Detox Diaries: Giving up the ‘Gram

Remember when I said earlier this year that I was going to start my own public Instagram blog celebrating my writing? Yea, me either.

I tried to start that project twice before I let it take up its rightful place in the “Retired Projects” bin.

So what have I been doing instead? Well, I’m on a detox.

“Detox,” the word itself, has come to symbolize toxic diet culture, convincing us that if we’re not a white, skinny woman drinking expensive juices, we’re just not ‘doing it right.’

But I’m employing the word “detox” here in its simplest word form: to detoxify.

In the height of summer’s heat, I found myself scrolling and scrolling aimlessly for new content, graphics, and an Instagram community I could call mine. I wanted to know what everyone – whom I’ve ever known – was doing at all times, even people I’ve never met in real life. Talk about FOMO to the extreme! I had push notifications for that eventual giveaway, I had hourly ‘limits’ that I would bypass on the daily. In my little mind’s eye, I was emulating the influencers that Instagram has become so known for – and it was making me extremely unhealthy.

I shut the ‘gram on a hard pause the afternoon of Wednesday, August 4 (my brother’s birthday, in fact!) and decided I needed to get my life together. After another season of precipitously losing weight, my fragile body felt like it was caving in on itself. The weight of the world, captured in a global Internet hell-hole, was simply too much for my bare bones to bear.

While I miss seeing my friends smiling and laughing on their various adventures, I don’t miss the nagging feeling of deep-rooted inadequacy. I have an amazing life, full of family, friends, and purpose, that I wasn’t celebrating because I was too busy worried about everyone else.

And now we know, if we needed more clarity: “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse…Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

Talk about toxic. This quote came from researchers who presented evidence of Instagram’s particular toxicity to teen girls at an internal Facebook review board in March 2020. We’re only just finding this out now (but did we really need the proof?).

I noticed my mood dramatically improved in the first two weeks of being off the ‘gram. I no longer wake up to a flood of images hitting my brain at 6:30 in the morning, I feel more calm and focused throughout my day, and I’m no longer spending hours of my time aimlessly scrolling with no decided end.

After a swelling attention (addiction?) to social media feedback since I was a teenager, this is the first time in my life that I’ve not been overly active on Instagram.

Has anyone noticed? Surprisingly, not many. My absence from the feed has simply been replaced by others clamoring for likes and comments. Like I wrote in my post late last year: That’s okay!!

I want to cultivate meaningful community, derived from an unwavering sense of purpose and commitment to both my career and my chosen family. Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting across arbitrary lines, but it has its own limitations, too.

I never knew that shutting off social would improve my own mental outlook, but hey, here we are. Perhaps I’m writing these words, so that someone else out there knows it’s okay to step away from your online persona for a while. Those that love you and support you, no matter what, will still be rooting for you, regardless.