Since 2011, I’ve had access to the social media app Instagram. I’ve had my ups and downs with this platform. In the beginning, I loved the app, partly because it was a new thing. Social media, in general, was a newer thing back in 2011. But showcasing whatever I wanted to reveal in little squares was different. It was cool. I could create my gallery all with a photograph and the push of a button.
I had a large following years ago, and then I decided it wasn’t for me. As a fashion blogger with a penchant for vintage, the fast fashion that was—and still is being promoted across this platform—irked and irritated me. I had a foot in this arena (and one foot out), and it was fully becoming something I didn’t like. So I restarted my account with a much smaller audience of like-minded “slow fashion” individuals.
Fast forward to 2023, and I was getting that urge again; that invisible pull to get away from the Instagram life—post, wait for likes, like others, and wonder whether people like your post. I was already in the process of downsizing my work life. Having been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, I needed less “stress” in my life. So minimalism was going full throttle—less work, less stuff, less stress.
My closet was the most minimal it’s ever been. My house was purged. Even a collection of dinnerware that I had been collecting for years was telling me it was time to let go. I got rid of excess paperwork and went through all my files, all my drawers, my books, everything. My house was closing in on minimalist perfection. And this is all with two kids, a husband, and a dog.
But was my social media minimal? If I really needed to destress my life, this minimalist push needed to be done everywhere. Could I downsize my social media including Instagram?
I started looking at my social media apps. What could I do without? While Instagram was my choice of social app, I wondered whether I could live without it. Did it really have that much of a hold on me? Were these “friends” I had connected with (and followers) friends I couldn’t live without?
I decided to find out. I got rid of apps I never used. I even started going through my photos. That is a huge undertaking: what to keep, what to delete. I mean, it’s all fun and games to have 5,000 photos on your phone until you realize you never even look at 1% of them.
This was a great start. But it still left me with Instagram. So I did what any normal Instagram addict should do: I decided to go cold turkey. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving the app (except my husband) and left. Anyone I really needed to get a hold of—anyone who was truly important and needed in my life—I could get a hold of them off the app. With a real-life phone call, email, or text. Not just a “like” on their latest vacation photo.
For two months, I lived Instagram-free. It wasn’t even difficult at first. Probably because the novelty of not having to look at my phone every hour and see what was happening on Instagram was refreshing. So this is what it used to be like back in the good old days! We talked to people, we did meaningful things. We were authentic with ourselves because we weren’t trying to promote an image for an audience that only existed digitally.
Going Instagram-free reminded me that less—having less, owning less, being involved in less—was so much more in everything. I woke up in the morning, and the phone wasn’t what I turned to first. Instead, I turned to God and prayed, or I turned to the first cup of coffee and stepped outside to listen to the birds sing their morning melodies.
Getting rid of Instagram reminded me that real life—a real life worth living—does not revolve around a digital life. It doesn’t revolve around a make-believe world. My life also has value when I focus on what’s physically in my life: my family, my friends, and doing what I love. If I have all of that, it changes the impetus of the daily 24 hours I’m given. My day isn’t about making myself “appear” put together on social media, but instead about being put together in real life.
For two months I lived without Instagram. And it was glorious. It was freeing. But I did have a few friends and family on that app whose latest life events I missed seeing. So I opened a new account. But this time, it would be smaller and more private than ever before. I have close friends and family in it that I love and want there. This account is for me; I post only for myself; I follow only who I want and whose feeds I want to see. This is the mindset that I would’ve balked at a decade ago. But I am content now.
I am content with less.
With my minimalist life, I feel wonderful. With a small Instagram account, I feel free—free to live a meaningful and full life by releasing things that didn’t serve me. I’ve found a way to balance social media with my life that fits the way it should in a healthy and authentic way … by letting go of what I thought I needed and keeping only what edifies me.