Instagram has been all-consuming for me lately. I haven't posted on it in two weeks, but I often spend over an hour on it each day. Just scrolling.
It's the first thing I do when I wake up and sometimes the last thing I do before bed. I claim that I do it to find "inspiration," but I mostly just end up comparing myself to others and feeling miserable.
What I need right now is to challenge myself to use this tool way more effectively. As in, I need to create an Instagram habit that won't make me sad.
The problem with Instagram
The largest problem I have is the Explore page. Instagram's algorithm tailors what you see there based on other images you've interacted with in the past. It's designed to be addictive, and I find myself tapping over to that page every time I open the app.
The other problem is this: not being an active participant on this platform makes me sad. But when it comes time to actually post something, I choke up. I worry that I'm not that interesting compared to the other users on the platform, so why bother?
But I do know that whenever I post something, even if it's just a photo of a particularly nice door, I feel connected and glad that I took the moment to appreciate something beautiful in my day.
So there are my two biggest issues: I spend too much time stalking people (when it will only make me feel insecure and jealous), and I'm not actually using the platform in any productive or feel-good way (I'm not even posting food pictures, people).
A simple rule to stop wasting time on Instagram
Before taking this rule into consideration, make sure you're happy with your home feed (follow new people who inspire you, and for heaven's sake unfollow anyone who makes you feel negatively). Because my first new rule for spending time on Instagram is this:
No more using the Explore page, unless I am actually waiting for something.
That means no more exploring new Instagram accounts from my bed, my desk, the toilet (you know you do it too), or the couch while I'm watching TV. I will allow myself the pleasure of scrolling through the Explore page if I'm waiting for an appointment or for a friend to join me for coffee, because that has a guaranteed end time.
This habit is going to take all of my strength to kick, but it will literally save me hours each week. I'll have so much room for activities!
Taking a proactive approach to Instagram
While my insecurities lie way beyond the scope of just a post about Instagram, I do notice that they subside a little bit when I'm an active user of platforms I enjoy.
Taking the time to share what I see makes me pay attention to the details around me more often. I'll notice tiny tile details on a set of steps, or the way the clouds are working together just right. It's a lovely way to bring a bit of mindfulness into my online life.
So while rule #1 has me avoiding the Explore page, rule #2 has everything to do with exploring:
Find something each day that brings you joy, and take a moment to photograph it.
Start building up your photo collection on your phone of things that make you happy. If you find yourself with more photos than you feel like posting, save them for when you find yourself mindlessly logging on.
Reflecting on a photo while you're editing it will remind you why that particular scene made you so happy. Plus, if you always have a few photos on deck to go on Instagram, you'll have more of a reason to actively use the platform instead of just scrolling mindlessly.
I know it's just a start, but hopefully these two rules will help you to use Instagram as a tool instead of as a distraction.
Keep an eye out for me on Instagram, because I know I'm going to be creating some happy memories in the coming weeks, and I'd love to share with you.