Somewhere between my very first Instagram post and my most recent post years later, my relationship with social media changed, and not in a good way. My unhealthy relationship with social media really came to light after the birth of my son, Austin. As a breastfeeding mom you spend A LOT of time sitting and waiting (and waiting) for your baby to nurse. When I was on maternity leave I would find myself mindlessly scrolling Instagram for hours a day while he ate, during nap time, eating lunch, and even in bed at night. About two months after he was born I mentally told myself that this bad habit really needed to end, so I downloaded the Kindle app and spent my nursing down time reading books instead. (Side note but I highly recommend this for other bored, nursing mamas.)
As the time for me to go back to work approached I thought it would be fun to start an Instagram account for mamas interested in fitness and plant-based nutrition so I started my second account, @_theplantbasedmama_. As a new mom, personal trainer and vegan of 11 years, it was fun to share workouts, recipes, and new mom struggles as well as to interact with other parents. At this time I felt like my relationship with social media was somewhat healthy. I used my second account more than my personal account and I didn’t follow many people, so I didn’t have the burning desire to scroll as much. Like most bad habits, though, the urge to scroll eventually came creeping back and I started using my old account more and wasting hours of my week watching Instastories and browsing through photos. It was during this time that Instagram suddenly started to feel very icky to me, not just because of the time I was wasting, but because how it was making me feel. Here is why:
- I didn't like the person I was becoming behind the screen. To be perfectly honest, I started to feel like a bad person for having negative feelings (or any feelings at all) about other people’s posts. Sometimes people that I would probably really like (or already do) in real life I couldn’t stand over the internet, and I didn’t like that the world wide web skewed my opinion of them. Have you ever heard that quote “What someone thinks of you is none of your business”? Well now I also believe that “What someone posts is none of MY business”. Meaning that, even though someone is making their photos and captions public, its really my own fault for looking (and getting annoyed by them!)
- The amount of “expert” advice available was disheartening. I became a personal trainer 13 years ago and have spent a lot of time and effort (and money!) on continuing education since then. Over the years, I have seen the fitness industry evolve in so many ways, most of which are good. For example, I love that fitness is more accessible than ever before and that platforms like Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook offer opportunities for people to exercise from anywhere in the world for little to no money. What I do not like are the “influencers” with thousands of followers dishing out fitness and nutrition advice that is blatantly WRONG. The problem with Instagram is that suddenly everyone has been given a soapbox, and sometimes people abuse their privileges in a very big way. These “influencers” have thousands of un-knowing people at their fingertips who will do anything they say and have no idea that the recommendations that they are giving them are either dangerous, ineffective, not-scientifically proven, or all of the above.
- I started to feel uncomfortable knowing everyone’s business (and everyone knowing mine). One of the main reasons that I decided it was a time for a break from Instagram was because I was noticing this trend of over-sharing, and I was guilty of it too. Too many times I felt as if I knew everything about a person just from Instagram but in real life hardly knew that person at all- from what someone had for lunch that day, their IBS, wedding photos, toddler’s first poop on the toilet, family vacation, the list goes on. As I mentioned already, I was certainly guilty of putting my private life on display too, but after taking a break from Instagram I realized how weird it is to constantly broadcast our private lives and wondered if anything is really sacred anymore.
- I didn’t want to use social media for validation in my life. I will admit that there have been many times where I looked at a photo I posted several times to see how many likes I had. There have also been times where I felt like a photo I posted didn’t get “enough” likes and felt slightly insecure about it. THIS.IS.FUCKED.UP. Social media has allowed us to expose ourselves in such a vulnerable way, which in turn causes us to compare ourselves to others and possibly engage in negative self-talk because of it without even knowing. Seeking validation on social media does not bring real happiness and never will.
- I lost precious time on something that really had no benefit. There’s really not much more of an explanation needed for this one. I feel much more productive and present since being off Instagram, and I never knew how much time I had truly spent on it until I was off of it. Not to be overly dramatic, but since having a child I truly feel like every second in my day is precious, and I want to make good choices about what I do with my time.
I am a firm believer in balance, and for that reason, I felt like it was a good learning experience taking a step back from Instagram so that I could go back on it with a healthier mindset. Here is my game plan and perhaps some useful tips for you if you are looking to spend a little less time on the gram as well:
- Only follow people who inspire and uplift you.
- If you feel like a jerk unfollowing someone, Instagram has a magical “mute” option so that you do not have to see someone’s posts and stories.
- Download an app that will help you limit your social media time. Check out OffTime, Moment, Stay on Task, and Breakfree.
- Set aside a certain amount of time per day that you go on Instagram and be strict with yourself. Ex: 30 minutes a day after dinner time before you go to bed.
- If you are a blogger or use Instagram for work purposes, set aside certain days/times where you will create content and days/times that you will respond to comments, interact with other bloggers etc so that you don't have to be a slave to your phone 24/7.
- Delete the app off your phone. This one may be extreme for some, but it was what I did during my break from Instagram so that I wouldn’t feel the urge to cheat when I was on my Insta hiatus. If you have good self-control, you can skip this tip, but if not, it’s a pain in the ass to have to re-download the app every time you want to scroll and I promise you that eventually the desire to do so will be gone! *Note: deleting the app from your phone does NOT actually delete your account. You have to do that through the app itself.
In closing I just want to reiterate that Instagram IS great for so many reasons and personally I love it for community connection, recipes, health tips, news, getting “out there” for certain professional endeavors- the list goes on and on!! The point I hoped to get across was that at the end of the day, I felt like I was beginning to have an unhealthy relationship with it and I needed to take a step back to realign myself with my intentions for why I wanted to be on it. I do feel like I learned a lot during the couple of months that I spent disconnected, and to be honest- it felt really great hearing people’s exciting news (“I got engaged!" "We’re having a baby!” "I started doing yoga!") in person versus over the internet. Life is all about human connection and I don’t ever want to lose that.