As you may know, I recently took time off from Instagram. Last week I shared what I accomplished during my short hiatus. In this post I wanted to talk about some of the things I learned while I was offline at home, the benefits of being off the app, and how I plan to manage my time moving forward.
My time away from Instagram was extremely eye-opening, and probably “life-changing” to some extent. If you’re looking to alter your habits with the app (or your phone in general), I hope this post offers inspiration and guidance. I have a lot to say, so please bear with me.
Before I go any further, I need to note that I’m writing this post as Michael, the human being behind IBC, who has thoughts, feelings, concerns, and a big ol’ sensitive heart. This post comes out of a place of love and caring for anyone who might find it beneficial. This post is based on my personal experience. This post isn’t intended as a judgment of anyone else’s way of living life. You’re welcome to disagree and do things differently. We are all trying to figure out what works for us as we go through our days. Do what makes sense for your soul. For your heart. For where you are in your journey.
I read through this post many times, edited my words, and tried to be as sensitive as possible while still telling my story. I always try to do my best, and realize I won’t get it right every time. Thank you for your grace and understanding.
Why I Needed Time Off Instagram:
There’s a good chance you LOVE your time on Instagram and may think “a break” is crazy. This wasn’t the case for me. Here’s why.
First, based on my phone data, I was spending at least 2.5 hours on the app each day. That’s 912.5 hours or 38 days per year. When I looked at my overall time on my phone, it ranged from 4-5 hours a day. That means I spent 1,825 hours or 76 days per year looking at my phone.
Those numbers were eye-opening for me. Based on my life goals, there are so many things I would rather be doing than looking at a screen, and yet, I was spending a little more than a fifth of each year on my phone.
Second, although I enjoy finding out what’s new, being inspired by others’ ideas, and seeing what my friends are doing, scrolling so much has frequently left me feeling a lot of things I don’t want to feel.
Too often I would compare myself to others. I’m one of those people who struggle with feelings of “not enough” (which I’m working on and getting better at) but scrolling exacerbated those feelings. And, as we know, social media is a place for people to share their highlights, so it’s so easy and tempting to compare.
I got jealous. Jealousy is a slippery slope and not something I’m proud to feel, but it happens. I would watch as people had “everything” and did “everything,” and it would bum me out. Instead of focusing on the many blessings in my life – my family and friends, my home, my opportunities – I found myself wanting things I didn’t have.
I didn’t have this revelation until my break, but I found that scrolling and consuming social media overloaded my brain with information. It made me feel inferior, like I needed to be doing all of the incredible things I was seeing. Of course, I realize that isn’t possible for one person, but the feeling was there. Instead of focusing on my to-do list and goals, all of a sudden I needed to read this book someone recommended, update my throw pillows with the new style, clean out my junk drawer, start an herb garden, make the new cocktail recipe, try this new type of paint, check out a new app, and so on. The pressure was unending.
Beyond all of that, I must tell you that Instagram is one of my favorite things and favorite social media apps. But, as the platform changed and algorithms emerged, I started to dislike it. It’s tough because I use Instagram for my business as well. It’s an important tool that allows me to make a living doing what I do. While I don’t get it right every time, my goal is to strike a balance between what I share for the sheer joy of it (non-sponsored content) and what is linked for revenue.
The Parameters for My Instagram Break:
I went cold turkey. I planned to take two weeks off the app. On Sunday night before I went to bed, I deleted the app from my phone. Two weeks later, on Monday, I reinstalled the app.
My only connection with the app was via my Facebook business page where I could access my direct messages. From a business standpoint, it was important to be able to do this. And I only did it a couple of times during those two weeks.
As my hiatus approached, I had major doubts about it. I didn’t know how I was going to manage. I was even telling myself that it was okay if I made the break shorter.
However, when the time finally came to sign-off, I couldn’t have been more excited. And when it was time for my break to be over, I had little desire to sign back on.
What I Loved About My Time Off Instagram:
This was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. As I said above, the experience and the perspective it gave me was “life-changing” in several ways.
The first noticeable change was how much time I spent on my phone. It dropped from 5 hours a day to 1.5 hours a day. Pretty amazing, right?
Because I wasn’t constantly picking up my phone to check Instagram, the time I spent doing other things on my phone also went down. I even stopped carrying my phone with me everywhere. There were many occasions when I didn’t know where my phone was. Talk about freeing!
A second strange and unforeseen effect was that my house stayed cleaner. I think this was due to a combination of things.
Because my hand was free a lot more, I tended to put things away. I also didn’t feel so rushed, so I took the time to keep things tidy.
An example of this was my bathroom sink. Typically, I leave things out on my sink because I’m in a hurry, but during those two weeks, my bathroom sink stayed clean and uncluttered. This wasn’t intentional at all, but it was something I observed and loved.
A third noticeable change was my mood. This was significant. In general, I found myself feeling happier, more motivated, and less irritable. This alone is one reason I want to spend less time on the app (and my phone in general). I removed the temptation to feel “not enough” or jealous. And although I hope that someday I can be better about managing these feelings while on social media, removing them from my path has proven helpful.
And speaking of motivated. I accomplished SO MUCH. (I shared a full list here in case you missed it.) Not only did I get quite a bit done, but I was excited about doing it. I also finished things more quickly because I wasn’t stopping to check my phone or share the process.
Because of the current stay-at-home order, I couldn’t tell how my time off the app impacted my relationships or time with other people. I did visit with my mom over Mother’s Day weekend, and I loved that I was able to be present without feeling the urge to constantly check my phone.
I don’t think there were any big drawbacks to taking two weeks off. Did I miss things? Sure. There were moments when I wanted to share what I was doing or show some unique thing I’d found, but in general, I didn’t feel any pressure to do so. There were also a handful of people whose updates I missed. I quickly caught up with them upon my return, so, in the end, I didn’t MISS anything. It was so different from when I had to check the app every few hours for fear of missing out.
What Does All of This Mean?
If you’re thinking I had a “problem,” you are right. I’m glad I took a step back for a couple of weeks. I learned so much about myself from it and only wish I had done this months ago. I still have lots to learn and lots of room to grow, but this was a meaningful start.
To sum things up, my two-week break shows that I needed a change and that I’m a happier, more motivated, more productive, more intentional, more present, kinder, and possibly tidier person without Instagram.
Based on what I learned, I’ve made some plans. (See below.) Pushing the pause button to assess and reflect was a smart move for me. Chances are I will revert to my old ways if I’m not careful. However, I’ve given myself a tool to use for a reset whenever those old ways start to creep back in. It’s not so scary.
My Plan Going Forward:
I’m still figuring out my plans for moving forward, and it’s likely they will shift as I test them out. Here are my initial thoughts:
This is a must. If you’re following me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I’ve set boundaries in the past week. The responses to them were mixed. There was lots of love but anger, too. I get it. Boundaries are hard. I’ve decided not to share the full list of boundaries I’ve set for myself while on the app. I’m afraid they may come across as rude or insensitive to some folks. But I’ve put these boundaries in place to give myself permission to walk away from the app when I must and to only give as much of myself and as much of my time as I can in any particular moment.
Here are ideas for boundaries you might also want to consider:
- Times of day when you’ll visit the app.
- Turning off your direct messages if you’re too busy to respond.
- Setting a timer for how long you’ll respond to comments and questions.
- Only using the app when you feel mentailly strong and prepared.
Take Daily Breaks and Extended Breaks from the App
Whenever I feel like I need a break from the app, I’m going to delete it and step away. I won’t be announcing it; I’ll just delete it, step away, and sign back on when I’m ready. I may also schedule days off. I’m thinking I may delete the app from Friday night through Monday morning. I’m still figuring this out.
No Instagram in the First and Final Hours of My Day (No Phone in Bed!)
I used to start and end my day on Instagram. This will no longer happen. For the first few hours of my day and at least two hours before bed, I will not be on Instagram, and I will use my phone as little as possible.
Previously, checking my Instagram feed (and my email) while still in bed was a daily ritual. I would unintentionally let what I saw in my Instagram feed (and inbox) determine my day. I would often be mentally exhausted or emotionally defeated before even getting out of bed. This can’t and won’t happen anymore.
Focus on MY Goals
I’ve learned that it’s easy for me to think that “I need to do ALL things,” especially when I see so many great things on Instagram. I think limiting my time on the app will help with this, but I also need to remember that my goals, projects, and to-do list are most important. Just because someone has bought the latest new thing, is doing something cool, or is traveling to some locale, I don’t need to do and have those things as well.
If it aligns with or enhances MY goals, then fine. If it doesn’t, then it’s just not for me.
We can either waste our days constantly comparing ourselves to others, or we can intentionally spend our time doing things for which there is no comparison. I’m opting for the latter.
Be Intentional and Limit “The Scroll”
From now on, if I’m getting on Instagram, it’s going to be for a purpose. I won’t get on because I’m bored. I won’t get on because I’m waiting for something to load on my computer. I won’t get on because I’m avoiding work. I won’t get on because I want something to look at while I’m snacking. I won’t get on because I’m waiting in line at the store.
I will get on when I have something I want to share or need to post. I will get on when I have a free moment and want to see what a friend is doing. I will get on if I need a resource or want to check a specific feed. I will get on if I need to message someone or have time to check my messages.
You get the idea. In essence, I want to use the app with intention and not as a time filler.
The Numbers (Likes and Follows) Won’t Affect My Personal Happiness
The number of likes I receive on a post and the number of followers I have are irrelevant.
However, YOU are very relevant! I do want you to know how thankful I am for your follows likes, comments, and messages. Writing all of this feels tricky because I don’t want you to think that your support isn’t greatly appreciated. You are wonderful. I’m so glad each of you is here. I love this community that we’ve built, and I’m immensely grateful for all you do to support me online and in real life. With that being said, my goal is to focus on the content I’m sharing, the community we’re co-constructing, and the connections we’re creating. Because of Instagram, I feel like I have so many new friends and this amazing support system. I love our time together. The number of likes and follows are far less important.
In conclusion …
Wow. That was a lot. I sincerely hope this post has been helpful. I tried to share everything I could. If you have any questions, please let me know below.
If you feel the need to take a break. Do it! It just might give you the perspective you’ve been seeking. And it’s much easier than you might think. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find joy and freedom beyond the app.
I also want to reiterate that I realize all of us are different. In this post, I’ve talked about my personal experience. It’s not my goal to shame people for the way they use the app or how they choose to spend their time. This is YOUR life. You do you. Spend your days in the way that works for you. Learn, grow, and change along the way.
This post was important for me to write. As our digital social worlds continue to expand, they can be tricky to navigate. For too long, I felt as if I was the only person who struggled with how Instagram was affecting me and how much time I spent on my phone. However, after sharing more about my break and what I learned from it, I’ve discovered that other folks have similar feelings and concerns. I think it’s important that we talk openly about such things. We won’t always agree, but we should have these hard conversations and respect each other’s journey.
Again, thank you for being so supportive during my absence and for allowing me to open up about some of the personal parts of my life.
Stay well, friends!