Now that most of us have celebrated Easter, that means we return to our habits and reintroduce whatever we gave up for Lent. Every year since the beginning of high school I’ve given up meat. It’s traditional and has sustainable applications, but I do it for a more personal reason: to challenge myself. In general, giving up something for Lent affirms faith and is deeply symbolic.
However, as someone who was raised Catholic but holds personal beliefs higher than traditional faith, forty days is a good time period to take up a personal goal. Think of it as a do-over of your new year’s resolution with low commitment. This year, I tried something entirely different in addition to no meat: giving up Instagram.
Yeah, yeah we all love Instagram. It’s congruent with the twenty-first century. Yet, whenever I caught myself mindlessly scrolling for hours on end and grew annoyed when people asked why I was always on my phone, I felt disappointed in myself. So, I decided to try a little experiment: no Instagram for 40 days.
Deleted the app right then and there at the stroke of midnight on Ash Wednesday. For the first week or so, I found myself instinctively going to the app’s vacant residence with nothing to click on. Without actively seeking out Instagram, my muscle memory still craved it when my body sat idle - as if going on Instagram was a reflex to when I wasn’t occupied.
Instead of constantly refreshing my IG feed, I turned to Snapchat. I’ve always used Snapchat a lot more than Instagram but now I would flip through the screens as soon as I sent a snap awaiting a reply.
Totally illogical, but I felt involved in my friends lives but still tethered to my phone. The whole point was to step away from technology and be involved in the real world. So I started meeting people for lunch and dinner to catch up instead and made sure to have my phone face-down on Do Not Disturb.
After another week or so, I wanted to really be a part of the physical world. I have grown up in San Jose my entire life but knew there were still parts of it hidden in plain sight. Regularly I went to the farmer’s market, drove to mountain peaks and viewpoints, and took countless photos. For some reason, I started dressing up more. Maybe it’s being behind the camera. Maybe it’s enjoying the brevity of life.
Whatever it is, I felt less worried about if clothes went together or how I should dress, so I began to dress how I wanted to feel. Thrift shopping brought me quite possibly my favorite shirt to date: a button up printed on the world map (seen in this article). It was exciting, unique, and what I imagined someone with immense confidence would wear. So I wore it proudly.
Such a simple thing as deleting an app has changed my perspective in incredible ways. Yet, I missed sharing my experiences and observations with people. The way I take photos is through focusing on the little details and angles you wouldn’t conventionally see.
Some have said that I took so many random pictures without any content or that they were skewed and unfocused. But that’s how I liked it. I want to share the irregularities of life that make it beautiful. And now that’s how I see myself in the world.
Now that I’ve gone back to Instagram, I’ve noticed more differences. When I wasn’t on the app, I didn’t feel like I was missing out - instead, I felt more present in my surrounding company. Every interaction felt more intimate and personal since I wasn’t compelled to share it with social media.
It became my moment.
Comparing my life to others had little appeal which reduced stressing over things I could not control that barely mattered. Although I was less informed about events outside of my sphere, my relationships were solidified. By focusing on the life in front of me, I became a more genuine person enjoying the moment.
So consider this: Do you really NEED social media? Of course, it’s not all bad. Social media has connected people across the globe that otherwise would never have met nor understood each other.
Cutting out Instagram made me aware of all the benefits and drawbacks that social media held but nevertheless made me appreciate everything more than I had in a very long time. Try it out for a day, a week, a month. It’ll always be there for when you want to come back.
Check out these TEDTalks and Documentary:
Quit Social Media by Cal Newport
The Art of Letting Go by The Minimalists
Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (found on Netflix; watch the Trailer)