My Experimental Instagram Detox

I recently transformed a small corner of my bedroom into a meditation space. You see, I’ve come to realize that my days are undeniably smoother, calmer, and just generally better when I start the day with meditation. I began meditating using the Calm app almost 3 years ago to the day, and fortuitously hit my 200th session today. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve managed to work my way up to at least 10 minutes of meditation a day.

No, this isn’t a post about why you should meditate, but if you’re interested, this is where I started: www.calm.com

I bring up my meditation practice because I believe the alertness I gained from meditating helped me recognize a part of my life that was slowly becoming a perilous, mindless pastime: Instagram scrolling.

Oh Instagram. The beautifully curated pictures and feeds, the recipes, the videos, and daily stories, coupled with endless scrolling ability... it’s no wonder I kept getting sucked into the app. I’d guess I’m not the only one who’s caught themself deep in a mindless scrolling binge only to realize 20 minutes (or longer) has passed. That was happening to me almost daily. Yikes.

Disclaimer: I understand some people don’t have an addictive personality, and some people aren’t tempted by a mid-afternoon social media brain-break, and some people have a handle on their social media time management. If that’s you, then bravo babe! Alas, I am not one of those people; I’m a work in progress. That means this post is me sharing where I’m at in my journey and may not be helpful/relevant for you, just sayin.

 One of my favorite places in our home. A quiet space at the table where I can read cookbooks, the Magnolia Journal, or color.

One of my favorite places in our home. A quiet space at the table where I can read cookbooks, the Magnolia Journal, or color.

Today I want to share why I took a break from Instagram, how I felt being off of the app, what I missed, and what I’m changing in my life because of this experiment.

The survival of humankind depends on our ability to stop rushing.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I picked up a book called Making Space, Creating a Home Meditation Practice when I was transforming that corner of my bedroom into my meditation space. The quote above really struck me because lately I’d noticed my mind was always rushing from one thing to the next and the next and the next, racing uncharacteristically. I’d had some trouble focusing on my work in the afternoons and sometimes felt unmotivated to create new content for my business.

After examining that a bit further over the course of a few days, I concluded that those symptoms occurred shortly after my afternoon Insta scroll. (You know the kind, mindlessly scanning your feed for some cheap entertainment.) When I realized this correlation, I realized my productivity was in jeopardy. So right then and there, I decided to take a long-overdue break from Instagram. As I write this, I’ve been completely off of the app for 11 days (which feels like a pretty big success considering I probably opened the app 10+ times a day prior to that).

Initially I struggled with my habitual process of going into the app impulsively when I picked up my phone. It was literally second nature to me, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Again, yikes. But after replacing Instagram with more beneficial habits, taking a break from the app was actually pretty simple.

My a.m. success strategy looked like this: I didn’t check my phone in the morning until after I’d meditated, had breakfast, and completed my morning rituals. Then, and only then, did I check notifications and respond to texts. When I started working, I put my phone on the coffee table and worked at my desk (phone was in my peripheral vision, but not within reach). I checked my work and personal emails on my laptop computer instead of from my phone in bed, like I used to.

My brain is very concrete so I function best when I set clear guidelines for myself. This strategy set me up for a successful break from my first-thing-in-the-morning and mid-afternoon Instagram scrolls. But what about those dang evening Insta scrolls? You know that kind, when there’s a commercial break or you’re eating dinner or you have a few minutes of alone time and just want a mindless distraction to amuse you. If I was really going to detox from this habit, I needed another activity to replace the evening scroll.

Enter my hygge coloring book:

 The sweetest hygge coloring book complete with mindfulness prompts and journal pages. I found it at Michaels last fall.

The sweetest hygge coloring book complete with mindfulness prompts and journal pages. I found it at Michaels last fall.

That’s right, I broke out my 24 piece Sharpie marker set, opened my coloring book to the prettiest picture I could find, and let my creativity flow. I bet a lot of us have recently reconnected with this popular childhood hobby as this adult coloring book trend has swept the nation.

For me, it was so helpful to have it right there on the coffee table, that way I had something to pick up instead of my phone. This also gave B and I a chance to have an actual conversation instead of picking up our phones and tuning out for 2 minutes until This Is Us was back on.

To be fair, it hasn’t been all roses. I missed the initial Beyonce tour announcement (obviously found out about it in a multitude of other ways) and lost a few followers along the way. But honestly, that was a MORE than fair trade because I saw so many positive changes happen so quickly.

  • Mornings started on my terms, not with the onslaught of social media posts
  • No brain fog = more focused work

  • Productivity and creativity skyrocketed

  • Writing content came naturally to me; no (subconscious) comparing myself to others

  • Intentional time with my loved ones > absently scrolling

  • My mind had stopped racing and my overall demeanor was calmer

 An incredible Time Inc. special edition issue focused entirely on the science behind mindfulness. It's available until May 25th.

An incredible Time Inc. special edition issue focused entirely on the science behind mindfulness. It's available until May 25th.

I hadn’t realized how much Instagram was taking from my life, from me. Not just time, but productivity, focus, and happiness. I think the same can be said for any apps we use without active intention. This experiment taught me that mindless Insta scrolling may seem innocent enough, but it was hurting me in more ways than I realized.

There is so much available to us with the swipe of a thumb, and as they say, technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master. So I pledge to be more thoughtful about what apps I bring into my life and will ensure that my use of them aligns with my values.

My plan moving forward with Instagram is to carve out set time to be on the app (not an original idea, but it makes sense to me now). I still want to post content and engage with my network, but for me mindless scrolling is a thing of the past. Yay for progress!

One note: If you take a social media break, you’ll have your own unique experience that will evolve depending on what works for you and your personality. I do hope that sharing my experiences encourages you to take a look at what technologies, if any, are impacting your life and how.

If you’ve taken a break from social media or another form of technology I’d love to hear about your experience and what worked for you. Please leave your comment below.