Earlier this year, I decided to mute my notifications for Facebook. I used to spend hours each day scrolling through my feed after receiving an alert that someone is going to an event or had liked my comment. Suddenly, I wasn’t getting that hit to check my phone. My habit loop had begun to break. Six months later, I barely use Facebook.
After my relationship ended, I started dating a guy who didn’t have snap chat. At first I was shocked. Who doesn’t have snap chat? I tried to convince him to download it. How else would I send him cute selfies? He wouldn’t budge. Ugh. Now I had to physically send him a photograph. But permanent selfies are a bit too risky and I didn’t have time to get the perfect shot. So the narcissist in me took a holiday and never returned. Since I didn’t have a guy to impress on Snapchat, I stopped using it. Another habit loop broken.
With Facebook and Snapchat out of my life, Instagram became my go to. I’d heard of people deleting their Instagram because they were left feeling depressed after seeing the glorified lives and perfect bodies of so many models and celebrities. But I wasn’t convinced Instagram was that bad. I followed inspirational pages! My feed wasn’t full of hot influencers since I consciously kept it like that! And besides, I am living overseas- aren’t I obliged to keep people updated through photos?
But I recently learned that it has been affecting my life in ways I didn’t even realise. Firstly, I felt as though the guy I was dating needed to like my photo in order for me to feel validated. When he liked my photo, I felt happy. If he didn’t, I felt sad. When I saw he liked a photo of a girl on the beach in her bikini it completely shocked me. Was he interested in other people? Was he interested in her? Turns out it was simply a friend from back home. Yet trying to decipher what it meant ended up ruining my relationship with him.
Another issue that brought unnecessary stress was the fact that my ex boyfriend’s best friend still followed me. I would see her watching my stories, which left me feeling uneasy. When I went on the holiday originally booked with my ex, I felt uncomfortable that she saw everything I posted. God, I hope she isn’t showing him my pictures. And then the issue of dating a new guy: I felt like I couldn’t upload a photo or video with him in it in case it got back to my ex. Would they think I am trying to make him jealous? Would he be hurt if he saw I had moved on? All I wanted to do was be able to freely post whatever I was doing, but Instagram is so fabricated that sometimes it is impossible to tell how ‘great’ their life really is.
In Winter I went to a large music festival in a small town surrounded by the mountains. After dancing to Pendulum in the mosh pit for a while, we snaked our way out to find a drink station, parched as hell. After gulping back glasses of water, we gathered ourselves again and began heading back in. But on our way we walked past a girl who collapsed, far too intoxicated. My boyfriend picked her up and we spent the next half an hour trying to help her, despite her being so white-girl wasted that she denied needing any help. The next day, my friend found her on Instagram while looking at pictures from the festival. She had posted photos of her outfit from the beginning of the night, captioned, “Amazing night at Mardi Gras!” My jaw dropped. I could not believe how she had glamorised it.
But I witnessed it again while travelling through Hawaii. I met a twenty-one year old Canadian who lived through her phone. She had to capture everything. Sitting next to her on the bus, she would lean over me to try to take photos of the same damn scenery over and over. In a moving vehicle with cars and buildings in the way, how great is that mountain shot really going to be, love? Instead of swimming in the deliciously warm aqua blue ocean with us, she spent her time taking selfies on the beach. When I eventually saw her Instagram, I read her bio: travel far enough until you meet yourself. But are you ever really going to meet yourself when you spend your holidays looking through a lens?
Ninety per cent of the time I love my life. But I don’t want my friends seeing my New Zealand photos and wishing they were living my reality. Similarly, I don’t want to see bloggers’ posts about travelling the world, making me wish I were doing that too. I am already living abroad in a country I love! Why can’t I just be grateful for that?
Ironically, an Instagram post inspired me to delete my Instagram account. A kiwi girl I followed, Indi Leishman, posted about her podcast. I didn’t even know she had one, so I went to check it out. I ended up listening to episode 12 of The Lineup where Indi was talking about her experience of deleting her Instagram for almost one month. They laid it bare. It’s true the app makes us feel shit and takes up so much unnecessary time. So what value does it truly bring?
I was sold. I had to delete it. Now.
Oh! But it’s my one-year anniversary in New Zealand next week. I was going to make a post to thank all my new friends here for the amazing experiences and memories. I can’t delete it yet, can I?
A second later, I removed that thought from my mind. I never made a post about moving to New Zealand. I never made a six-month post either. Everyone knows I’m living here, so why do I need to put something on social media? I am throwing a party in two weeks to celebrate my anniversary with my friends, so why not actually thank them in person?
But what about all my photos from Hawaii I have yet to share? I could probably put them to good use on my blog instead. Which brings me to my next point: I have been severely neglecting my writing, usually only writing once per week and not even posting it on my blog. So now, by deleting an app that’s consuming my time and creating negative thoughts, I can use that time to follow my passion. And god, that makes me happy.
By deleting the app, I no longer have to feel pressure to quickly edit my photos and video footage from my holiday. I don’t feel like I need a perfect body for my future Instagram photos. And I don’t feel like I need to buy a new phone that I can’t afford, simply because my phone is old and takes photos that aren’t Insta-worthy.
A wave of relief.
From now on, I’ll spend my time doing what I actually want to do: hanging out with friends without checking my phone, listening to podcasts, writing, reading and seeing this beautiful country while I am still here. Instead of using a fabricated social media platform, I’ll be posting my photos here on my blog, accompanied by my raw, truthful stories that empower and inspire rather than degrade and depress people.