Observations on Life without Instagram
Two weeks ago a prophet of God invited me to fast from social media for 10 days. He did not outline what that should look like. He only asked that I observe myself and my life during the break, and that I record my feelings concerning the experience.
This is my record.
I chose to keep the use of my phone for texting my family and friends when needed, And I also did not delete snap chat because I do not use that form of media for any purpose outside of observing and interacting with my husband and older kids. I have not used twitter, ever. Nor do I read or post on facebook. The only social media that I fully participate in is Instagram. I also enjoy looking at Pinterest from time to time. So these two programs were deleted from my phone. I still listened to audio books. I still used ‘groupme’ which is a group messaging app, because the people I groupme with are my sisters, and my cousins and aunts.
The first observation I made is that I used Instagram to disengage from my family, or from the needs that were at hand; like my housework or the impending parenting awaiting me when I returned home from an errand or a carpool. Often I would find myself reaching for my phone to ‘check insta’ before I tackled the tasks of laundry or dishes that were staring me in the face. I also often wanted to look at my phone sitting right in the car, with the car in the garage, with my family inside the house waiting for my return. I had made it a habit of looking into the lives of others before I entered my own life and its pressing matters.
As this fast began I had been negotiating with our son, Porter, concerning how much time he needed for his own social media, and we had discovered a way to see how many hours each day we used different apps on our phones. I was alarmed at Porter’s over two hours of use per day on social apps like snap chat and Instagram. Then I saw my own usage of Instagram; nearly 90 minutes to 2 hours per day! Nearly 2 hours! That’s so much laundry done, an entire yoga practice, books read, journal or blogging or family history…lots of time I was spending in 10 minute increments but by the end of the day it really added up!
I feel like I don’t need social media to allow for me to compare myself to others…I compare myself to the version of myself that I wish I were so much that I don’t really feel I have the energy to look at someone’s Instagram and wish I had what they have or could look the way they look. But I think this might be wrong about me; I have had less inclination to research the latest fall trends, and less of an obsession over how closely I’m following my weight loss program (that might not be a good thing 😉 since closing off my window into the world of Instagram. I, in fairness, also feel less connected to some people who I care about, like my sons and my friends who live in other states. And I do also miss the good information I enjoyed learning from exceptional coaches or even church leadership. So I have come to see that there are some positive things I enjoy about seeing Instagram and also that I was more negatively affected by it than I thought I was.
Some things I have noticed during the fast…
- We had been challenged in the same address by our prophet which started my media fast, to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. I felt this would be nearly impossible for me. But I have found that I am able to do the reading – I’ve not gotten super far ahead, and I ahven’t had big challenges like needing to prepare my once monthly Sunday School lesson, but so far I can keep up! And I believe this is because I have not had the distraction or ‘time suck’ of my Instagram feed.
- I have missed being ‘in touch’ with specific people who I saw, virtually, nearly every day. I actually reached out to One person in particular who I enjoyed ‘following’ and who I had conversed with many times through Instagram but did not have a face to face friendship with. I messaged her through the app and gave her my telephone number, letting her know that I was not going to use Instagram for a couple of weeks, and if she ever wanted to become ‘face to face friends’ she could contact me. I felt like I was flirting with a potential boyfriend! It felt so forward and presumptuous of me to hand out my phone number and hope that someone who hardly knew me would want to be a friend. But guess what?! That incredible human did text me, and invited me and my girls to her home for dinner and ‘craft night’. And I enjoyed so much that opportunity to develop a more real and personal connection with a person who I had admired, digitally, for a very long time.
- I found I was more able to look my children in the eye when they wanted to speak to me. I wasn’t already occupied with my face in my phone, and I was more able to engage with them. As my fast came to a close I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if I would turn my app back on my phone or not, that I was still deciding. My 14 year old daughter shouted “don’t turn it on mom!” She has seen something in me during this fast and would like to see it more, I guess.
- I am thankful that as I have made the effort to participate in this fast I have found myself asking God more fervently each do that I be able to discern the needs of others. And I believe, at least on 2 occasions, that God did ask me to extend my help to another, and that I not only heard His prompting, but also that I had time to heed His prompting, because I wasn’t time starved or distracted by what was coming through my social media feed.
I believe it will be best for me to keep Instagram OFF my phone,. If I want to see what is happening in the lives of those I care about I could use the computer, or I could call or text them. I will look at Instagram on occasion from my computer, but I’m going to try to continue having much less ‘face time’ on my phone and much more personal connection with those I love and nurture. I also do not want to trade time on Instagram for time in the Book of Mormon. So another change I will make moving forward is that I won’t open Instagram on my computer until I have finished my scripture study for the day.
I hope to post more on my blog and not so much at all on Instagram. My blog had been my own personal history for our family – and when Instagram came along I began using it for my record keeping, but I feel my blog is more intimate, and gives me a chance to write more of my thoughts and feelings which really is my better ‘offering’ than my photography. Just as I will post this observation on my blog I’ll begin to post family events, my own opinions and some of our past experiences there a few times a week rather than fishing in my life for something to post on Instagram every day. I want to disengage from the false idea that others in the instasphere have an interest in my daily experience and instead save my time and energy to compose ideas and musings that might benefit my posterity instead of popularizing myself among followers who are anonymous to me.
Finally, I hope I can maintain the greater clarity of purpose I have felt concerning my life in the past couple of weeks. I have a work to do, and I am really such a work in progress, its o.k. that I experience this process of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ without it being a public metamorphosis. Some parts of discipleship require that rough edges be knocked off, that humility overcome pride, and that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing when it comes to acts of charity and compassion. Its too tempting for me to make my offerings to God instead of a private matter of my heart, a public display of affection. I hope in becoming more quiet about my life’s purpose I can actually be more about it, and less about how it looks to others.