An idea came to me for a work thing while I was out walking without my phone. It works!
Today was the day to delete the app. The tough day that was coming . . .
The one that you use too much. The one you use to escape—too often, at the expense of other things (including sleep). The one that makes you feel bad about yourself. Delete said time-wasting, bad habit app. Uninstall it. (Bored and Brilliant page 107)
Woah!! Makes me feel bad about myself? That’s pretty full-on! I don’t think I have an app that does that.
I already knew what it would be without doing any of the tracking exercises in this challenge. (Yeah, it was my homescreen . . .)
For many people, it’s a game like Candy Crush or whatever the latest iteration of that is (I don’t play games so I have no idea what’s big in the world of games) and for others, it’s a social media app. Facebook, I’m looking at you. I deleted Facebook from my phone a long time ago and have been pretty good with regulating my use of it on my computer. There was a time I cheated and logged in on the browser on my phone but I realised that doing this wasn’t really addressing the issue of mindless scrolling and liking and getting sucked into things that drained my energy away from things I wanted to be doing. So far, since the last time I logged out of it about a month ago, I’ve been disciplined enough not to do that again.
So in the absence of Facebook, I turned to Instagram. I have three accounts. Straightlinesgirl is for my attempts at learning photography, where I follow a lot of professional accounts and people who share the same photography interests as me. Then there’s my Hobart Street Corners project, where I don’t follow anyone and don’t spend a lot of time other than posting my photos. The other one is almost a Facebook substitute. Most of the people I follow there I know so I see a lot of their photos I missed by not going on Facebook as much. But this feed has a lot less stuff I don’t want to see or am not interested in than what comes up in Facebook.
I do spend a lot of time on the app. (Observe my screenshot from last week. A lot of time.)
My first instinct when I pick up my phone is to scroll to my last screen of apps and into the last screen of the folder I hid it in to make it harder to get to (hint: that doesn’t work if you want to reduce your use of an app), and scroll. Often through the same photos and often through my entire feed over and over just to make sure I’ve caught up with everything and not missed anything, even if I don’t spend a lot of time actually looking at the photos. I feel like I’m not getting a lot of value out of the time I spend on Instagram and it’s just a convenient way to occupy my mind for a few minutes when I have nothing specific I want to do.
My experience echoes that of Sandra, who is quoted in the book as saying “I check that app far much more often than I actually need to and I’m not even sure why.”
I think Instagram is a two-edged sword. On the one hand it serves as a platform where I can keep up with my friends in the same way as I would on Facebook, which is great. But it also instils in me this need to keep checking it to see if anyone has posted anything cool, or has commented on one of my photos or one of my comments on theirs. That is not what I want to be doing with my time. It’s fine, as long as I’m not on there multiple times a day.
In my other world, Instagram also shows me photos from people whose work I love and am inspired by that I may not have otherwise seen. But the sheer volume of photos is overwhelming and the app is set up to be fast-paced, to scroll, look and like, without taking the time to fully appreciate the photos. I mean, you look at them on a tiny screen so you are never going to experience them as a work of art, which many of the photos I like to look at are. It doesn’t do the photos justice. But then again, a phone rarely will. But even so, it’s not set up to encourage you to linger and look at an image for very long. And good luck trying to find it if you want to look at it again and consider a comment you might want to make after you’ve thought about it for a couple of days. (The save feature is a bit handy here, just saying.)
So . . .Wednesday morning I sat down to do my meditation practice after my walk and decided that would be the fateful time. I hesitated and thought I should check my feed first, but I breathed deeply and didn’t think any more and deleted it. For good measure, I deleted Tweetbot as well because I knew that, in the absence of Instagram, that would be my go-to app, in the same way that Instagram became that app after I stopped going on Facebook. I can do without it for a while too.
I know I’m not going to stay off Instagram forever, but I hope that a few days without it will help me reassess my relationship with it and set some boundaries about how (and how often) I use it, and what I allow into my head.
Just out of interest, since last week, the Moment app has recorded the following amounts of screentime. It paints an interesting picture.
Thursday: 4 hours 22 minutes
Friday: 5 hours 10 minutes
Saturday: 5 hours 6 minutes
Sunday (first day of no phone in transit): 2 hours 47 minutes
Monday (no phone in transit): 2 hours 9 minutes
Tuesday (no phone in transit, no photos): 2 hours 7 minutes (no photos didn’t make that much difference)
Wednesday: (no phone in transit, no Instagram): 1 hour 9 minutes (hmmm . . . )
Thursday (no Instagram, taking some photos): 1 hour 56 minutes
Friday (no Instagram but taking photos of a special event): 2 hours 59 minutes