I have known Instagram better in a year without it than after eight years using it

I started using Instagram in June 2011. I remember perfectly where and with whom I was, and what was the first photo I uploaded. I found it a fun novelty because of how easy it is to create beautiful images (seen almost ten years later, they were horrible), and more than because of its own social network -we were four cats-, for being able to take those images to Twitter or Facebook, much more popular . Back then, Facebook was not yet the queen of global communications.

In December 2018 I decided to stop using Instagram and I went on to deactivate all Instagram notifications, take its icon to the last page of a remote folder and ban it from appearing in Siri’s application suggestions. He was there for a few months, in case I needed to contact someone (I write reports and any means of contact can be very useful), until I decided uninstall it completely. In between, years spending more and more time a day in this application.

I felt various causes to take this step. First of all, I didn’t like what this network had become. Second, I wanted to make more conscious use of technology, and Instagram often became a black hole for my attention: It was very difficult for me to allocate a daily time dedicated to using it and not exceed it by much. Even receiving notifications of new likes and their dopamine kicks made it difficult for me to focus on the important tasks. Third, I wanted to neutralize the effects that Instagram had had on my life for a long time. I’ll go with that later. Almost a year and a half later, I have learned more than ever about Instagram and what it takes to say goodbye to it.

Are you sure you want to delete ‘Instagram’?

In the first few weeks, maybe even months, I noticed that Instagram had become a habit that even reached muscle memory. I would take my iPhone out of my pocket and sometimes I didn’t even know exactly what I was going to do with it. It was then that I noticed that I had assumed that my thumb was going to press the Instagram icon to lose myself looking at stories, publications, and the biggest spiral of unproductiveness of all time: the ‘Explore’ section. How many hours wasted in that magnifying glass and that infinite scroll.

Instagram became a spiral that captured my attention, something that I wanted to stop

Instagram had replaced various distractions. I didn’t even remember what was the last game I installed on the iPhone, possibly most iOS games have a casual vocation, for downtime, and Instagram was filling those hours completely.

Then I understood that Instagram was no longer exactly a social network, but much more. It was basically an advertising medium, both from brands that pay to appear in our stories and from people who constantly seek to show off, either to find a partner or a better job. The purity of yesteryear, where it was simply sought to convey to our acquaintances the news of our life, had been lost.

Instagram even unconsciously forces us to expose our best face there. The triumph, the progress in the gym, the book on our bedside table, the meals in idyllic places. But not the one in real life, where we all have problems, guilty pleasures, and imperfections. Although the latter is beginning to have a perverse turn: that of sadness turned into cultural capital. The one who twists conversations about mental health for their own benefit.

The arrival in 2016 of the stories was key to finish hooking us. When the ephemeral content arrived, it did not take so much editing work to perfect the result: with something spontaneous it could already be used. And so we went from portraying specific moments to exposing our lives periodically. And in many cases, to put a barrier between our life experiences and ourselves: if we do not record this on Instagram it will be as if we had not lived it.

During the months before goodbye, I wondered if shelving was going to mean that I was left without social contact with the people I cared about, and even more so, living far from most of them. The consequence finally went in another direction: Knowing absolutely nothing about these people made me start writing more of my own free will. I didn’t know that an old friend was pregnant until the seventh month, but when she told me about it, we talked for a long time. With Instagram I would have found out as soon as she had made it public, but I find it hard to believe that she would have exchanged something more than a “congratulations” with a couple of emojis with her.

Socializing more without social media

Paradoxically, my absence from mainstream social networks has made me socialize again more. Browsing through Instagram, I had an illusion of completeness, “I am already up to date on what is happening to my people”, which did not generate incentives for me to deepen. Like someone who watches a TED Talk and walks away thinking they already know everything there is to know about marketing.

Of course, I realized that I had spent too much time looking for people that I did not care the least. Those people that the aura of Instagram induces us to consider, but once out of it, we find that we have not even missed knowing about them. And yet before we felt that certain need to be aware of his life. Or the little piece they want to teach.

Ultimately, I was falling into something more painful: reviewing my old publications to archive them and leaving that past out of the reach of onlookers, I noticed how for years he had prioritized aesthetics for the photo on duty when deciding certain plans or destinations. The obsession to photograph ourselves in perfect and original places has ended up annoying urbanizations that overnight have been full of people taking photos. And they are not the only ones.

The desire to turn Instagram into an exaggeratedly pleasant place has ended up being hostile

I have met people who have spent their vacations in Bali exclusively to take a photo with mystical perch in the Lempuyang Temple, a photo that by the way has ended up being discovered as one more hoax. The tourism of likes. I didn’t go to that extreme, but I could have and fell into similar traps.

It is curious that the efforts to be exclusive and original when adorning our accounts has led us to publish identical photos in droves. Facebook has wanted to make Instagram such a pleasant place that it has ended up being artificial and hostile. The decision to get off that ship had a certain social toll, but I have no regrets at all. At least TikTok has emerged as an alternative to Instagram that poses a paradigm shift: on Instagram you are who you dream of being, on TikTok you are the shabby and honest version of who has lost the filters.