31 Days Away.
As a bit of a New Year's resolution, I decided to take an Instagram hiatus. To make it doable, I set a goal of going Insta-free for the month of January. In the interest of transparency, I committed 3 transgressions. The first time, I went looking for something specific: a recipe I had saved. The pull of the notification bubbles proved too hard to resist, so I read some messages, deleted some bot requests and peeped a few stories. The next night, I wanted to see how many fake requests I got in 24 hours (too many) and vamoosed. My 3rd indiscretion took place on a sleepless night in Baltimore wherein I caved to the yearning to scroll and quickly found myself bored and more than a bit annoyed. It was that feeling of annoyance that reminded me of why I had decided to take a break in the first place. And because I had some time away, I had a deeper understanding of of why.
I've left Facebook twice. I'm fairly certain the 2nd time is a charm because I don't miss it at all. When I went back the first time, I realized that I had missed a lot: babies and weddings, deaths and pets. I stayed for a year, gradually whittling down my friends list, unfollowing as many businesses as I could, but still getting ads that were outside of my demographic (a doomsday prepper I am not), seeing the same arguments that caused me to leave in the first place (dog training, politics and virtually any other topic that can be polarized. Spoiler alert: it's all of them) and most of all, realizing that the definition of friend on Facebook varies tremendously from the one I use in real life. So aside from wishing happy birthday, congratulations or condolences, I was getting less and less out of it, so I left again. And this time, I'm not even curious about what's going on over there.
Rather than this causing me to spend less time on social media, I just refocused my energy on Insta. And when I say energy, I mean scrolling, which is probably one of the biggest wastes of energy ever, but man is it addictive. Because you just never know what interesting thing might pop up (spoiler alert # 2, it's almost always nothing).
I started to realize that I was often scrolling without actually really seeing what I was looking at or finding the same old arguments (and casual cruelty) time and time again. I was following people who claimed to be experts: fitness, diet and politics and too many actual experts: pelvic floor, lymphatic system, adrenals, and menopause. It's impossible to focus on all those things and one's own life and responsibilities without feeling overwhelmed. At least it was for me. So I needed a reset. Here's what I learned:
My brain is a lot less busy. I don't have lyrics or dance moves or voiceovers running through my head all day. This has been so nice.
FOMO is easier to get over than I thought. I miss a few accounts that I follow and am looking forward to seeing some people's posts again, but it's far less crucial to feeling connected than I thought it would be. This made staying away easier over time.
Being connected to my phone is a bad habit all onto itself. Though I stopped having it right next to me all day, when it was, I checked email. Messenger, news and weather apps far more often than is probably normal. I found celebrity gossip a good way to escape for a few minutes at a time, something I literally never cared about and suspect will subside once I'm scrolling Instagram again (hopefully I'm able to control my urges a bit more).
Just like with Facebook, I need to curate my feed more. There's simply too much noise and I don't need to feel in the know about everything.
There's an element of narcissism that is mostly harmless (depending on what you are seeing), but still kind of weird from a distance. I'm guilty of it and will probably go back to doing the same sort of stuff I did before, but like, who really cares what I cooked for dinner? Or needs to see the 10,000th picture of my cute dog. I mean, we already know she's cute. That's been proven 10,000 times. (Let's make it 10,001, shall we?)
6. That said, I enjoy seeing other people's experiences and pets and what they're reading or where they're traveling, so maybe it's just this groupthink-y thing we've all agreed to.
7. The cute picture of my dog has caused my numbered list to be out of alignment, and it's irritating. I feel the need to point it out lest someone think I'm okay with messiness. Because I'm just narcissistic enough to think someone is going to read this. I'm also too lazy to walk up 2 flights of stairs and fix it on my computer right now.
8. Despite my phone pulling me back in, I stopped looking at it first thing in the morning. This has been one of the nicest parts of my month-long break. I'm not feeding myself junk before I've even had coffee. It's definitely made a difference in the way I start my day: I'm not enervated before I've even gotten out of bed by bad news, meanness or vapidity. I've promised myself that this, at the very least, will continue.
So tomorrow, February 1st, my experiment will be complete. I plan on taking more mini-breaks in the future and will try to cut the cord with my phone in more ways. I really don't need email on my phone and need to get rid of the what if...that stops me from deleting it.
I do feel like I've reset a bit. While in Baltimore earlier this month (pictures can be found...on instagram. Tomorrow. 😜), an old friend and I had coffee and I wanted to text my aunt to tell her when I was going to be at her house. I realized I had left my phone in my backpack which was in the car. When I said that out loud my friend said "wow, left your phone in the car. I'm proud of you." Not because he knows the depth of my attachment (we hadn't seen each other in 7 years) but because he knows it's an attachment so many of us have. The cool thing was, I was proud of me too. I didn't panic, didn't feel lost or insecure. I was where I wanted to be and anything happening on that phone couldn't hold a candle to sitting and reminiscing with someone I love IRL.