Four months ago I was lying in bed in the middle of the night with my finger hovering over the button that would permanently delete Instagram from my phone. I had been wanting to take the plunge for a while and I finally felt the reasons to quit outweighed my reasons to stick around. So eventually I pressed it. And guess what? I wasn’t transported into a digital wasteland and, remarkably, I still have friends!
Don’t worry I’m not going to suggest that you follow suit. I know that for most people, permanent deletion of social media accounts would be too extreme and that’s fine. But if you feel like your social media use is taking up more time than you’d like, I want to suggest a few ways that you might cut back or adjust your usage. Firstly, try unfollowing anybody that makes you feel bad about yourself. If you consider someone to be much prettier, skinnier or more confident than you, it’s almost guaranteed that following them will make your self-esteem plummet. We are not designed to watch an endless parade of perfect people and perfect lives; it is wreaking havoc on our mental health. Even though we know deep down it’s not really real, we buy into the deception at the cost of our own self-esteem, contentment and sense of belonging. Our impossible expectations of ourselves are taking us further away from happiness, not closer. So pick out some great healthy role models and follow them instead (like the Be Me Project!).
Secondly, find ways to limit your time on your social media accounts. One of the main reasons that I wanted to delete Instagram was because of all the time it seemed to take up. Checking. Checking. Checking. Scrolling. Scrolling. Scrolling. The creators of these apps use many clever tricks to capture our attention and keep us addicted- an irregular reward system, the desire for affirmation, even a deliberate 3 second delay in loading so that you get an anticipatory dopamine hit. You can try cutting down by switching off your notifications, moving the apps away from your home screen, using time limit apps or deactivating your account for a period of time. Deactivation allows you the feeling of having deleted your account and having a complete break but all your data is still there when you decide to go back. See how you feel by stepping away for a day or a week. I think you may be surprised.
I have experienced a genuine sense of freedom and contentment since I quit Instagram. I no longer check my phone constantly for the short term boost of a new ‘like’. I see my real flesh and blood friends more and we have plenty to talk about because we aren’t as up to date on each other’s lives. Best of all though, my thoughts are no longer drowned out by the views of influencers who were never meant to have that role in my life. Did you know that cutting down on social media can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, and can help you to live more in the moment? My challenge to you is to consider one or two ways that you could cut back that would be beneficial to you and your mental health. Be ruthless about following only those things that affect your life positively and remember that the power is in your own hands. After all, life is too short to be spent staring at little screens!
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