"A few months ago, I had a nightmare where I could only speak in Instagram captions. Then a friend told me the same thing had happened to her. (Literally. Unbelievable, but true.) And she found a cure: she deleted IG. It hadn’t been easy, but she was happier and her mind felt clearer. I was jealous of her Kondo-esque elevated state of being, so I decided to try it, too. First parameter: I’d erase the app for two months. I asked a friend to change my IG password. I also set goals: purge my mind of meme-speak, break my scroll habit, and actually think about how I felt instead of posting about it (deep, I know). So here’s how that went...
What to Do With Photos?!
Two friends came to visit on my first day. They’re wonderful and photogenic, so when they did things like sip wine, I went into a fugue state and took some 75,000 photos. Normally, I would’ve posted them with a caption about how ‘Wine and sunsets are great, but good friends are greater!’, but I had nothing to do with them now. If an image doesn’t make it to Instagram, does it even exist?
‘Oh, IDK. I’m Off Instagram’
Feeling cool, I was eager to talk about my new lifestyle. When anyone referenced a recent flurry of IG activity, I yelled, ‘Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not currently on the app.’ Were people annoyed? Absolutely. Did I care? No!
What About My Commute?!
In my life BIB (Before Instagram Break), I spent my trip to work scrolling, tapping, and refreshing. Now I used the 20-minute ride to answer e-mails. Productive, yes, but soon, I started yearning for that mindless scroll. So I embarked on a new phone chore: cleaning out my camera roll of 7,000+ images. It took me just one-and-a-half commutes, and I descended back into boredom (read: e-mail).
It takes 21 days to form a new habit, according to Psycho-Cybernetics. In my fourth Insta-free week, I awoke, for the first time, still of thumb and clear of mind. I blew dust off a journal from 2007 and wrote down several sentences. In a beautiful moment of clarity, I called my boyfriend to tell him, ‘My brain is more powerful now!’.
The Crossword Phase
Lying in bed one morning, on the brink of death by boredom, I downloaded a crossword app, and ripped through my first puzzle. The high from this experience is unmatched: the glow of the screen, the thrill of the words fitting together, the satisfaction of solving a pun. I spent the next two weeks obsessed with the crossword. Until I realised I had simply replaced my Insta habit with something equally addictive.
Out of nowhere, a tiny devil appeared on my shoulder and whispered, ‘You know you can just go to Instagram dot com, right?’. I stood firm, but by the end of the week, the voice had become a scream. I asked the friend who had changed my password to hand it over. (She did. Thanks for nothing!) Just steps away from the finish line, I started binging useless content on the desktop and mobile browser versions. I eased my shame by telling myself that ‘using’ Instagram didn’t count if I didn’t post. Sure.
So, About Those Goals...
Okay, I cheated a little, but this was the longest I’d been without Insta since 2011. While my hiatus didn’t help me do anything mind--blowing, I did achieve smaller goals: felt calmer and stopped processing the world in caption format. It’s been three months since the end of my break, and I still don’t have the app on my phone, because—who would’ve thought?—scrolling isn’t as great as seeing something and just...enjoying it.”