Let’s be honest. This little app can easily consume our every spare moment if we let it. It is designed to be highly addictive and to keep you consuming its content for as long as possible which ultimately results in more advertising dollars for Facebook (which has owned Instagram since 2012). While there is nothing inherently wrong with using the app and while it has many benefits, it is important for our well being and peace of mind to keep our usage in check.
The reason I’m writing this article is not because I’m an expert on how to have healthy relationship with it, but because I am still after many years of use figuring out how to best use it in a way that preserves my peace of mind and doesn’t waste my precious time. I still check the app numerous times a day which I feel is unnecessary and unhealthy for me.
If you are struggling with your relationship to Instagram or any social media, I encourage you to listen to my conversation on our Wonderfully Made podcast with author Jessica Fralin titled “Cultivating a Healthier Relationship with Social Media” on our website or via iTunes. Jessica has a grace-filled approach to using social media and offers some practice advice for protecting your well being online.
While in no way am I demanding you copy me, here are some of my personal guidelines with the app that have helped me and some habits I am still working on implementing:
Be okay with having a private profile and not gaining “followers”
For years I had a public profile. To be honest with you, every time I gained a new follower I felt as though my worth increased. And if I saw my number of followers decrease suddenly after a certain post I felt icky and insecure. Eventually I realized this was not good for my personal well being. I also got weirded out that anyone in the world with the app could see personal photos from my life and know my whereabouts. I have felt so much more peace of mind since making my profile private. As an author, I understand the sad reality that I am now less marketable to publishing companies, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. I don’t need “followers” to influence my sense of self-worth.
Sidenote: Of course there can be many positive things that can come from having an open account such as making new friends. If you are building a business or like having a public account that is fine of course, but I encourage you to be on guard as you probably know by now there are many haters and creepers eager and willing to tear you down. Do what is best for your heart and mind.
Avoid the “explore” section of the app
So you know that little magnifying glass icon, well I feel it’s a dangerous button to touch. Instagram knows so much about our likes and preferences based off how we interact on the app and they strategically place content in front of your eyes that is like social media crack and which often creates envy and discontentment if you’re not careful. It makes me think of the wise phrase “stay in your lane” which to me says “love your life, not hers.” Call me old fashioned, but I don’t believe we’ve been designed to know the intimate details of strangers lives or see frequent pictures of them whether skinny or curvy in their lingeries or bikinis. My advice is to be in tune with how you feel after you view someone’s content. If you feel positive, empowered, and more confident then go for it – follow their account. But if you find that you are feeling envious or icky or just annoyed, it’s not worth your precious peace of mind.
Stick to mostly following people you know offline and have a positive relationship with
For several years I followed women I never met before. I was often inspired by what they had to share, but often I felt like I was spying on individuals’ personal lives at the expense of investing in my own life. Just in the last year I decided to only follow a little more than 100 people who are friends and that I have positive relationships with. And I never follow celebrities. The original design for social media was to stay connected to people you have a personal relationship with, so keep that in mind as you choose who to follow.
Have usage boundaries with the app
Okay, so I have to be honest and say I am just starting to implement this principle in my own life. While I don’t spend an hour or more a day on the app, I feel as though I waste way too much of my precious time. The reality is there is no good reason for me to check it more 1-2 times a day for just a few minutes. I am scared to know how much time I am actually spending on it. My goals moving forward are to only check the app 2 times a day max for no more than 3 minutes each time. I encourage you to think about implementing your own boundaries that are reasonable and work for you. I am hopeful that by following my boundaries with the app I will experience more peace of mind, less anxiety and distraction as well as more productivity and creativity. It’s so worth it! I also invite you to check out certain apps like Anti-Social which has created tools to help you be less distracted.
Remember you don’t need Instagram and you can have an awesome, full and beautiful life without it!
Lastly, I hope you know you have permission to live your one wild and precious life without Instagram or even any social media! I think being mysterious is actually pretty amazing so if you’ve already made this decision I think you are awesome and your life will likely be characterized by deeper presence and contentment. And honestly, you’ll probably be a lot happier than your peers who are glued to their screens watching other people’s lives unfold. Your mental health and peace of mind is of the utmost importance so do what you need to do to protect it and fight for you.
The bottom line is your life is both precious and fleeting. We are called to spend our minutes, hours and days wisely as they are a gift. So Instagram or not, make a decision to live your best life, guard your heart and love your life, not hers.
Allie Marie Smith is the Founder and Executive Director of Wonderfully Made and is also a professional portrait photograpHer for women and girls. She is the co-host of the Wonderfully Made Podcast and the author of two Bible Studies “Becoming Who You Are In Christ” and “Healthy Eating and Abundant Living.” Allie lives in North Santa Barbara County with her husband Paul where she loves surfing and adventuring up and down California’s golden coast.