(almost) 30 days disconnected

About a month ago, I had a conversation with Kak Lin (my eldest sister) about social media. I am currently unemployed and have my days pretty free and easy. I realized that being obsessively on my phone was an aftereffect of that freedom. I was constantly on Instagram. I have read countless studies and articles on the negative effects of too much social media and particularly Instagram. As Cheryl Cole sings in her song “Fight for This Love”, too much of anything can make you sick.

I could feel my “soul” being eaten away by this app. I would wake up to Instagram. I spent my downtime after meetups or doing work, just scrolling, and double tapping. I would close the app and unconsciously click on it after. It started affecting my mood. I would see “friends” posting about whatever on and I would either get depressed or jealous. It made me feel like such a bad person and I hated constantly seeing certain things on the platform. I just couldn’t take all the humble bragging together with the “Look how amazing my life is”. (If you are a true Instagrammer, you would know unfollowing is not an easy thing. It comes with a lot of complications, especially with family.) The worst part was that people were either judging me or had talked shit behind my back. (I have my ways of finding out.) It just all felt very fake and I hated the fact that it made me unhappy being connected.

Recently on TIME, I read how it was the leading cause of mental health issues in teens. I knew all the bad and damaging effects of Instagram but I had the hardest time quitting. I guess it’s like smoking. I am very sure that all smokers know the harmful impacts of smoking. Not only on their personal health but also the lives of loved ones around them. But it really doesn’t matter because the will and want to quit has to come from within. This is something I learned (from my expensive education) and also from personal life experiences. As I type all these down, I am not trying to dramatize my issue with Instagram but it feels very real to me.

Why was it difficult to quit?

Before the thought of starving myself came, I knew that spending too much time on Instagram was also a way I was feeding myself creatively. I really enjoy photography and it was a way to share my work. I enjoyed going out to explore places and food which I would share. But why did I need to share it with people? It’s not like I have a massive following. The truth is Instagram was like a diary to me. While I was growing up, I really sucked at writing down my thoughts which were really important to my state of mind. You know to keep track of things. Even having to write this post out is a challenge for me. Instagram was quick and easy. You could easily upload it and refer to it whenever you want or need to. It is my diary. Instagram was where I could watch videos of Sofy and Hanna. I could relive my travels through it. I could even keep up to date with my close personal friends. It seemed like it was everything.

The second part that made it difficult to let go was the inspiration aspect. Like others who live in the internet age, I love scrolling through Instagram watching my favorite personalities navigate through life. It was relatable because these were real people. (Side note: I have a personal account for which I follow celebrities or influencers.) No, I don’t follow the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Neither do I follow your typical millennial influencers. I followed real people who were so inspiring in their journey of life. Yes, they are influencers but they are also real honest people who I can relate to especially with a booming age in the Hijabis. It was like I finally found real “celebrities” who I can relate to in almost all aspects. (I use the word almost loosely because no one can be like you wholly.) So imagine my horror when all these inspiration would just cease to exist.

I finally did it. 

I deleted the app one day when I found myself being so negative. I would like to be clear and say I didn’t delete all social media in my life. I thought it would be too difficult to cut everything. I wanted to take it one step at a time. I still use Twitter which is my source of all news. Twitter is better for me because I followed mostly news organizations and only close friends. But people don’t really use Twitter to update on their lives so I found it difficult to keep up with friends at times especially since I don’t text them every single day. I just don’t know how to text people every day to keep a conversation going unless it is work or school-related.

Initially, I had placed the Instagram app on a far back page on my phone. But I knew I had to go cold turkey so I deleted the app. It felt liberating at first because I had cut out a significant amount of my social connections. I was contented because I felt that my mind was at ease after so long. The first and a half were easy. I did miss the Instagram stories where I could watch Sofy on days I don’t get to see her.

The second week was really tough. After I found out about a friend was on vacation because she had only posted on Instagram. I only found out when she posted it on Twitter. (Hi Sofia!) I felt so bad for not wishing her well on her trip. It may seem like not a big deal but my mother had raised me to wish people well. It’s just something ingrained in me. Then I realized I was going through FOMO or fear of missing out. Missing out on events that were important to the people I love and I didn’t have Instagram to tell me. My other FOMO issue was that I didn’t know what my favorite personalities were up in their lives. I had to go to rely on emails to find out my favorite brands were on sale or what was the current project they are going through. Again, it was not a big deal but I love keeping up with trends etc for my love of clothes.

Come week three and four, I was ready to welcome Instagram back into my life. I was receiving emails from Instagram about notifications or any activity. It was like they were ready to reel me back and I was ready to jump back into it. Until my sister slapped some sense into me. As I groveled to my sister about my “problem”, Kak Ina (my second sister) was hit me with a question. She was like “Why do you need to know what they up to? Why do you need to be constantly updated?” I remembered that one of the things I had a growing problem with Instagram was being too connected. Having such people as inspiration or motivation in my life is great. But I was too obsessed with their lives to make a move in mine. It was all a great big distraction.

I am currently in my last half week. Well, I am definitely counting down my days. I also constantly remind myself why I decided to do this cleanse. I hope I can somehow learn to disconnect better and have better self-control when I welcome back an old friend into my life. As for now, I am just enjoying the process of disconnection. I definitely learned to put my phone down more often. I am not constantly scrambling to find it or holding it in my hand. I do hope that I learn to disconnect when I need to especially when on vacation. Though, I would like to learn to not pick up my phone first thing in the morning. But hey, baby steps.


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