Ever since I signed up for Instagram, the week after submitting my senior thesis in 2012, I’ve never gone more than one week without using the app. That was during my honeymoon in 2017, but otherwise, the longest time I’ve been away from IG was maybe three days tops.
So at the end of March, faced with a looming dissertation deadline, I anxiously decided to take 3-4 weeks off from the app, as well as from blogging business in general. I deleted Instagram, set up an out of office, and told brands I was already working with to expect delayed responses.
Since I’ve been back on Instagram, I’ve been using it and thinking about it very differently. There’s been a lot of conversation lately about the mental health effects of Instagram, how it’s changing communication styles, and overall making the world a worse off place. For someone whose Instagram brand is authenticity and transparency, there is a certain emotional toll that goes into regularly sharing on the app, which I’ll talk about in a later post. For now, here are three things I learned during my Instagram hiatus.
IG really does affect your health… in surprising ways
I always thought of myself as an emotionally and mentally stable person, probably a bit better off than the average person in terms of mental health and self-awareness. Yes, I definitely fall into the comparison trap every once in a while, maniacally checking and rechecking someone’s account to see how their post performed compared to mine. You know, nothing that the average IG user doesn’t also do – or am I the only one who sometimes does that?!
Anyway, the most surprising consequence of me deleting Instagram – mom stop reading now! – is that I had TONS more sex. Like ALL the sex! First, I thought it was simply because I wasn’t looking at my phone right before bed, but I realized that living a scroll-free existence meant that I wasn’t seeing hundreds of thousands of images of bodies skinnier, curvier, and “sexier” than mine. I actually chatted about my issues with body confidence a few weeks ago on Good Girl Radio, but I had NO idea that it was affecting my sex life! As a black woman who neither fits the model thin, voluptuous hourglass, or even plus size princess body types, it can sometimes feel like my body isn’t “black and beautiful.” Turning Instagram off for a bit gave me fewer bodies to compare mine to, which made me feel more attractive, and led to more bedtime playtime.
IG isn’t a time suck – your phone is a time suck
Ever since iPhone started calculating how much screen time I spent on various apps, I’ve been shocked at how much time I spent on Instagram. I’m talking 6-7 hours a week, and I’m not even a “power” Instagram user! Once I deleted Instagram from my phone, my productivity did improve, but I found other ways to distract myself and procrastinate. The recently redesigned News app was my replacement drug for IG. I’d visit it four times a day, refreshing for the latest political news or adding new topics to my interests: spring fashion, black entrepreneurs, Avengers. I learned everything about everything, which isn’t a bad thing per se, but had absolutely no positive bearing on why I deleted IG in the first place – to help me focus on my dissertation.
Once I realized I was still on my phone a ton even though IG was deleted, I started testing some hacks to put my phone down more. I’d leave my phone in the bedroom while working in the office. I tried putting it on airplane mode & do not disturb & pressing the home button three times to make it greyscale. But ultimately, the most effective thing was to shut my phone off entirely, and turn it on when necessary.
What’s For Me Is For Me and Won’t Pass Me By
One of the scariest components of activating an out of office message and deleting Instagram was that I was worried it would impact my work as a content creator. I have gotten a large amount of unfollows once I started posting again – likely because IG spammed people who hadn’t really been paying attention to my content with my new posts – but otherwise, the out of office didn’t have a negative impact on my business. My team, a critical part of my success over the past year, kept things on lock when I couldn’t access email regularly. I still had work come in, and God moved – heck – SHIFTED some major things for my business while I was gone in a way that I still have no idea how He did it, but all I can say is I’m grateful, and I’m SO excited for everything that’s to come.
If you’re a content creator and your hesitant to take some time off Instagram, just remember that the platform ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE! Instagram is taking so many steps to strengthen their platform so that people spend their entire day on it, but they’re introducing new features so frequently now that even if you were on it all day, you probably couldn’t keep up anyway! However, as the platform continues to find ways to encourage additional user interaction – custom story filters, hiding likes, shopping tool for creators – remember that it isn’t the end all, be all of your life, and taking some time away from the app every once in a while just might do you some good.