All it took was a cold dinner for me to realise that my Instagram use was getting seriously out of hand.
I’d cooked Josh and I a nutritious dinner that smelled amazing – and I was pretty pleased with myself. So I dished my portion into a cute little bowl, wiping the edges clean and adding a fresh sprig of rosemary on top. I turned on all the lights in the kitchen and held my bowl up in front of the only pot plant in our house that has survived so far. By the time I found the right angle and the best lighting for the photo, Josh was wondering if I had disappeared and you guessed it – dinner had gone cold.
Thank goodness for microwaves.
But after we ate and I went to upload that photo to my new health-focussed Instagram account (one of my four Instagram accounts at the time, but more on that later), I realised that something was wrong. Even despite all my fluffing around in the kitchen while my dinner went cold, my food pic did not look anywhere near as impressive as the other #foodporn on my Insta feed. I was a little cross, to say the least.
But then I thought: why the hell do I even care?!
Why was it so important to me that everyone I knew + random strangers on the internet, should see what I had cooked Josh and I for dinner? Why did everyone need to know that I was eating a healthy home-made meal that was full of superfoods and meat and dairy free (even though I’d eaten half a packet of Tim-tams, totally off camera less than an hour earlier)? Why did it matter that my photo wasn’t as pretty as one that was perfectly curated in natural daylight on a kitchen bench that probably cost more than my whole kitchen? Why did I care so much?
The truth was I was totally addicted to Instagram.
I had FOUR Instagram accounts. A personal one, one for my blog, one for health and fitness, and one for my writing. And I checked every single one of them, first thing in the morning when I woke up, several times throughout the day, and again before I went to sleep at night. The Screen Time app on my iPhone let me know I was spending close to four hours (sometimes more!) every single day on my phone, and the majority of that time was spent on social media.
It was total madness.
Every time I went out with friends for brunch, it was an opportunity for a Story. Every time we went out for drinks it was an opportunity for a Boomerang. Every time I cooked something good, it was an opportunity for a new update. Every visit to the gym, every trip to the beach, every nice outfit or good hair-day, everything was for Instagram. And nothing was just for me.
My obsession was with comparing myself to other people – not just how they looked but what they did in their spare time, who they spent their time with, where they went, what clothes they wore and how amazing their life seemed to be. And it all made me miserable.
The worst part was that I didn’t even follow celebrities or influencers – only the everyday people I know in real life. Yet they still made me feel worthless.
The thing is, I’m smart enough to know that Instagram is just a platform for people to present their best selves on. Not everything on there is real, or even close to real. Some Instagrammers starve themselves for 24 hours before a bikini photo shoot. Some take a thousand photos on one day, then post them over the next few months to make it look like they are living a perfect holiday-life every single day. I knew in my head that every photo I saw on there was taken in the best light, had a filter on it, and had maybe even been touched up a little. I was smart enough to know I shouldn’t compare myself to other people. Smart enough to know that jealousy is far uglier than any photo I could ever take.
But no matter what filters I applied to my own life, it always felt like it was never enough.
I could add a thousand filters and never look as picture-perfect as the people in my newsfeed. And I guess that’s just a fact of life – no matter who you are, there’s always going to be someone out there who is prettier than you, who’s fitter than you, who’s smarter than you, who has a better tan than you, who’s richer than you, or who just seems to have it all together. But the problem with Instagram is that it is always thrown in your damn face – at your weakest moments. I think one of the worst things is looking at your phone first thing in the morning and again just before you go to bed. When you are just waking up or settling down to rest, you are at your weakest. You are open to outside influences and they can set you up for a horrible day or a bad night’s sleep.
It all came to a head on the day that I went to a Sunflower Picking event. Sunflowers are my absolute favourite flower because they symbolise hope, happiness, and rising above it all. So when I got the chance to frolic through a field of sunflowers and pick some for myself, I was thrilled. I got a couple of cute photos, all smiles and laughter.
That was, until I got home and checked my newsfeed and saw everyone else’s sunflower photos.
They were all just SO GOOD. Like, seriously – how do you possibly look that good at 8am on the weekend?! How did you manage to curate the perfect photoshoot when there were hundreds of other people clamouring around to get their own photos? How does your outfit look like you stepped out of a fashion magazine?
And I kind of just snapped.
I got really upset, and suddenly my happy morning out was tarnished, just because I didn’t think my photo was any good. And shortly after that day, I began to think about deleting Instagram because…
Why should a great day be ruined because the photo didn’t turn out?
But I wondered, how would I survive without Instagram?…
It sounds stupid – believe me, I KNOW. I am actually so ashamed of myself as I’m writing this and I still don’t know if I should even share this post. I don’t know how I ended up getting so obsessed with Instagram and why I let it affect me so significantly. But if this post helps someone else who feels the same or a similar way, it’s worth sharing.
… So, I wondered how I would cope without being able to look back on all my favourite memories in one convenient place, how I’d cope without seeing what my friends were up to everyday. I wondered if I’d start to get excluded from social events more. How would I cope without sharing photos of Josh and I when we were dressed up for date night? How would I cope with not being able to show everyone I was doing just fine, thank you very much (even when I wasn’t)?
Despite my fears, I did it. I deactivated my account/s. I deleted the app from my phone. I spent one whole day picking up my phone and then putting it down when I realised there was no reason to look at it.
And nothing dramatic happened, but at the same time everything kinda changed.
Without Instagram, I thought I’d have a big gaping hole in my life. I thought it would suck not knowing what was happening online, in my friend’s lives. But it is a blessing. Because I gained back four hours of my day. That’s 28 hours a week. Or 60 days in a year (even if you only spend an hour on your phone a day, that still works out to 15 days a year).
It only took one day to break the cycle. One day of awkwardly looking at a blank screen. And then life started to happen again. And there is so much more room for life when you aren’t attached to your phone!
Now I have time to read again. I have time to make myself a cup of tea or a smoothie and enjoy it all to myself, without sharing the image with anyone else. I’ve stopped wearing so much makeup, and my skin has cleared up dramatically. I can ask my friends questions when I see them, because I don’t already know what they’ve been up to. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s like I can just be myself and it’s okay, it’s enough. No-one is even looking anyway.
I can’t stress enough how good this decision has been for me. Honestly I thought I would miss Instagram so much, but if feels like I have been unshackled from a freaking Dementor. I’ve got my soul back.
Now I’m not the person picking up my phone hundreds of times every day. I’m actually living, finding the time for things that I want to do. Things that make me feel happy, feel more like myself, and not some hollow shell pouting on your newsfeed. I feel creative, inspired. I’m writing again, I’m reading, I even feel like painting. I’m taking my dog for walks at sunrise and I am looking at that golden glow through my own eyes, not a screen. And it’s freaking beautiful.
Since deleting Instagram, I’ve taken the Facebook app off my phone as well. And I’m working my way up to getting rid of Snapchat one day too. Because I don’t need to see my friend’s in their filtered glory. I love them just the way they are. And I love going out for brunch or coffee and not feeling like I need to photograph it just to prove that it happened.
And because I’m working on loving myself the way I am, here’s my sunflower pictures. Because they might not be perfect, but they’re kinda cute.