It is time to finally make the step and delete my Instagram account. It may not seem like a big step to some, but the app has started to have a detrimental impact on my life. Having already liberated myself from the firm grip of Twitter and Facebook, and weaned off Reddit, I have left the worst culprit until last.
My relationship with Instagram started well. As with all social media, the early days were an absolute thrill. The same way that Facebook was a fun place to hang out and chat with friends (before it devolved into an advertising algorithm), it was incredibly fun to post photos of my adventures. It eventually led to taking photography a bit more seriously and buying a decent camera to start taking polished snaps around Bath and London. This is where my first issue with social media started; the obsession with farming attention on social media.
I just don’t get it. The amount of human effort that goes into producing posts to maximise attention is astounding. I understand if you are making money from doing this, but the vast majority of people don’t. And I am guilty of this too; I have spent many hours taking and editing photos, and then many more checking the like counts and expending emotional energy stressing about whether my content has been good enough…
But that wasn’t the reason I decided to leave the platform for good. Luckily I am now older and wiser, and the social pressure from Instagram no longer affects me. The real issue now is how addictive it has become to scroll through posts and reels, leading to a LOT of my time eaten up by scrolling random videos for hours on end. Somehow, they have managed to hack my brain into always returning to a default state of scrolling. It got to the point where I wasn’t really able to focus on work, or occasionally even my partner, because my attention always wavered towards my phone.
I think this is due to how social media apps have evolved over time. The core purpose of these businesses is to make money, and the products will be continually optimised to bring in as much money as possible. Whether intentional or not, the apps go through a digital natural selection, producing more effective versions every generation. Instagram can only generate more money if it steals more of our attention away from our lives and funnel it into their app. And I think they have gotten too good at it.
As a result, I feel like I have ended up living my life through a phone screen. The algorithm feeds me videos of things that I am interested in (architecture, DIY, crafts), and I have even started defining my productivity by whether I can also produce those things. Often, I feel like starting a project to create something, but I have to question whether it is for my personal enjoyment, or is it because Instagram told me to?
It is time to live my life through my own eyes, and do the things that I want to do rather than the things my phone says I want to do. I have started reclaiming the time that I would usually lose to scrolling on social media; going for long walks and listening to podcasts, reading books and magazines, and finding things that I genuinely find enjoyable. Maybe I might start a blog(!), finding a form of self expression that is entirely dictated by me, for me.