before realising I’d just opened my banking app, was embarrassing. It was a subconscious reaction to most situations, and now I didn’t know what I used to do pre-Insta era. I was forced to sit and just be aware of my dreary surroundings while I waited for the dentist, rather than immerse myself in the life of tan, lithe, gorgeous models sipping cocktails by the pool. Breaking the habit of attempting to open the app took longer than I had anticipated, the reflex so ingrained into my tiny brain that it wasn’t budging without a little time.

When my friends started accusing me of not liking their photos, asking if I’d seen so-and-sos latest story or mentioning the meme they’d dm’ ed me, the FOMO was real. It’s a whole other world, and not being part of it can seriously leave you feeling left out. I felt like I was missing important announcements when, in reality, the people whose life events I really cared about would tell me in person anyway.

no more fomo

The longer my experiment continued, the more apparent it became that I actually had less FOMO now that I didn’t have the means of constantly comparing my life to others. The ability to see Snap stories of ‘fun’ nights out or shots of brunch dates I wasn’t invited to only served to remind me how much I wasn’t doing. Without social media reminding me, I was able to appreciate what I was doing instead.

More time for me

Plus, I had a lot more time to do more interesting things. I finished the book I’d been reading for an age, and when I was with my friends, I actually had a much better time. I watched films and was able to follow the plotline because I wasn’t scanning my IG feed for dinner recipes. It’s cliché, but I could live in the moment more, without the need to show off my ventures by posting it online, something I’ve definitely been guilty of.

A change in perspective

So when I re-downloaded Instagram, one of the main things I realised was how boring it is. Scrolling endlessly through perfectly curated shots of people showing you what you want to see isn’t as captivating as I used to find it. I unfollowed almost a quarter of the users I had been following; their posts didn’t enhance my life in the slightest. I used Instagram’s feature to check, and I now use the app for less than half the amount of time I used to. I didn’t even bother with getting Snapchat back, the stories were too detrimental to my mental health, and its only purpose was to send photos of my double chins to my friends.

Deleting Instagram has reminded me that there’s a life outside my phone screen, away from the fake profiles and trolls, and although it may be dreary, comparing it to a meagre snapshot of someone else’s life on social media (whether it’s an accurate portrayal or not) only serves to make me feel worse. It takes away from time that could be much better spent doing yoga, reading a book, or watching David Attenborough documentaries on repeat.

Megan Rigby

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