Just writing the title of this post makes me realise how ridiculous it is that a week without Instagram is so notable but as I quickly (and rather alarmingly) realised during the past week, it truly is just that. Last Friday, three days after updating my iPhone and being introduced to the eye-opening ‘Screen Time’ feature, I decided to delete the Instagram and Facebook apps. I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to re-download the apps until at least Sunday evening. Three days without social media? The world wasn’t going to implode, adorable photos of nephews and nieces and a blogger’s current beauty favourites could definitely wait for a few days.
So how did it go? Here are my thoughts from the days that followed.
Day One: Friday
The first day was going to be a pretty good test: I’d just arrived home from a bumpy overnight flight, ridiculously tired but trying to stay awake until the evening. I spent a good chunk of the day lounging on the sofa and what I noticed the most was how often I would pick up my phone to go on Instagram whether that was during an ad break or when my attention on the TV would start to wander. Each time on autopilot I’d unlock it and go to open the app before realising what I’d done, putting my phone back down and focussing back on what I was watching. I was also fully engrossed in reading The Handmaid’s Tale which really helped in filling my time with something interesting (a much recommended read).
Day Two: Saturday
Whilst a weekend lie-in would normally involve catching up on posts and stories, I turned instead to my new found pastime, the Guardian website. During the day I became more and more proud of myself for disconnecting from the social media world; a true feat for someone with minimal willpower. I am someone who will eat the whole packet of biscuits in the cupboard and who will take the shortcut on a run…
Day Three: Sunday
At this point I was within hours of allowing myself to log back on to Instagram but what struck me more and more was that I didn’t want to. The thought of having to scroll through all of the posts that I’d missed and sit there for at least five minutes watching the various stories of those that I was following (the majority of which are bloggers or celebrities i.e. people I didn’t know personally at all) felt like effort. Perhaps, in only 48 hours my mind had cleared a little of the details of other people’s lives, of the fact that if I truly cared I should be a vegan, that I should shop here or watch such-and-such a video on Youtube.
With the working week only one sleep away I wondered what it would be like to cut Instagram out during the week in addition to the weekend?
Day Four: Monday
I know I’m guilty of quickly flicking onto social media as the working day starts to drag so it was helpful that I couldn’t be tempted to hop on to it and bear the judgement of my colleague who not-so-subtly likes to comment how much young people go on their phones these days. Thankfully that particular comment came the same day my niece was due to be born so I was completely valid in checking my phone every five minutes; we’ll just ignore the other 364 days…
I knew that the most interesting difference would come when I returned home from work. Often I’ll arrive home, have a snack and catch up on the day’s Instagram stories. I’ll be honest and say that actually is one of my favourite parts of the day, I feel so sad writing that. But normally following that initial catch up I’ll start procrastinating from my evening plans and burrow myself into an Instagram hole, stalking 2016 posts of z-list celebrities that I really couldn’t care less about. Anyway, this day without the 20 minute Insta-trap to fall into, I was so much more productive. The dishes were washed, washing was put on and the Sainsbury’s shop happened long before checkout rush hour, it was a mundane Monday miracle.
Days Five to Eight
The improved productivity continued throughout the week which was perfect because I had quite a few evening plans I had to get to anyway.
But towards the end of the week I started to realise that the disconnection from social media was starting to make me feel just that: disconnected. I didn’t particularly mind missing out on posts from Instagram personalities but I missed seeing posts from family and friends: I missed brilliantly cringey posts from my dad, pictures of my cute nephew, my boyfriend’s pun-filled captions, etc. My sister told me to watch someone’s funny Insta-story involving a woeful Bake Off attempt but I couldn’t.
As the weekend rolled back around and I had more time on my hands, I wanted that bit more entertainment, something else to fill my time. I had taken to crawling through the BBC News and Guardian homepages and I can confirm that even in this super connected world, they don’t change that often. Whilst I was still catching up with bloggers on Youtube, that’s not where the majority of their content is. Instagram is the most used social media platform, for access to mass entertainment on whatever scale, you have to be one of the mass.
I had survived eight days, 5 days longer than my initial challenge, maybe it was time to log back on.
Day Nine: Logging back on
It was Saturday morning and I tapped onto the app store, had to reset my password because I set it about 5 years ago and immediately went to the list of people I was following. I asked myself a couple of questions: Did I truly enjoy their content? Was it adding to my life? Did I really need their life updates first thing in the morning and last thing at night? I removed about 15 people from the list (there was only about 50 in the first place) and then started catching up on all that I’d missed.
Twenty minutes after re-downloading Instagram, I deleted the app again. I felt like the increased space between me and my phone screen was definitely a good thing (my average screen time had reduced by 50% compared to the previous week) but I didn’t yet feel confident that I had the willpower to limit time spent on there myself. I’m still undecided what approach I want to take to social media and I think continuing this personal experiment for a while longer will give me the space to make a more informed and realistic decision. So for now I have a much cleaner kitchen, I’m ploughing through my reading list and my phone battery is lasting that tiny bit longer. Thanks Apple.