At 12 AM on New Year’s Day, I uninstalled Instagram from my phone. While I didn’t necessarily come back with a new sense of purpose or decide to get rid of social media altogether, I did learn that your brain needs a break from consuming it.
The first time I got social media, it was so that I could see what it was about. The filters, stickers, and small gimmicks within the apps I was using to “socialize” was what captivated me primarily. It was entertaining. Using social media was a way for me to connect with other people I hadn’t seen in years, or to see what my favorite celebrities were doing in their lavish lives.
If I was gaining a source of entertainment from watching stories and “double-tapping,” why did I delete it anyway?
Slowly Becoming Obsessed
Ten minutes. That is how long I would wait before checking Instagram after sending a DM or posting something. My brain was riddled with, “How many likes does it have now?” and “Did they respond?” I was slowly becoming obsessed. Putting my energy into something and receiving no satisfaction from any of it was draining.
This constant routine of refreshing, swiping, double-tapping, and re-picking up my phone was an issue now. The muscle memory I had developed of checking the app during breaks in between my classes and looking at it when I woke up, or before I went to sleep could no longer continue for the extent of my break.
Breaking Free Was Difficult
The first few days of going Instagram free was very difficult. Not having something to do to keep my brain busy when I wasn’t actively doing another task, was hard for me to swallow.. As the days progressed, the muscle memory died down. The tasks I was anticipating had nothing to do with viewing social media; knowing this was refreshing. I was officially uninterested in how many direct messages or likes I was getting at that point. I started tapping into bullet journaling which was a task that was both practical and creative. This felt like a mindless activity that allowed me to focus on learning how to plan and prioritize my time properly without looking at a screen. During my break, I was able to safely see a few friends; not looking at my phone wondering if I got an Instagram notification was the farthest thing from my mind. This really boosted my mental health.
I felt happier.
Hold Space For Yourself
I didn’t use Instagram or Tik Tok for nearly three weeks. This may feel like a short time to not use a platform, but it was the longest I had gone without checking the then, two most-viewed apps on my phone. You have to hold space for yourself to not allow something as frivolous as social media take up all of your energy. Social media is not reality, it is a bubble; sometimes, your brain needs a break from that bubble. I began watching my phone’s screen time for Instagram after I reinstalled it and would stop myself if I felt my consumption was becoming extensive.
My advice for those who want to do the same? Be patient with yourself. Stopping a cycle that had then turned into a bad habit was very difficult. It takes time.
Social media is a bubble and sometimes that bubble needs to be popped. My mind was able to rest which improved my mental health to a degree. I was fully aware that because I did this three-week break once, I could totally do it again. Unplugging from social media allowed me to not let that worry around followers and likes that had no tangible value, define me.