Is social media really as social as it sounds? It is mainly used to 'connect' people, but is that really what is happening? Or are we just redefining what we mean when we talk of 'social' and 'connection'?
Before hitting a pause on Instagram, I was relatively active on it. I mainly used the app to chat with people, update stories, watch reels, and keep myself updated on what the people I followed did. My average time on the app each day ranged from 1 to 2 hours, which distracted me from doing more important things.
I knew I needed a change. So, for a whole month, I deactivated Instagram. No more stories, no more replying to people's DMs, and no more scrolling for hours on end. And I noticed a few things over those four weeks. Here's what happened.
1. My stress levels increased at first
On Day 1, I felt kind of lost without the opportunity to scroll through the usual posts and reels on my feed. My normally 20-minute commute dragged on and on as I stared out the windows of the train and refreshed my inbox. I was almost immediately bored.
Was I really that dependent on Instagram to numb stress-related thoughts? Yes, I was. The mindless scrolling through reels actually distracted me from stressful thoughts. This was going to be a long month.
2. I found alternatives
Around Day 5, thankfully, I calmed down.
This was when I tried looking for other things that interested me. For example, I went to IKEA and bought items to re-decorate my room. I even indulged myself in reading a book— Wuthering Heights— that had been on my TBR forever.
I even started playing badminton matches with my dad more often, which I regret not doing as much before. Instagram really took away so much of my free time that I couldn't spend it with my own family. I genuinely enjoyed trying out things that actually interested me.
Slowly, I saw myself losing the urge to go back to Instagram and the thought of supposedly 'missing out' on things didn't bother me, as I still spoke to my friends on iMessage and WhatsApp.
3. I chilled out
Once I cut the cord, I didn’t see myself finding that colorful camera icon. I felt oddly calm, and this went on for a whole month.
Maybe scrolling through stories and seeing my friends, relatives, and former classmates looking their best, being their best, and doing their best was actually making me feel a little bit left out. Sure, I was happy they were vacationing in Bali, but why wasn't I vacationing in Bali?
Nevertheless, the time I spent reading and interacting with people worked wonders on my stress.
4. Visible changes I noticed
Apart from seeing my mental health improve, I noticed other changes in me: my grades improved, and I could spend more time studying and not wasting it using my phone.
I also felt kind of free, as one source of toxicity was put on hold. Was I happier? Definitely.
One of the most important changes in me was that I developed a definite sleep pattern. I used to scroll through reels so much before sleeping that I didn't even know at what time I'd go to sleep. This was so unhealthy because I didn't have a fixed schedule.
My biggest and most important takeaway from all this was that life goes on, whether or not you take a photo of the place just to post on Instagram.
Who cares how many people saw and liked my story of the Burj Khalifa if taking that picture meant I spent less time experiencing it and more time trying to put it on Instagram, choosing the perfect song and caption to suit it?
Even take food, for example— in a week from now, who would remember or care about what you ate and where you ate? No one. Try putting the phone away for a month and just see how much you missed it. I'm sure it's less than you think.