By MacKenzie Patterson
Just six years after its inception in 2010, Instagram has blown up to epic proportions. It boasts 400 million monthly users, and most companies actively promote their products and services on the app.
Teenagers and adults under the age of 35 are especially active on the social networking platform. It’s rare to hear someone in their teens or early twenties say they aren’t on Instagram. For many, it’s become the main way they craft their identities and broadcast them to the world.
But there are big negatives to the app.
Stephanie Cassin, associate professor and director of the clinical training department of psychology at Ryerson, said that Instagram could contribute to the formation of eating disorders in psychologically vulnerable, young women.
“If you look at a site like Instagram, you’re not necessarily getting an accurate representation of the population,” she said.
Cassin said that as a result, “users would concede that everyone is in relationships with more attractive people, they all travel more than you and they’re all running marathons every day.”
According to the marketing website DMR, nine per cent of female teenage Instagram users say they have been bullied through the platform and 14 per cent of drivers admit to checking their news feed while driving.
Facts and figures like these got me thinking. Has Instagram taken over our lives? How many of us are just using it as a fun way to network with friends and promote our brands, and how many of us are living our lives through it?
As a blogger and a fourth-year journalism student, Instagram plays a massive role in my life. It’s how I promote my blog posts, network with people and pass the time when I’m bored.
But have I taken it too far? Have I gone from living life in a real, concrete way to letting the digital world of likes, followers and comments construct my identity?
There was only one way to find out. For the span of six days, I chronicled my journey through a complete Instagram cleanse.
Day 1: I’ve let my 4,000 Instagram followers know that I’ll be signing off for the next week. I feel a little sad. Will I lose an outrageous number of followers from this? Have I made the wrong decision?
Holding my thumb down on the little brown camera icon, all my apps begin to shake and shimmy in fear. I hit the “x” on the icon, and then, after a little hesitation, I click delete. I feel oddly exhilarated and free. I’m going to go for a walk in the woods. And then read a real book — made of actual paper.
6:14 p.m.: Made avocado toast and my followers will never know – what a weird feeling. My thumb keeps automatically hovering over the Instagram icon, trying to click on it, but it’s not there. I think I’m suffering from phantom app syndrome.
Day 2: Woke up and there was no Instagram feed to scroll through. Read articles about the Kardashians instead. IQ dropped several points.
5:38 p.m.: With all my extra time, I made it to TWO yoga classes. Namaste off social media.
Day 3: I felt really peaceful and zenned out all day. Made it two yoga classes again and I’m super into a new book.
Day 4: I saw a flower and instead of instinctively pulling out my phone to take a picture, I actually smelled it. I felt so pure and wholesome.
Day 5: Starting to miss Instagram a little. No pictures of white sandy beaches or inspirational quotes to brighten up my morning? I guess I’ll read instead.
Day 6: As my Instagram cleanse comes to a close, I’m realizing two things. One, a break from social media can be extremely beneficial in terms of increasing rest, relaxation and productivity levels. And two, Instagram is a rich and wonderful place for inspiration, escapism and a little fun (when used correctly).
Like with anything else, the key to ‘gramming wisely is using the app in moderation and not taking it too seriously. After six days of living Instagram-less and feeling the blow of losing 30 followers, I feel like I can safely return to the app with a fresh perspective on the digital landscape and with healthier habits.