I’ve been off Instagram for the past 40 days as a Lenten observance. It was becoming an addiction for me and I knew a break would be a good first step.
I’ve written about the false sense of reality the the beautiful photos on Instagram can convey. As an artistic person who appreciates beauty (ENFJ mostly), I like that Instagram is uncluttered and beautiful and gives me refreshing little breaks in my day.
However (and it’s a big however) I admittedly follow some accounts that are more like ads than anything else. If you tap on the photo you get at least six links of places to buy things. A lot of them unashamedly even hashtag #ad. There’s no beating around the bush: everything is for sale and we’re selling more than just clothing and home decor.
It’s an unattainable perfect lifestyle.
As an aspiring minimalist who is trying to run the other direction from materialism, it doesn’t make sense for me to willingly expose myself to ads that leave me wanting more. There’s enough unavoidable advertising in life already. I don’t need to go out looking for it.
The workout accounts I follow to “inspire” me are possibly worse than the ads. They are selling me the idea of a perfect body. That if I work hard enough, I’ll have those muscles and those abs.
It’s not inspiring as much as it is causing me to compare myself.
It’s all in vain. I workout plenty when it’s a nice day and I want to be outside. I go for a run when I need to be somewhere and don’t want to take the car. These images aren’t motivating for me as much as they are causing me to focus on the superficial. I work out for my health and mental wellness – not out of pure vanity.
And the food accounts. I enjoyed looking at perfectly-posed food photos when I first started my whole-food journey. But they get old after a while. I’ve changed how I view food these past several years. I no longer see it as a pride thing – something that must photograph well. Now I think of food as fuel, and it isn’t always pretty. A green smoothie or a bowl of lentils isn’t the most photogenic thing on earth. What’s cool is how it fuels my body and gives me the energy to run and move. What’s cool is how it satiates my hunger and allows me to do the things that actually do matter.
Yes, food can be gorgeous and sometimes we want to celebrate that. But really, at the end of the day, food isn’t something to idolize – just like possessions and body image. It is something that helps us live life – no phone required.
Then there’s the travel accounts. On the one hand it’s a way to see the world through someone else’s eyes. On the other hand it’s a way to feel inadequate and like my own life is boring and dull. But you know what I’ve realized lately? That my own life at home with my husband and two kids is incredibly fulfilling. I don’t have to be on the go constantly to live life to the fullest. While there is nothing inherently wrong with gorgeous travel photos, the message is that the meaning of life is on the road.
I beg to differ. I a believer in the power of staying. Short-term adventures and adrenaline rushes are cool but they can’t compare to true friendships and commitment and growth over time – even if the day-to-day isn’t the most exciting and my photos aren’t all of mountain ranges and scenic vistas.
Then there’s the subject of time-wasting. Instagram does little to add real value to my life. It’s a time waster. I scroll and I absorb. That’s all. It’s somewhat like a trance. I’m not 100% against screens but if I’m going to be on a screen shouldn’t I at least be connecting with people or getting work done? Food for thought.
One last thing I’ve wrestled with: the ol’ “Am I doing this merely because I want to post it later?” I don’t think it’s authentic to focus on the photos more than the moment (and like I said, I love photos!) I can honestly say that since my Instagram break I have been more authentic in my photos and my life. My motivation to do things has nothing to do with the number of “likes” and “reactions.” I’m not sure how much it was influenced by this before…all I know is that when I’m not “allowed” to post, it keeps me honest. It’s ironic how un-authentic some of those #liveauthentic photos can be, huh?
So what should I do? I could unfollow all of these accounts…I could deactivate my whole account…or I could just keep taking my break and see what happens. I’ve still used Facebook this month, but Facebook doesn’t tempt me as much as Instagram because of the clutter, fake news, and ugly memes. There is just less appeal to me…and Facebook does have the unique capacity to connect me to friends in real life through events and group postings.
I don’t doubt that there are benefits to social media. I love blogging, for instance! Right now I’m just trying to find the balance where I can reap the benefits of social media without all the baggage.
I’m not into online debates.
I’m not into consumerist-driven ads and sites.
I believe contentment is found when you quiet that noise and are grateful for what’s in front of you.
I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the matter. How do you balance social media and real life? How do you avoid wasting time on your phone while still reaping the benefits of being connected?