I’ll never forget the look of utter disgust that gleamed across my dad’s face when a friend of mine whipped out her iPhone mid-conversation at the dinner table and started scrolling through her Instagram feed. He: completely baffled. And, her: completely oblivious to the rudeness she just displayed as she nodded along to his questions and subtly mumbled “mhmm’s” under her breath.
Let’s just say this became a common occurrence. Not just with her, but with others who entered my family’s home. Eventually “no cell phones allowed at the table” became a family rule; it didn’t matter the circumstance. Whether it was an anticipated call from a loved one on the other side of the globe or an issue at work, there were absolutely no exceptions. And I never complained.
The reality is that I’ve never had a strong connection to my phone, or social media in general. I’ve never gotten a thrill out of displaying my “highlights” online for all to see. My profile has always consisted of 12 photos of less. And as of right now, my highlight reel currently ranks a solid zero. (Find out what blue light is doing to your health.)
Call me old fashioned but I prefer certain photo-worthy moments to remain memories. I love going to a concert and not watching it through the screen of my phone, or going to a bar and dancing the night away without documenting a single piece of evidence on my Stories. And maybe I think this way because Instagram has been ingrained in my brain as a distraction that takes away from living a present life, or maybe it’s because I just hate attention. Nonetheless, I’m private that way and I love that about myself.
But in the late fall of 2016 my mindset shifted.
After graduating from a post-graduate program, completing an internship, and coming home from a month-long backpacking trip through Europe, I found myself unemployed and rather bored. In fact, I was bored enough to make Instagram my new Netflix.
Those next few months I went from spending (at most) 45 minutes a day scrolling through Instagram to spending countless mind-numbing hours online. I was mesmerized by fitness experts, bloggers, wanderlust photographers, and friends who were living out their most purposeful lives. As for me, I didn’t even have a job. Now I’m not sure why this plagued me so much considering I was well aware that just-out-of-college jobs nowadays — in pretty much all fields — aren’t exactly the easiest to nab. But it did, and I was shook.
After months of applying to jobs, speaking with connections in the journalism community, attending novel writing courses and public speaking workshops, I still didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything — or more importantly, moving forward. When someone would ask me “How’s the job search going?” my eyes would automatically pool with water.
When January hit, I decided to stay a couple of extra weeks at my family’s home in Muskoka after the holidays. My mom (as hovering as she is) has always had a special way of comforting me — but this time, her magic didn’t work and I found myself more miserable than ever.
Then one afternoon she said, “Lets just go for a drive.” So I hopped in the passenger seat of her salt-covered Honda CRV and off we drove towards our sister town, Bracebridge. Two minutes in, I was bawling so uncontrollably that I could barely even breathe. It was a brand new year full of endless possibilities and I chose to stew in my own self pity. The only explanation I could think of: “I’m having a quarter-life crisis!”
The next day my mom called up one of her friends, a spiritualist, to meet with me. Two days later, I did. We met for lunch at our town’s local sushi bar. As we sat across from each other, I watched her kind eyes scan me over. About 10 minutes into our hour-long conversation, she had me pegged to a tee. She also gave me the swift kick-in-the pants I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and go after the life I desire.
But before we parted ways, she leaned in for a hug and said: “Recite ‘only good comes to me now’ daily as many times as you need, and only good things will come to you.”
I left that lunch on a high: positive, hopeful, and finally in good spirits. I knew that in order to keep this high moving forward, I needed to get rid of whatever was causing me to be so stressed. The first thing that came to mind? Instagram.
So without second guessing, I decided to go on an Instagram hiatus for a month… which quickly turned into a three-month detox from the social media app. A detox from constantly comparing my smarts, my beauty, and my self-worth to hundreds of other individuals. And let me tell you, it was freeing. No more scrolling, no more FOMO, and definitely no more nights of endless self-ridicule. Instead my time was replaced with daily mantras, a 20-minute meditation practice, and a gratitude journal.
What my detox from Instagram taught me
Now, let me be crystal clear: I still use Instagram. I find it to have just as many positives as negatives; it all just depends on how you use it. For me that means moderation; I make sure to limit my screen time. This, in turn, has allowed me to live more in the present rather than be constantly anxious about the future.
To this day, if I ever have the urge to respond to an Instagram notification that pops up on my screen while out with girlfriends for brunch, I picture my dad’s haunting expression. An expression that always reminds me to put down the phone, be present with those around me and only good things will come.
Next, read up on why social media could be destroying your chance at happiness.