When Showing Beat Sharing, it was Time to Delete Instagram 📸
SimonSays #12 - The We Generation or the Me Generation?
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About 6 months ago, I deleted the Instagram app. There wasn’t a defining event that led to the deletion. Rather, I slowly came to realize that the app was having negative effects on me, namely: FOMO, egocentricity, and addiction.
Now I know what you’re thinking: this is gonna be another anti-social media article, and you’ve probably seen hundreds of those before, and even watched Netflix’s Social Dilemma documentary. Yet, I was exactly in your shoes! Therefore, I challenge you to have a read and question to what extent what I describe might apply to you.
Everyone’s familiar with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). While it wasn’t invented by social media nor the internet, it was considerably exacerbated by them. Just remember the last time you weren’t able to go on holiday or to a party with a group of friends. From time to time you might have felt frustrated and envious and might have found yourself imagining what the atmosphere of the party or the holiday might be like. Yet, that FOMO was multiplied tenfold when you checked out the Instagram posts and stories of the event. So at some point, I just thought: do I really want to be the guy who can’t fully enjoy whatever he’s doing or wherever he may be because he’s thinking of how much more enjoyable x or y place or experience could have been?
I’m convinced this is one of the unescapable harms of social media. Because things always seem better elsewhere, we never fully enjoy our own experiences, regardless of how boring or fun they may be. Paradoxically, it seems that the ones who are sharing how great whatever they’re doing is, are probably those that are affected the most by this harmful effect as they find themselves thinking about what they’re going to post and then check who saw the post etc, rather than enjoy whatever great thing they were indeed experiencing.
I don’t know if it was a placebo effect or not, yet by deleting the Instagram app, I quickly experienced a decrease in FOMO and similar harmful effects leading to the perception of feeling more immersed in the present.
There’s an endless debate among scientists and observers about whether Gen Z is more narcissistic than previous generations. It’s quite an impossible question to answer because you never know how previous generations would have behaved if social media had existed. My non-scientific take on the issue would be that while our generation might not be more narcissistic, social media has made it more ostentatious.
I don’t escape that fact. With Instagram, I came to realize that I had become more interested in showing than in sharing. Indeed, people tend to claim that Instagram is a great way to share with friends. While I believe that could be the genuine intention at first, the app is made in such a way that one’s behavior slowly shifts from that of sharing with friends to showing off to friends and foes. Yet because everyone is acting in the same way or at least moving in the same (negative) direction, no one is questioning the behavior.
As Sarah Frier writes in her book No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram (which I recommend reading):
“The more you give up who you are to be liked by other people, it’s a formula for chipping away at your soul. You become a product of what everyone else wants, and not who you’re supposed to be.”
Instagram, like all social media apps, is designed to be addictive. In fact, it’s proven that social media is as addictive as slot machines.
A common trait among addicts is denying their addiction. In other words, if someone claims they aren’t addicted to something (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or Instagram), chances are they actually are addicted. Though I was a light user of the app, I could feel that I was addicted in some way. I had developed a habit of checking Instagram in the morning when I woke up, during the day when I was bored, and in the evening before going to bed. Though my usage was limited (on average about 20- 25 minutes per day), and considerably inferior to many of my friends that wouldn’t call themselves big Instagram users or less so: Instagram addicts, it almost constantly exceeded the daily limit of 15 minutes I had set. Even worse was the fact that whenever I was somewhere exotic or particularly fun, cool or interesting, I would want to share it, or rather, show it.
Compared to other social media apps, Instagram recently appeared to be on top of these issues. Indeed, three years ago they created features to help prevent addiction by indicating when you’re up-to-date with your friends’ posts or keeping track of the time you spend on the app, and enabling you to set time limits.
While these appear as positive actions, they seem to be too little too late, as evidenced by the fact that 63% of Instagram users use the app every day and the hundreds of articles dedicated to overcoming Instagram addiction. Moreover, one shouldn’t forget that apps like Instagram rely on these addicted users to make money.
One of the effects of this Instagram cure has been that I became increasingly critical of people’s behavior on Instagram, especially among my friends. Taking a step back made me realize how self-centered or show-off some of them had become (at least on Instagram). Yet, I blame mainly the app for that, as I remember some of the effects it had on me.
So you might be wondering, have I gone back on Instagram since? The answer is yes! Multiple times actually. Why? I still haven’t figured that out yet. Sometimes because I was bored, others because I was curious and wanted to know what the people I knew were doing or where they were. However, at times, a month or even months have gone by without me checking the app and whenever I do check the app I only stay for a few minutes and only come back days or weeks later.
Interestingly, after I deleted the app I noticed that a decent amount of people around me had stopped using Instagram and deleted the app as well. (It’s worth mentioning that I had nothing to do with these decisions and that I wasn’t even the first in my entourage to delete the app). Yet it’s interesting and reassuring to observe how they too have found many positive effects from this change.
As Sarah Frier writes, "It used to be that the internet reflected humanity, but now humanity is reflecting the internet." Hopefully, by taking a step back from Instagram and the virtual world it creates, we’ll be able to further enjoy real experiences, lose some of our vanity and continue to share with friends without all the harmful effects of the app. It seems to have worked for me, I hope it will work for you too!
I hope you enjoyed reading this! If you have any suggestions or feedback feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter @the_simonpastor 🙂
Also, feel free to check out my new website 🚀