I’ve been off Instagram for a month.
Do I miss it?
I don’t miss the constant distraction. The ability to pull up something to take my mind off whatever I was starting to think about. This coming from someone who’s introspective and interested in the inner workings of my mind. I don’t miss 10 minutes turning into 20. The feeling of sinking down to relax into a chair, mentally exhausted, and immediately squandering that time by looking at images I didn’t create.
Now I sink down to relax into a chair, mentally exhausted, and stare into the distance wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. Have a thought and pull up my phone to write it down. Remember a to-do and add it to the Reminders list. I’m still picking up my phone to distract me from my own thoughts. The thoughts are what cause me to pick up my phone, and they’re mostly useful, but then the satisfying mental check mark makes my brain spin more, trying to think of other satisfying things to remember without actually having to do them.
What if I didn’t have a phone? I initially thought the Apple Watch was dumb, but over the last year I’ve been thinking about how it might be nice to leave my phone in the other room, and still have the ability to remind my device of things. I wouldn’t be tempted by a screen large enough to read on, and I wouldn’t miss calls or texts.
Part of me thinks it’s a security blanket. You’ve been tasked with surviving in the forest with nothing, but you stash an emergency beacon in your back pocket. You can’t just walk away entirely, but you’re convincing yourself that you have.
Being without Instagram has taught me that it’s not actually social media that’s the distraction; it’s the phone. Which means that an Apple Watch would become a distraction too, somehow.
This then leads to the should-be-obvious conclusion that the real distraction is our own mind. We play games with ourselves, trick parts of our brain into thinking about something else. This is what meditation teaches you. Our minds are never quiet. Without external distractions they’ll still find ways to avoid unpleasantness, whether it’s through fantasizing, to do lists, or just wondering about random things that must eventually be looked up on Wikipedia.
I don’t have a solution, although awareness is a step in the right direction. Pay attention to when you notice distraction in yourself, and try to return to the thoughts that preceded it. Sit with those thoughts for a while.
If this sounds impossible, learn to meditate. Actually regardless, learn to meditate. Make it a daily practice. Nothing will make you more aware of how crazy your mind is, but it will teach you how to work around it.
I probably won’t be back on Instagram anytime soon. I miss seeing what’s happening around town, and I probably have and probably will miss local events by not being on IG. That’s the biggest downside for me, since I generally don’t post much on there anyway. I will miss updates from a couple artists, although I can always manually look that up. But I probably won’t. Being away from the work of others gives you more time to focus on your own.
At the end of the day, what makes you feel more accomplished: knowledge of recent projects by other people, or ink on your own hands after creating a piece of art or a business plan? Those are the thoughts that count.