The Best Thing I Did for my Mental Health in 2018

2018 was a year of change. I got my first boyfriend, changed career paths, moved from my childhood home to Buffalo, bought a new car and made some huge, life-altering decisions. But the best change was something seemingly small: I deleted the Instagram app from my phone.

When I started dating my guy at the beginning of the year I was rarely on my phone. The excitement of a new relationship was far more interesting than staring at a screen, and I would’ve rather talked to him anyway! I rarely posted anymore and it was such a drastic change that a friend I hadn’t spoken to in months texted me asking if I was okay because I was so ‘quiet” on Instagram.

As the months passed and the guy and I adjusted to each other I tried going back to my old Insta-habits. What I didn’t expect was for the appeal to be gone.

I was slowly realizing how much time I spent on Instagram. The “explore” page was endless and sucked up hours of my life without me noticing. But, thankfully, I did notice the effect it had on me. At the end of any mindless-scroll session or a quick swipe through my home page, I would log off and feel less-than.

Less than perfect because I wasn’t as skinny as her, or didn’t have the nicest clothes. Less-than because everyone seemed to be engaged or married or having babies and I was in the beginning of my first relationship. Less-than because I didn’t have any concrete plans for the future, but everyone was established in creative, fulfilling careers.

I knew that Instagram was full of everyone’s best moments, and hardly any of it mirrored reality, but the feelings persisted and I realized how it affected my life. I bought clothes I would never wear so I could “fit in.” I would commit and re-commit to diets that never stuck (I just can’t give up chips. Not gonna happen!). I pressured my boyfriend for a ring for the status and security, not because we were actually prepared for engagement or marriage.

Something had to change. I didn’t want to delete my account because Instagram was also a creative outlet and inspiration. I tried logging out so it was harder to use, but it saved my credentials so all I had to do was click login and it was game over.

Finally, I decided to delete the app “for good.” I kept my account, but made a deal with myself that I would only go on Instagram when I wanted to post something - which was rare, because the app’s absence made it easy to forget to take pictures.

Suddenly I had hours of my life back. I started reading again and immediately noticed less comparison in my life. I simply enjoyed myself and secretly thrilled about keeping so much of my life private. Instead of worrying about getting a great picture or posting a story. I would go days without even thinking about Instagram and when I would download the app to post a story or catch up, I spent far less time on it and got better at realizing when I needed to walk away.

Now I log on to Instagram once a day or every-other-day on Safari (which is an extremely annoying way to use it and limits what you can do), and download the app maybe twice per week for no longer than an hour. I still rarely think about posting and am happier overall.

As 2019 approaches, I encourage you to stop and consider your own social media use. What are the personal pros and cons? Make note of how you feel after time spent scrolling, and consider cutting down or cutting it out completely (I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts years ago and haven’t looked back). Social media is great, but only when it doesn’t subtly wreak havoc on our lives.