I Took A Break From Instagram For One Year
Yes, you read that title correctly! I went off Instagram for one year and this was my experience.
Last September I became aware that I have clinical codependency—very deep-rooted habits to seek approval from others. Part of my codependency is a need for perfectionism and having to please people. I would browse my Instagram feed and see all my friends and bloggers with these “perfect” lives and felt like I had to measure up. (Does that feeling sound familiar to any readers out there?) Obviously my life—like anyone’s—is far from perfect, so I felt like I had to fake it. And that idea of faking a perfect life didn’t start and end with social media, it affected many areas of my life. Faking a perfect life was really just me living in denial. And on top of that, it put me in a habit of pushing out any negative emotions, or anything imperfect...only to discover that I couldn’t push out negative emotions without pushing out positive emotions.
While I wouldn’t say my codependency stemmed from Instagram, I knew social media was a daily ritual that was only feeding it. I was such a perfectionist that I felt like I couldn’t miss a single post from anyone. First thing I would do when I woke up each morning was lay in bed and scroll through Instagram. I had to check off seeing new posts I missed during the night. Throughout the day, I would find myself on Instagram probably 5-10 times a day doing the same thing. And then I ended every evening again laying in bed, scrolling and double tapping, scrolling and double tapping. It began disrupting my daily life, and worse, my self-worth.
When I started learning more about my codependency I very quickly realized that, for me, Instagram was unhealthy. It fed my predispositions to receive approval through likes and separate myself further from reality. So I decided to take a break.
I deleted the app.
It didn’t feel scary or like a big deal in the moment—I wasn’t expecting it to last very long. I just knew I needed a break for me, however short. I did, however, immediately think, “I should’ve posted a story that I’m deleting it! They need to know I’m leaving!” Which I realized was a from of me trying to hold onto Instagram.
The first week was eye-opening. Without even noticing, throughout my day I would reach for my phone not ever really knowing why I was getting on it. So I placed a reading app exactly where Instagram had been. Hundreds of times, my thumb (out of habit) clicked on the area where Instagram used to be, and I’d suddenly look down to see I’m in my reading app.
The first week went by, and then the next. A month went by, and I thought, hey I could do two months. About 3 months in, I decided to set a goal of going 1 whole year without Instagram. Eventually I wasn’t even tempted. It helped that I was working hard every day to be conscious of my codependency and devoting time to improving myself. I soon no longer had the desire to get back onto instagram because I hated the feeling of scrolling through everyone’s photos, comparing myself! When essentially every photo would lower my self-esteem, the idea of having that feeling again was thick and sickening.
I found more peace. For my husband’s birthday we went on a beautiful hike with a spectacular view, and when I got to the top I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have to document this, this experience can just be for me.” I was able to meditate and enjoy my view without looking at the view through my phone’s camera. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to capture it all, but for me, I again felt empowered to make that choice myself. I love taking photos. Noticing the beauty of Mother Nature, and life around me helps me to ground and recenter, and I love capturing those moments for memory’s sake. Without the idea of having to share all my photos, I found myself in a place where I was able to stop and think about why I wanted to capture this moment, I had that power.
Some things about leaving Instagram were hard, like finding out way too late that friends were pregnant or getting married. Likewise, not sharing all of my travels or exciting life experiences kept my friends and family out of the loop. Our world today is just too encompassed with social media, and I often wondered if it was even possible to get rid of it all together.
In mid-July, someone showed me an Instagram post from a mutual friend. The second I saw it, it all came rushing back. I instantly felt jealous—their life seemed so luxurious! I could feel this rigid feeling in my entire body instantly, and so strongly. It was the same dangerous path of anxious thoughts and belittling my self-worth. I felt so immature and petty. This was a post from one of my favorite people I’ve ever met and I was really happy for them... but I was crazy jealous at the same time. But, thankfully, instead of sitting in this stiff, anxious feeling, I decided to dig deeper. I knew shutting out these feelings wouldn’t help, but reaching out and showing love could. I sent them texts of how happy I was for them, which turned into a two-day text conversation that, by the end of it, my jealousy had disappeared.
However, what did linger was a faint sense of failure. I hadn't been on Instagram for 10 months, and the second I see one photo, I’m instantly filled with self-comparison. What the hell, Tiffany?! Maybe Instagram just isn’t for you at all, I told myself.
A few days later I was reading The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele. I came upon the section Nonexcess- Taming our Overindulgence and it said,
“Fasting and celibacy are both practices to pull in the reins, find our center, and take stock in our lives. Going through times in our lives when abstinence or fasting is imposed on us... can be times of great cleaning for us and lead to greater discernment of our tendencies towards excess and the stories the mind had made up about these tendencies.”
I realized that what I was doing with Instagram was really a fast! Before I started this fast I was completely addicted to (and dependent upon) Instagram. I started and ended every single day living in constant jealousy and self-comparison. I would tell myself I wasn’t as cool or as pretty as someone else. It had become my new normal. But by cutting myself off, and taking this year fast, I was able to clearly recognize that heavy, rigid feeling of jealousy! I was able to greater discern my jealousy, as if it were a brand new feeling. I wasn’t a failure for seeing one photo and having these feelings come back, not at all! All of us will struggle with certain things, but greater awareness means greater control. I actually feel ready to go back onto Instagram and be on social media in a healthy way. I better understand just what jealousy and belittling myself feels like in my body and when it’s likely to happen. When it starts (and I’m certain it will), I can want to set down my phone.
I can also take that time to discover what those feelings are telling me after seeing someone’s post. Perhaps their photo of their perfect vacation to Egypt is just reminding me how much I love Egyptian art! And maybe I want to study and learn more about it. Or maybe that photo of someone’s bedroom makes me realize that I want to paint more, just like the painting above their bed. And maybe I’m not jealous, maybe I’m just eager to create something myself!
So here goes. A new perspective to interact with social media in a completely new way. Having some distance from what was a once negative influence renewed my perspective on myself. I’m proud I decided to step out of my comfort zone, because I now see how Instagram doesn’t have to be space of personal negativity.