For the past few weeks, I have been considering deleting my Instagram account and last night, with a wave of decisiveness brought on by two glasses of smooth red wine and a discussion about the social media presence of embroidery, I achieved the gumption to clip the threads connecting me to the photo & video social media platform. The decision was easy to put into action after weeks of reflection and consideration, and logging on to Instagram in my web browser and going through the steps of a permanent account delete was pleasantly freeing. While Instagram allows me approximately one month to change my mind before my account is permanently deleted, this is a decision that I do not envision reversing.
For the sake of context, I should tell you that I have only been using Instagram for nine months, so I do not have a strong attachment to the platform and deleting it is not going to bring about monumental change to my daily routine. I created an account in May of 2020 after seeing a friend post on Facebook about an event for a Disney World fireworks show that was going to be aired live on Instagram. Stuck inside for a couple of months at that point due to the pandemic, and remembering how magical I found the Disney fireworks show at Magic Kingdom when I was 16, I thought it would be fun to watch the fireworks again, so I created an account.
After creating my account, I followed a few family members, friends, and topics I found interesting and occasionally posted photos, aiming to be mindful in my content. I mostly posted pictures of views from our home, scenes of local parks, and wildlife sightings- subjects that were pleasing to me, without much regard for what other people might enjoy while scrolling their Instagram feeds. While my Instagram was primarily for my own entertainment, I still could not resist the frequent urge to open the app after posting to check if anyone had liked or commented on a post. This desire for acknowledgement and hunger for attention are the primary reasons that prompted my decision to detach.
Social media can be an outlet for vanity and sometimes influences us to view our own world through the filter of what other people will “like”. I found this to be blatantly evident on Instagram where filters sugarcoat experiences and selfies rule the day. Looking at my feed on Instagram, it was clear how much the available outlets for constant self-publicity have influenced the way people portray themselves to their social circles. They plan trips and activities and pack outfits based on what will look impressive in photos. They show only their best angles, presenting staged snapshots into how they style themselves, their pets, their homes, their experiences, and ever their food- living their best life for the gram.
I am not opposed to social media and I know many people who get enjoyment out of Instagram. I hope they will continue using it as long as it continues to bring them joy. Social media has a lot of positives that I embrace. It can foster community, put you in touch with old friends, serve as an outlet for catharsis and a hub for events and gatherings. It is a great tool for keeping in touch, promoting business ventures, and sharing important news. There are truly great aspects of social media that I find valuable and enjoyable, however, Instagram was a platform that I found added little joy to my life and was more of a crutch for me to fill in moments of boredom more so than anything else. I found it fulfilled the same need for connection to the outside world that Facebook already offers me, and felt I gravitated toward Facebook more so than Instagram. While I am not going to delete Facebook, I did delete the app from my phone to discourage mindless scrolling.
It is so easy to open social media apps and just scroll and scroll and scroll (our thumbs never got so much “exercise”). Minimalism has taught me how to put intention and mindfulness into practice. Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram offered distraction from those principals while also playing to another weakness of mine – the urge to shop. This was my next driving reason for deleting my account.
After a few months on Instagram, the ads tailored to my feed became smarter and seemingly more frequent and I’d often find myself going to the online stores for some of my favorite retailers to go “window shopping”. While I do not buy on impulse anymore, I do shop on impulse – if that makes any sense. I rarely buy clothing now and when I do, it is after deliberating on whether I want to add a particular piece or to replace something I own that is too worn to wear but that I get joy or necessity out of. That being said, I’ll still “hunt” for perfect outfits for hypothetical experiences and add to cart, spending valuable time on the activity rather than spending money. Purchase-free shopping is not always guilt-free in my book and I wonder why I chose to spend so much time looking for items that I wouldn’t otherwise have known existed if I hadn’t seen an ad for the store in the first place rather than doing something more nourishing like reading a book, going for a walk, playing a game or doing a puzzle with Mike, or planning a blog post. I do enjoy the act of shopping, but find it is more fulfilling when I am looking for something specific rather than being prompted by a bot on social media that eerily knows my favorite stores.
Ads and recommendations for pages that Instagram thought I would like started to ignore my feedback. When I requested to hide ads from particular stores or identified certain topics as irrelevant, nothing changed. I began to notice the ads and odd topic recommendations more than I noticed the posts from family and friends and found scrolling through the content of my feed to be distracting. When Instagram decided I would be interested in embroidery (thank you Bridgerton? I guess?), and I fervently assured it that I had no interest, my clicks to diminish the topic in my feed were not reflected. The constant bombardment of advertising and Instagram’s projecting were enough to say enough.
I am looking forward to being more intentional with social media and to revisiting digital clutter that can use some intentional care. I am happy to minimize my exposure to constant advertising and my next project will be to tackle my email inbox – pray for me. Until my next post, I challenge you to reflect on your own relationship with social media. Does it bring you joy? Are there platforms you have accounts for that you never use? Maybe consider decluttering apps that you find excessive or that you use mostly when you are bored. Distance yourself from unnecessary platforms that bring you stress and frustration. You don’t have to permanently delete your account, but removing an app from your phone will help you to be more aware of how many times you go in search of that mindless distraction each day.