What I learnt from a week without Instagram

It’s no secret that we are in an epidemic of screen addiction. If it isn’t a computer, it’s a TV. If it’s not a TV, it’s a tablet; and almost always it is a phone screen.

And with all the things our phones can do these days its no wonder we are constantly glued to them. Shopping, reading and replying to emails, banking, browsing, games, music, streaming, and of course, social media.

I’ve recently become quite conscious about my screen time. I felt like I was wasting too much time doing counterproductive activities on this little device like browsing Amazon, constantly checking emails, and browsing mindlessly through my Facebook and Instagram feed.

I also became conscious about how I felt whilst doing this –
Anxious often, sad sometimes, and most poignantly, not present – jumping from app to app while doing something else more fulfilling like relaxing and trying to switch off from the day.

I decided to experiment with deleting the biggest culprit in this, the app that’s the easiest to get sucked into – Instagram. And I learnt two surprising things from doing this.

I am not as addicted to Instagram as I thought I was

It surprised me how easy deleting this app was. It also surprised me how little I thought about it when it was gone. Besides the few niggles of “I need to post this on Instagram so everyone can see how interesting my life is”, I didn’t think about it much, nor did I miss it very much. Hallelujah!

What a relief this was. I deleted my Facebook app months ago so knowing that my perceived social media addiction was not as strong as I thought was quite enlightening.

Now, to something a little more worrying…

I am more addicted to my phone than I thought I was

As I mentioned, I deleted the Facebook app months ago. I’ve also turned off all notifications on my phone; Whatsapp, email, the lot. So I thought without Instagram I wouldn’t be so drawn to this tiny time-sucking device. But to my concern, this was not the case.

All I did was replace the usual offenders with others. Instead of refreshing my Instagram feed I was refreshing the feed on my news app. I was browsing through Amazon and eBay and checking on my Whatsapp messages and emails more often.

I did a bit of research into this and some of what I read resonated with me. I read that a study had been done on university students in America and their phone use, and it turns out that those that classed themselves as lonely spent more time online than those who didn’t.

It’s no secret that I been experiencing loneliness for quite some time, and it’s not surprising really. I’ve moved away from my home country leaving my friends and family, and on top of this I have been experiencing intense anxiety, the aftermath of trauma and of course, grief. That in itself is a lonely place to be.

It doesn’t surprise me then that I have been pining after my old life through seeing what my friends back home are up to online. It makes sense that I’ve been seeking distraction through apps, games, photos etc. And lastly, it isn’t out of the ordinary that I’ve been seeking comfort and fulfillment in online shopping.

So what’s the solution? Go cold turkey and throw my phone out the window? Or less extremely, delete everything from my phone besides text and call?

No.

This discovery has provided me with a new little assignment. As much as mobile technology has given us so many good things, I am now aware of its diminishing returns and how too much screen-time affects my mental health.

There are so many other things in my life that should take priority over a bloody phone. I should be using that free time to write more, learn more, grow more. Do more yoga, more meditating, more reading. Do more of the things that feed my soul.
And this week I have been doing just that. And it has felt damn good.

I have since re-downloaded Instagram and use it less than I used to. I have also shuffled around my apps and cleared out some of the time wasters (there’s still a couple I can’t bring myself to part with, but I am not perfect).

I encourage you all to look step back and analyse your screen time, and ask yourself this question; who’s in charge – you or your phone? And adjust yourself appropriately.

Offline is a luxury. Enjoy it, embrace it, make time for it.

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