Ten Days Off the Gram

I said my goodbyes to the Instagram app last week Thursday right after I published my last entry on this blog. Some people asked me some great questions about it and it seems like we all have a touch of curiosity around the app and its usage, so I’ll try to chronicle how life goes without it. Here are some of the frequently-asked questions I received as well as my answers, should you care to read them! This is a long winded post but let’s not overthink it all, it’s essentially just an experiment I’m running on myself 🙂

Why Not Go Off All Media / Why Just Instagram? the reason for this is simple – I’m not against technology, I’m against the mindless scrolling. It’s the ability to scroll endlessly, which is what apps like IG and Facebook provide, that heightens my anxiety and probably triggers an addictive tendency for me. For anyone who wants to know more about the algorithm, I strongly recommend watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, which explains a lot about how your addictive impulses and your brain are targeted by these apps. For me personally, there’s nothing addictive about being on line in general because I log on, look up a few things, shop around, and close my laptop. With writing it’s the same: I log into my website, write an entry, edit it (or not), publish and leave. For me personally, it’s specifically Instagram that’s the problem.

Why Now / Why Not Jan 1st? At first my plan was to start the new year fresh; I like things neat and tidy so a hard start made sense to me. But then I realized December is the perfect time to go offline. Seeing everyone else’s holiday activities often makes me feel like I’m not doing enough even though I definitely am and I don’t need my nasty inner critic telling me I’m not making enough magic or hosting enough parties or buying enough presents. I also realized I didn’t need to share our Christmas. No one needs to see the gifts we chose, the meals we make with our family, the cocktails we’re drinking by the fire, the traditions we share with friends and neighbours. It didn’t feel special or fun to share anymore, it felt performative.

The first week away from the app was a little weird. The first few days after I deleted IG my thumbs were twitching and wriggling, wanting to open the app, and I had to find things to do to distract myself. This was unexpected for me, though it probably shouldn’t have been. When I was on my phone my finger kept pressing the spot where the app icon used to be, which is sad and embarrassing. Haha.

Then I went through a very weird, short phase where my brain reaaaallly wanted to scroll something (anything!) and I found myself scrolling through emails and junk mail folders a couple times a day, scrolling amazon or other shopping apps until I caught myself and flung my phone far away. On weekends I’ve taken a few photos for my own scrapbooks but I’m not constantly filming funny constant or harassing my children to take a good pic for the gram. This has allowed all of us to be in the moment much more, and it’s nice. I am still catching myself thinking a lot about content. The kids will say something hilarious and I’ll think about how that would make a lot of people laugh, or I’ll have thoughts about motherhood or womanhood that I know would resonate with others. Maybe eventually I’ll go back to putting those things in a notebook for the future book I’m definitely never going to write 🙂

The worst thing is that I got super sick the day after I deleted the app. As other parents will know, being sick and having sick kids in a post-pandemic world is a veerrry isolating thing. It means no playdates, no school or preschool, no daycare, no other human contact, really. So I’ve been off instagram for ten days with no lifeline to the outside world (except for when I logged on to show everyone my sad, raspy voice), which was tougher than I expected.

The Pros: because I haven’t been scrolling before bed, I’ve been falling asleep earlier. Since I’m sick, I’m sleeping terribly, so I’ll have to wait and see if sleep quality improves (I’m sure it will). I’m learning new things because I have more time for podcasts and books. When I let my body rest (though it’s not often), I feel less anxious and can relax more fully because I’m not worried about what I’m “missing”. I’m still on my phone sometimes around the kids because we have to call the school, call doctors, make plans etc, but I’m leaving the phone on the charger for long sections of the day without looking at it and that obviously makes it possible for me to be more present with the kids. In short, there’s less mindlessness. I use my phone much more intentionally and rely on it a little less.

The Cons: it’s hard not being able to use my platform to highlight issues or voices. I believe that even though I have a small following on social media it’s still important to be responsible and share things that matter or that will lift others up, so losing that ability has been tough for me (but maybe I can figure out a way to do that without using Instagram, it’s only been a week!). It’s also been tough to not feel like I’m part of the “community conversation” because in a small town like ours it sometimes feels like the banter in the comments section of some of the local businesses is an important type of communication and networking, especially during these winter months when we’re inside a lot more and not seeing others in public. But I trust that in the spring I can come out guns blazing and see some faces in person to make those connections and have those conversations. Another con is that since we have such a big family who lives all over the globe, I know that many people have missed seeing daily videos of our kids. I know it’s nice having those updates when you’re far away, and our family appreciates my sharing.

It seems like nowadays so much advertising for businesses is done on Instagram, so those of us who run small businesses or operate Instagram accounts for small businesses really can’t afford to take a social media break. It’s been tough to still be on the app professionally while foregoing it personally, but I’ve noticed that these habits change quickly and are adapting with my adapted usage. I don’t linger in the app when I use it for work, and I anticipate being able to cut back drastically as we approach the slow season of January-February.

I know this is a lot of info! But I’ve gotten so many texts asking me to expand my thoughts about why I’m taking a break, so hopefully there’s some good info here for anyone who has made it this far! The point is: this break is an experiment, and the goal is to make more space in my life for FUN!

Hope y’all are doing great and not missing me! It’s very liberating to not have to take a photo of every little thing, like the good oat nog I found or whatever.

Something’s Gotta Give

Anyone who’s been following along on my social media account or blog has watched me approach Critical Breaking Point (haha, I love a bit of drama!). Life has gotten busier and busier for me this year with one kid in school, one kid in preschool in the next town over, and one kid still at home. We’re constantly busy without a moment for ourselves and it really feels lately like something’s gotta give.

Life is too precious and too important for the thing that I cast aside to be time with my kids, or time for my husband, or time for my friends and community. For a long time the thing that has suffered has been the time to myself, but it feels unbearable for me to continue that trend. I feel like I’m at a crossroads and I have to choose something to let go of, something to make my life lighter and easier, something to take out of my mind to create more space.

That thing is Instagram.

I looooove Instagram. Since moving to a small town from the city I’ve found it to be a major tool for connection. By following local businesses and a few other local moms, I slowly enlarged my network and found a ton of small town events to attend where I met new friends and was able to support small businesses. Since most advertising is done on Instagram these days, the app allowed me to find out about and share new ways to support the community around me. As I take a hiatus from IG I am a bit scared about my isolation increasing without having access to those things, but I have enough friends in town who know my real phone number that I’ll hopefully still be able to find out about all the fun stuff this winter.

Another thing I love about Instagram is the community that comes from sharing. I know, it sounds narcissistic to want to share my life, and trust me, I don’t think I’m like, a real treat or anything. I don’t have unique opinions or anything special to offer. But over the years the DMs I’ve received have made it clear to me that I’m relatable and validating in a way other parents find helpful, and sometimes even stupid and self deprecating in a way others find funny. In kindergarten I took off my rainboot, filled it under a drainpipe, and dumped it on my head to make my peers like me so I guess I’ve always been inclined to diminish myself for a laugh 🙂

But despite the merits of the addictive app I love so much (lolz), I definitely need a break from it. I am feeling like my brain is too full, and when I log onto Instagram my brain thinks (buckle up…) “I need to bake that! I need to donate to that! How do I make more money so I can give to every single thing? Why is everyone traveling except me? I need those boots. I should get my kids that toy. I should do a sensory bin with them or I’m a bad parent! I should share this hack I learned so it can benefit other moms! I bet other parents aren’t on their phones in the middle of the day like I am. I should go for a run. Wowwww look at that fitness transformation! I should eat a calorie deficit to get lean. I wonder if I’m strong enough? I need to try that new beer! But maybe I should give up drinking. Should I do 75 Hard? Ohhh I should save that podcast for later.” It’s just so much noise at a time in my life when I feel called to find direction and seek stillness.

Despite the things I’ve tried (ie. making “rules” about when I can use Instagram, using the app only in black and white so my brain is less stimulated, limiting the accounts I follow) I can feel that the constant exposure to so many people, objects, lifestyles, ideas, traumas, deaths, renovations, travels, tips, strategies, and strangers is harming me. It’s contributing to an increase in my growing anxiety. It’s clouding and confusing me. And it’s taking a lot of time away from the people who are right in front of me.

I’m really just telling everyone so people don’t think I’ve died, which is what I assume whenever anyone goes cold turkey off Instagram for a while without explanation. I doubt many people notice when someone leaves Instagram. It always makes me chuckle when I come across a post that says “I’m back!” and I never noticed they were gone. There’s just so much static on the app that it’s impossible to notice when someone disappears (I’m picturing the Homer-in-the-hedge meme right now).

I’ll still be here though, writing in longer form and doing the odd blog post when I have a brand new, never-before-thought-of idea that has definitely been thought of by tons of people already! Byeeeee!!