I haven’t used Instagram in about a year and a half and, honestly, I haven’t looked back. I am not saying the social media app is inherently evil and that everyone should come off it at once, but this is my experience of life using and not using it.
I had Instagram for a few years and whilst I’d love to blame it for my self esteem issues during that time, the fact is there were many other factors influencing my low self-worth – but Insta certainly didn’t help. Every time I went onto the app, I felt my mood plummet as I compared myself or my life to every photo I came across. I could get carried away stalking the profiles of people I did, or didn’t, know and feeling worse and worse about myself. I found myself hit with a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out), when it seemed that everyone’s lives were so interesting and exciting compared to mine. I would agonise over how this person seems to always be on holiday or at a festivals or how this person was so gorgeous and in shape. Instagram made me feel like I was inadequate and less in so many ways.
And it’s not just me who feels like this. In a UK-wide survey of 1,479 14-24 year olds conducted by the Royal Society for Public health, the results showed that Instagram was rated as the worst social media platform in terms of the mental health of young people. Sites such as Insta are literally designed to be psychologically addictive for their users – the notifications, likes, and comments all trigger dopamine to be released in the brain, making us feel rewarded and a desire to repeat this behaviour. Many users also experience FOMO which can trigger feelings of anxiety and loneliness and make us want to keep checking what’s being posted. It’s no surprise that many people find themselves wasting away hours on end on social media without really realising or intending to.
Now, I’m a (fairly) rational person, I know that social media does not reflect reality and that people only portray a tiny proportion of their lives but despite the rational part of my brain knowing this, the other part – which more often gets the final say – told me that I was ugly, boring, uninteresting, fat, etc etc… compared to all these people. It was just such a toxic app for me to use. I had periods of deleting the app from my phone for a few days but then I would crave to go back on it and shortly re-download. I felt almost addicted to it. The fact that it was so difficult for me to stay away from Instagram highlights this. In the end, probably after an hour long session of scrolling and comparing and feeling bad about myself, I was fed up. I knew that being on this app was not worth it for me, my self worth and my mental health which was depleting at this point in time. Enough was enough. I deleted my account.
The first few weeks I had the odd friend ask if I’d deleted my account and why, but honestly aside from that, I really haven’t noticed it. I don’t miss it at all. It took away so much from me and I found it very addicting to use. Sometimes I don’t know certain things that are going on in people’s lives now but at the end of the day if I want you in my life, I will be speaking to you and seeing you anyway. I don’t really need to see your selfies or your stories when I will catch up with you soon in real life or over text.
My self esteem has drastically improved. Now this is not all down to coming off Instagram but it definitely helped. I spend far less time comparing myself to other people and I feel a lot more content in myself and my life. I feel more present (also thanks to mindfulness) and just happier generally. After about a year of not having Instagram, I decided to delete Twitter too. I never found Twitter anywhere near as harmful for me personally, but I did find myself on it far more often than I’d liked and eventually I realised I wasn’t really gaining anything from using it.
It can be scary to not be on certain social media sites that most other people are and you might just feel like you couldn’t possibly delete Instagram but if you find it harmful for your mental health I would definitely recommend at least considering it. If you’re able, try having regular breaks from the app and see how you feel!