'I was addicted to the platform'

That time I ACTUALLY deleted Instagram

A smartphone screen displays icons of social networks, with Instagram in the middle.
Photo: Pexels

I had wanted to delete Instagram from my phone for years. It seemed impossible, as well as pointless, and painful. The feasibility of my plan seemed scarce. I even went as far as to delete the app from my phone a couple of times — every week — when I felt my mental health plummeting. Yet, I would bounce back into it as my mind craved the scrolling, the surveillance of my friends' curated lives, as well as my own.

It actually took me years to finally stop using Instagram and I am not sure how it happened. I now can admit that I was addicted to the platform, not because it added to my life, but rather because it filled my time with blank space. So, I had to learn how to fill that void and the discomfort that followed was undeniable.

I liked the noise that Instagram made because it distracted me from my thoughts. But my thoughts were not even painful, I simply returned to Instagram because it removed the responsibility implied in deciding to do something with my time; freedom was terrifying.

After trying around fifty times, I managed to delete Instagram and have not gone on it for months. That is unprecedented for me. I wish I could remember how I did it and why this time my effort led to a different outcome. I do believe that a big part of me wanted to go back to the entertainment forms that I relied on when I was younger: reading, walking, running, and contemplating. Remembering the happiness and sense of pride I felt made me want to regain those feelings. The process of adjustment has not been too simple, though, as it has involved what I see as a rewiring of my brain. Still, there have been a couple of things I have noticed; some awkward, scary and embarrassing thoughts that are hard for me to admit.

When I ate gorgeous food or went to a new city, I suddenly lacked the motivation to capture moments. What was the point? I suddenly had to live my life for me, the beauty was to be found by me — there was no ulterior motive because I did not have to justify my life to my friends and acquaintances on Instagram. I am trying to learn to enjoy experiences that I used to label as “aesthetic” or “poetic” due to the presence of a watcher evaluating my experience. I have now become the sole judge of what is valuable to me and, with this increased sense of agency, I have discovered a new sense of freedom. I used to believe that I needed social media, even though I did not even enjoy being a part of it. Now I am happy knowing that there is no need for me to engage in something that was destroying my sense of ownership over my life.