Get Instagram off your phone and thank me later

Get Instagram off your phone and thank me later

Before Christmas, I felt that my year-round media consumption was finally picking up. It was like I hit my annual content quota and suddenly felt overwhelmed by the sea of ​​media I was swimming in. InstagramIn the last days of 2022. Almost immediately I felt the need to delete the app iPhone. So I did, thinking the best way to end the year was to leave the app and give my mind a rest.

This was not the first time that I needed space from the constantly swirling content that I consume without noticing. It wasn’t the first time I deleted Instagram from my phone. For at least four years, I’ve lived in a cycle of overusing the platform, trying to create some distance, then craving digital content, and finally returning to the app — with the (fragile) resolve to have a healthier relationship. this time with him.

We all know the dangers of spending too much time on social media, but recent research makes the problems even clearer. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey (PDF) in February, which found that 57% of teenage girls experience persistent sadness or hopelessness, up from 36% in 2011.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has explored how the widespread use of social media, particularly Instagram, has played a significant role in the mental health epidemic among teenage girls, and how studies that claim the effect is simply correlational—not causal—he believes that in, and illustrated through an analysis of social media studies in his book Substack, After Babel – predictions are wrong.

“By 2015, it’s commonplace for 12-year-old girls to spend hours every day taking selfies, editing selfies, and posting them for friends, enemies, and strangers to comment on, while spending hours every day scrolling through other girls’ and fabulously wealthy female celebrities with (apparently) extremely superior bodies and lives,” Haidt writes in her book Substack. “The hours the girls spent on Instagram each day took away from sleep, exercise, and time with friends and family. We wondered what would happen to them?”

Did social media open up my circle of friends and allow me to further explore my interests when I was 15 and constantly on Instagram? Yes. Did I find some of my best friends on the app in college? Also yes. Has the app’s prevalence in my life made things better? Looking back on my teenage years, I can’t say that I did. Did it make it worse? I do not know.

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But what is certain is that Instagram, when it’s on my phone, is like an annoying friend who won’t stop bothering me. It’s constantly asking you to communicate, to share the details of your life so that your followers can see the sweet, sweet dopamine rush, even when you don’t feel like it. You’re encouraged to live your life publicly on the app, and while there are benefits to building and nurturing a strong online community, some things don’t always need to be shared.

Sharing everything online can end up alienating you from your closest friends and family by providing your loved ones with an impersonal form of communication. Instead of sharing a photo of dinner with your mom, you can post it in the app. Yes, your mom will probably still see it, but so will the guy you went on an awkward date with in 2019 and the girl who cuts your hair.

I needed a break to reconnect with my friends and loved ones and get away from the digital world, if only for a few weeks. Knowing that I’ve struggled to stay away from Instagram when I’ve gone cold turkey in the past, I decided to try something different.

This time, instead of ditching the app entirely, my plan was to spend less time on Instagram than I had been (which I estimate means an hour or two a day, which quite disgustingly translates into hundreds of hours a year). To set the limit, I placed the app far away – similar to placing a bag of chocolate chips higher in the cupboard to reduce the temptation to snack. I deleted the app from my phone but kept it on my laptop which made it difficult to access.

“Browser loophole”

If someone does not have a social media addiction problem, they can simply delete the app from their phone. However, every time I tried to break away from Instagram, I successfully stayed away for a few days, and then started relying on what I call a “browser loophole,” which is accessing Instagram through my own rather than the app. browser. This defeats the purpose of removing Instagram from my phone, but in the moment it seemed to make sense and like it wasn’t cheating. Let me repeat that: I have problems!

Making Instagram unavailable

So how did I close the browser loophole? Luckily, a few days before I deleted the app from my phone, I read the CNET article on clearing iPhone cache. The article notes how clearing the cache can free up storage, so that’s what I did initially. But then I realized that deleting cookies and website data can also delete the account data stored in the browser. If I want to create an additional barrier to accessing Instagram, I can delete the app’s data so I have to re-enter my username and password every time. That way, when I was tempted to access Instagram through my browser and when I had to log back into my account information, I had time to contemplate a potential defeat I wasn’t ready for.

Why does the browser version of Instagram help reduce my Instagram usage?

In addition to making Instagram more difficult to access, the browser version on my laptop is more complicated than the mobile version, which is another deterrent to extended use. For example, it is possible to publish content in the web version, but it requires a little more work than in the mobile version.

For now, my plan is working. After almost two months with this setup, the urge to reflexively check Instagram on my phone has stopped. I access it via my laptop a few times a day, read updates from my favorite recipe developers and meme accounts, then shut down the computer and do something else.

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The instant availability and instant gratification of social media apps is one of the main reasons why my relationship with them has become so addictive. I often fall for Instagram and other apps because they’re logistically easy on my phone, and once I’m there, everything I could ever want is available to me – the amazing food videos, the memes of Harry’s mess. Styles is on. Not to mention the rush of validation I get from posting on the app and interacting with others.

As I wrote before, it is unrealistic to expect young people to leave their social networks. Our generation has been raised on digital reinforcement, immersed in online communities, and trained to be informed about everything that’s going on. I think my new approach is more realistic.

I have no intention of permanently quitting or completely detoxing. But thanks to this switch, I only spend a handful of minutes a day visiting Instagram, which is much healthier than waking up to it, checking it in the crumb of workday downtime, scrolling through it on the subway or pulling it out. social gatherings like me when he was easily accessible.

Why it works

You may want to stay in touch with friends, family, or your favorite meme accounts, but you want to reduce your reliance on social media apps and your dependence on these platforms. By creating a few simple obstacles, you can fundamentally change your habits.

Will I ever download the Instagram mobile app again? Maybe. But for now it works. And if you need to take a step back from social media, it might just work for you, too.

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