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Should I quit Instagram for good? I asked 3 people who did to see if life is better on the other side

IMAGE VIA WILDFLOWER CASES

WORDS BY SONIA BLAIR

“Honestly, every time I go on it now I feel really bored.”

Allow me to set the scene. It was day five of lockdown. The mid-coast suburbs of Adelaide, SA. With my supply of books depleted, alone at home and having reached my threshold of Rupaul’s Drag Race for the time being, Instagram was suddenly my best friend. Scrolling, drafting, adding to my ‘saved’ folder too fast for the algorithm of suggestions to keep up. Suddenly, it hit me. What even is the point of this app?

As a tween, I was the content queen, running around with a camera documenting my friends and me at school, parties and, of course, at the local shopping centre because what else is a 13 year old Australian to do during school holidays? In my spare time, a favourite activity was mood boarding with clippings from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. Naturally, Instagram was the new digital extension of this and it suddenly became part of my daily life.


Looking for more thought-provoking reads? Try our Life section.


While the app can be handy for finding things – new restaurants, clothing labels, artists, hidden spots to visit on trips away – and genuinely connecting with close friends, one cannot ignore the feeling that it’s slowly but surely becoming obsolete. And yet, as I sat on my phone at 3.47 pm on that fifth day of the SA lockdown, I still couldn’t put it down and started to question how I ever could part with something so intrinsically linked to my daily routine.

At a loss, I did what any writer would do: I got researching and found three creatives who have either quit the app for good or come back from a hiatus feeling refreshed, with a healthy attitude towards using Instagram. Feeling stuck in the scrolling void yourself? Read on to learn how you too could pull yourself out of the Instagram vortex.

Isabelle Truman, currently back on Instagram but with self-imposed usage limits

How are you filling your time now you’re (mainly) off IG?

This is quite embarrassing to admit, but I’ve been watching a lot of Love Island, which likely isn’t much better for your mental health than Instagram. Though in all seriousness, the show does help me to switch off at night and think about nothing except whether two 21-year-olds are going to get off with each other, which is like meditation to my constantly overstimulated mind and a completely different feeling than what IG doom scrolling used to provoke. I definitely have found myself focusing more on work during the day too, without the constant pull to look at my phone. I’m feeling a lot more confident in myself, my own work and my own ideas, too, because there are not a million other distractions. I’m not constantly looking at other people my age and thinking, ‘Wait, should I be doing that?!’

Other than simply for the social aspect, Instagram is a place for professionals to share their recent work. With the app seemingly on the out, do you think this opens the door for a return to personal blogs, similar to the recent rise in popularity of newsletters? 

One of the things I always struggled with when it comes to Instagram is how much it flattens your personality. I look really boring and work-obsessed if you go to my profile because I focus it on my writing and am followed by a lot of industry people, which means posting oftentimes translates to commissions (and money). But that’s the tiniest part of my actual personality. I also struggled with the self-promotion of it a lot. My friend Grace just wrote a really great piece about the struggle of feeling embarrassed to share your work (and worried you’re perpetuating the very thing that you hate IG for: making others feel shit), while at the same time, knowing it’s important for work.

At least now that I’m limiting my usage, I’m only success bombing work, and not success bombing about my cute holiday in Greece, too. I love that newsletters are making a comeback as it makes so much sense for writers to create a space where they can write exactly how they want to and create their own community. It also makes sense to have work separated from IG, but LinkedIn is so stale! 

Have you found yourself missing the app and are you taking fewer photos? 

I don’t miss the app at all, but I do want to figure out a middle ground. There are people who genuinely want to stay updated with your life, and that’s a great part of social media, especially when my friends and family are a world away. Recently, I’ve been sending huge photo drops to people via WhatsApp, but who knows, if I can keep to my screen time limit, I might start posting the odd fun pic again soon to break up the boring work stuff. Everything in moderation! 

For those seeking to pull ourselves out of the vortex, what are your top tips for quitting the app? 

I think you need to go cold turkey otherwise you’ll make up excuses to pop on quickly (all the time). I had it completely deleted for around a month, then experimented with having it there but removed from my home screen. Now, I have a screen time limit of half an hour per day to ensure I don’t get sucked back into the vortex. But honestly, every time I go on it now I feel really bored. I think (I hope!) the spell is broken!

Annie Worley, back on Instagram but with a new focus

What inspired you to get off of the app? 

With restrictions last year, I found myself with a lot more spare time than usual. I was staying up late as I didn’t have to rush anywhere the next morning, spending way too much time mindlessly scrolling and this led me to a yucky comparison spiral. I knew I needed a break as it was impacting how I felt about myself. I also really wanted to try new activities with my newfound spare time, like sewing, drawing and cooking but my habit of constantly refreshing Instagram or comparing myself to other people doing these activities was getting in the way of giving it a go.

How did you fill your time when off IG?

I loved practising drawing, painting, sewing and cooking. It was nice to try all these activities I had wanted to set aside the time for. It was also amazing to not feel the need to share them all, so I could make mistakes and it wouldn’t matter. I significantly reduced my screen time and sometimes even felt a little bored which was a new feeling to have since any spare time was usually taken up by a scroll.

Instagram is a hub for like-minded communities, allowing users to find people with common interests. Did you miss this element of the app and if so, were you able to find it elsewhere?

I really missed it! I missed seeing new and exciting creatives posting amazing ideas every day, getting inspired from all around the globe. I tried to use Pinterest and YouTube to fill the void, but it just felt a lot less personable than Instagram and I found I kept on seeing the same pins over and over.

Ultimately, why did you return to IG?

I missed the connection. I missed seeing what other brands were doing and what was new, exciting and next! I’ve set more limits now with how I use Instagram and who I follow or don’t follow and it made a massive difference to the comparison trap I felt last year.

Georgina Richardson, no personal Instagram account and uses it for inspiration only

How are you spending your time now you’re off Instagram?

I don’t think my screen time has really changed, I think I spend more time on YouTube and news websites now. Overall, I feel more present, like when I used to watch TV I might scroll on Instagram at the same time. Now, I don’t.

Do you miss the community element of Instagram and being able to find people who enjoy the same content as yourself and if so, have you been able to find it elsewhere?

I haven’t completely given up the app. I have deleted my personal account, but I use an old interior design-focused account that my sister and I previously used which was dormant. This way I get all the lovely things about IG. I mainly use the app for inspiration in design and art.

While off the app, have you found yourself having withdrawals from the fun of posting or taking fewer photos?

Over the last few years, I stopped posting on the app. I found it hard to assign a positive motive for posting things. I would say I take fewer photos, but [I] take them just for myself and for the last few years every year I will print out my photos and put them in an album. I really loved going through my parents’ albums as a kid, so I hope people open them up when they come over if they want to see our recent trips – not that they are any at the moment.

What are your top tips for getting off of the app?

I have deleted it many times, but the most recent time was slightly different as I had my partner change the password for me. Like I said, while I haven’t completely deleted the app, I took a lot of advice from professionals about making the application work for you, making sure you are following the accounts that give you joy!

For advice on how to use Instagram in a healthier way, try this.

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