If you would have asked me four or five years ago whether I like Instagram my answer would have been: “I love it!”. However, ask me today the same question, and my answer is quite more complicated.
In this blog post, I want to share my viewpoint on Instagram (and other social media) and explain why I permanently deleted my Instagram account after being an active user for over six years. Maybe you should too? Let’s find it out.
In 2012 I Loved Instagram
First, let’s start with why I really loved Instagram. In fact, when I first came in touch with Instagram in early 2012 I was one of the first users among my friends. In 2012 Instagram presented a whole new way of communication. Until then, there was no way to share photos with friends in a beautiful way. Instagram presented a great way to share photos with friends, and vice versa follow the life journey of them. The ease of editing pictures my simply adding filters and making minor adjustments was super cool. Previously it would have been impossible for the majority of people to add professional effects to a smartphone photo. I loved it!
I never thought about which tricks the engineering team of Facebook and Instagram use until I read “Hooked” by Nir Eyal. I was fascinated by the fact that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are learning how our human psychology works and by embedding certain tricks into the applications they keep their users engaged. To summarize Eyal’s book; Instagram and other social media apps – like Facebook and Twitter – exploit human psychology to literally make their users addicted to their apps. The apps are built from scratch to maximize the usage time of the apps.
The Pros Outweigh
In 2015, when I first read “Hooked” I didn’t think about any harmful side effects. In fact, I wanted to replicate the hooked framework and create my own app to make people hooked on it. As I grew older I became more and more interested in human and especially behavioral psychology. I began to realize that Instagram had adverse side effects on my psychological well-being. I think I’m lucky that my self-esteem has always been quite high and as a result, I didn’t care who or how many people liked my photos. Still, I uploaded photos merely to show off. While I became aware of the dark side of Instagram, I always thought that the pros still outweigh the cons. Even more extreme, just one year ago I was of the opinion that building a personal brand is essential for success in business – which also requires a top-notch Instagram profile.
However, after posting many photos on Instagram and uploading multiple vlogs on YouTube, I realized that what I am uploading is not who I honestly am. I uploaded pictures and videos merely to build a personal brand – or in other words to show people how great, cool, and smart I am. So I quit. In September 2017 – and after I realized how many time I still spent on Instagram – I decided to delete the app from my phone until I finished my Bachelor thesis. After I removed the app, I realized a shocking thing. Unconsciously I was totally hooked on the app. I didn’t actually miss the content or the photos. Still, I repeatedly caught myself searching for the Instagram app on my phone. As I realized that the app was not installed on my phone anymore, I asked myself why I searched for the app in the first place. It was not my own decision to open Instagram, my brain was utterly hijacked by the psychological tricks Instagram employs. It felt like I lost my free will.
The good news was that after a few days this behavior stopped. I did not unconsciously seek the Instagram app anymore, nor was I afraid of missing anything interesting out. After one or two weeks Instagram was entirely indifferent to me.
Everyone is Hooked
As I stopped using Facebook and Instagram, I began to realize how hooked every single person around me is with exactly the same apps. No matter where I was, in a public park, the metro, or in a restaurant, everyone starred at their phones. When you looked which apps they used, these apps were usually either WhatsApp, Instagram, or Facebook. Every time I observed this scenario I thought: “This is so wrong, we are so hooked!”
Back on Insta
Then I finished my thesis. The deadline I set for myself was probably the main reason why I re-downloaded Instagram again. I completed my argument, so I started using Instagram again. “At least check what you have missed,” I thought. After scrolling a few minutes through the feed, I realized that I didn’t miss out anything except a single direct message of a girl I wanted to stay away from anyways.
So here I am after two months of Instagram abstinence knowing that Instagram has adverse effects on my well-being. But I still began to use it once again. I told myself: “Marius, you are an entrepreneur and you must somehow promote your business online.” So on a limited basis – checking Instagram once a day – I kept Instagram on my phone.
But as the time passed I returned to my old usage habits. I knew Instagram was built from scratch to make me addicted. Also, I knew that I don’t need Instagram and that it is harming my productivity. Still, I kept using it. Instagram apparently did a fantastic job of keeping me hooked.
Pulling the Trigger
Then I saw this video, and I pulled the trigger:
This video summarized all I already knew. The exception was that the footage summarizes people who were in charge of building the harming algorithms. Chamath Palihapitiya and Sean Parker admit that Facebook and Instagram are as they are harmful to people. So why do I keep using it?
I don’t. Today I pulled the trigger and deleted my account forever. I say forever because I don’t see that Facebook will switch their business model anytime shortly. Facebook business model is also the main problem with these addictive apps. Facebook is a public company who must please its shareholders. To do so, it has to increase earnings, and Facebook’s profits come from advertisers who want to influence you. As a result, Facebook must ensure you spent as much time as possible on their Apps – from Facebook to Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Facebook is free, so you are the product being sold.
I don’t want anyone to influence my own decision power and my own critical thinking. PERIOD.
The psychological side effects of social media are super harmful, so I advise you to limit your social media usage to an absolute minimum. I did so by deleting Instagram entirely and by cutting back my usage of Facebook. I don’t use the Facebook app on my phone anymore, I only check for events and groups on my MacBook while using a Facebook News Feed Eradicator for Chrome and Safari. The news feed eradicator lets you enjoy the less addictive features of Facebook without being exposed to the super lousy news feed. The only social apps on my phone are now three messengers: Telegram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. Maybe you should give it a try as well?