Quit Instagram Addiction in 10 Simple Steps
Six years ago, when I joined Instagram, I had no idea why would I use it. It seemed a lot like Facebook, albeit a little strange—there were just pictures in the feed and still, something had me hold on just long enough to fall in love with the social media platform.
Years and several accounts later, I realised that over time, Instagram had grown over me, and I felt as helpless as any addict can testify. The experience was, well—just endless-scrolling-for-hours.
And if you can relate, then you do know what endless-scrolling-for-hours feels like at the end of the day. You get nothing accomplished and end up procrastinating your way through the day—there is work, house chores, and so much more. The list keeps growing, and it gets challenging to keep up, and by the end of the day, it leaves you frustrated and feeling helpless about the whole situation. No matter how much you try not to, you end up grabbing your phone and loading, yes, Instagram again and get back to the scrolling.
During the peak of my addiction, my usage each day shot up 5 to 7 hours. It was hard to keep the phone away and move on with my day. A phonecall, dead battery, extreme hunger, prolonged thirst or a full bladder were some of the things which would nudge me off the phone. Today, however, I am mindful regarding my consumption habits and make sure I use Instagram for 5 to 8 minutes a day. My weekly average stays 5 minutes, whereas my single-day usage never exceeds the 15-minute mark.
So, if you wish to get your power back and get things done, reclaim your productivity, you're at the right place. Read on!
The above breakthrough wasn't a result of encouraging words—but of actionable steps. When I was working on trimming my usage, I had to first think about the different reasons I kept going back to Instagram and then figure out how to get around those. So, here are all the actionable steps that you can take today itself to cut down your Instagram usage and rid yourself from the addiction.
It is easy to sit up and take notice, what is difficult is getting up and taking action.— Honore de Balzac
How much time do you currently spend on Instagram each day?
1. Have a Strong 'Why?'
Why Do You Want to Address Your Addiction?
You are reading this article right now, perhaps, because you do acknowledge it somewhere that your Instagram usage is an issue you need to tackle. If that is the case, then pat yourself on the back for taking that first step—acknowledging that a problem exists. You can't solve a problem until you know you have one. But before coming to this conclusion, what was it that lead you to make your mind up that way? What were the reasons?
The right 'why?'s hold tremendous power, as they provide you with a strong reason to do the right thing, and these can be of two types:
1. Stagnating 'Why?'s
These are all general and obvious ones. You know you aren't getting things done, you are aware of how much time you waste on social media and what all you could have done instead. These reasons make you acknowledge your usage problem, but they don't drive you to take action in all cases. They don't pack that much power to give you what it takes to do anything drastic about it.
2. Actionable 'Why?'s
These are very specific and strong 'why?'s which empower you to take action. In these 'Why?'s taking the required steps is presented as the solution to accomplish a particular goal that has significant emotional value.
"No matter what, I have to finish a marathon this year. I must practice for the same. However, I have to sleep early to be able to get up for the runs. I fail to sleep as I end up scrolling Instagram. I have to reduce my Instagram usage before I succeed at my goal."
The above example is specific and highlights how exactly could giving up on, Instagram in this case, make accomplishing the goal so much more possible.
I had multiple strong 'Why?'s. I wanted to repair my sleeping routine, increase my productivity, start a social project, run a business, be more healthy, and so much more. I was tired of the same routine and uneventful days. I knew that all that could only begin after I avoided the dull cycle of Instagram scrolling. All these reasons had enormous emotional value for me, and I was burning with desire to get started. No doubt, these reasons gave me a good boost.
What are your such burning reasons? And what do you want to do, that will need you to cut back on your Instagram usage?
When your 'why' is big enough, you will find your 'how'.— Les Brown
2. Remove Instagram From the Homescreen
We tend to keep our most-used apps right in the front, on the home screen, so that we can access them quickly without hassle. So, no doubt that Instagram easily makes it to the front. But what happens when you usually unlock your phone? The first thing you see is Instagram, and the visual trigger is enough to make you open the app. Just remember this simple rule: out of sight equals out of mind. You remove Instagram from your home screen and hide it somewhere in a folder so that it is time-consuming to access.
When you do this, unlocking your phone won't trigger you to open Instagram, and every time you will have to undertake the lengthy process before accessing the app. Lazy as we are, our urges drop when the task becomes time-consuming and repetitive.
3. Disable All Notifications
Whenever you receive a new 'like' or a comment, something within Instagram ignites, and it sends your way a notification, alerting you that you have received a new like or a comment. Now, because an Instagram 'like' or comment is so high up your list of priorities, you abandon everything to check on it right away. Is it that necessary to be urgently updated about a new like or a comment? Even if it is, should you leave everything to view it in the app? What does that accomplish? Are you required by Instagram to validate the 'likes' and comments as soon as they are posted? So that they don't expire? No, right? You can access them anytime and, they will always be there.
After disabling all the notifications, you will notice that you are spending less time checking Instagram. That is because you have one less trigger now. Earlier, whenever you received a notification, that triggered the habit to open the app and once opened, it was easy to lose yourself there. Now, you don't repeatedly get reminded, and your frequency of opening the app decreases, also reducing your time spent.
Another additional advantage to disabling the notifications is that you feel at peace. You begin to feel a lot more clear-headed and aware of your general surroundings. Not worrying about the number of likes and comments also leaves you feeling stress-free.
To disable the notifications, go to,
Instagram > Settings > Notifications
and then proceed to toggle everything off under various types of notifications.
You can turn off the notifications directly from your phone settings as well. Just go to,
Phone Settings > Apps > Instagram > Notifications
and then disable all notifications.
However, it only disables them for your current device, whereas, the in-app setting will disable notification for your account across all devices.
4. Know Your 'Why?'
Why Do You Want to Use Instagram?
If Instagram was such an issue for me, then why did I not simply delete my account? I did that often, but I was also back in a few weeks. I realized that I enjoyed creatively expressing myself on Instagram and having all my moments at one place.
I used to think that I needed Instagram to be 'social,' but it turned out that I needed it to save my blabbering and fun selfies. After I realized that, I began using my account for just that and stopped using other features not aligned with my usage intentions.
I also have a distaste regarding using Instagram to make new friends. I do not prefer using social media apps to stay 'social' they are anything but that. Nothing beats real people and actual conversations. You may feel you are very social because you're active on social media platforms, but that's like bonding with your phone, which is different from bonding with someone. So, I don't reach new people and only follow those I know well—enough that I don't have to check my Instagram to learn what's going on in their life—I can always call or meet them in person.
After being clear about my 'Why?' to use the app, I just come online whenever I have some words trying to pour out of my mind, or I see a cute cat across the block. And whenever it happens, I also check the pending comments and reply to personal messages. After that, I close the app.
So, get to know what your 'Why?' is, so that you become mindful and only use Instagram productively and not to distract yourself or because you are bored.
5. Make Your Account Private
When you have a public account, you operate with the awareness that your posts will represent you to the world. Hence, you are careful about what you post and build a self-image around it which needs maintenance. Along with it comes the need to be socially validated, the currency for which is the number of likes and comments you receive. Because it is a public account, there is no limit to the number of likes you can get, and you're always hoping to get more.
So, with or without the notifications turned on, you will get the urge to check your post frequently to see the number of likes it is getting. Each time you open your app, you're likely to begin scrolling or engage in other habits—inadvertently spending more time on Instagram.
It is better thus to have your main account, private. With a private account, and your followers being those who know you well (we will cover why it is important in the next step), you know that you can get only a certain number of likes. Additionally, those likes don't have that much gravity—they're from those who already accept you the way you are. That takes all the weight of trying to live up to a made-up self-image, and you can be your authentic self. No wonder now you don't check Instagram frequently for validation.
6. Unfollow! Unfollow! Unfollow!
Yes, you read that right. In the previous step, you made your account private, and in this one, you will unfollow all the unnecessary accounts. These unnecessary accounts add up to your feed and scrollability—as a result, you spend more time on Instagram. Oh, and you'll have to check your feed frequently to prevent it from becoming endless. You follow so many people that every few minutes, someone adds a post to your feed.
Do you want to scroll your life away or make your life worth scrolling? That change will only occur if you quit wasting your time getting updates on how other lives on Instagram seem and work on your own. Begin by unfollowing celebrities and brands who add no value to your life. Unfollow all those 'friends' who are nothing more than acquaintances—those meme pages, food pages, travel pages, and everyone not from an inner circle. There is nothing to lose from unfollowing them, but a lot to gain—you gain back your control.
After undergoing an 'unfollowing' spree, you will notice that your feed will be hardly a minute-at-max long. And after you're done going through your feed and have no other messages to respond to, you can just quit the app.
My tip? Only follow your close friends you get to speak to or see frequently. Now, because you only follow people from your inner circle, there's no need to keep in 'touch' with them on Instagram—you can always call or meet them. With followers from your inner circle, you will not feel pressured to present yourself a certain way. You express your true self, and that is when Instagram becomes worth it.
I follow accounts on my private account, most of them my close friends but a few related to business and book recommendations which add value to my life. What are the accounts you follow and do they add value to your life?
7. Never Scroll the Instagram Explore Page
There are two things you should know about the explore page—that it contains posts from people you don't follow and that it is never-ending. This combination makes it a nightmare for whoever is addicted to the app. You end up scrolling for hours at a time the content you did not even subscribe to in the first place. Scrolling becomes a habit at one point. A scrollable feed becomes the trigger, which triggers scrolling and a good post facilitates as the reward, which keeps the habit-cycle running. And as the explore page can be scrolled endlessly, you impulsively keep scrolling, your mind convinced that the right post could be just one more scroll away. This one scroll further turns to several many.
The bottom line is that the explore page helps you practice your scrolling skills and master the habit—which is something we don't want to do at all. We have discouraged the habit of scrolling in the previous step by reducing our feed, do not let the explore page help you relapse.
I would also strongly suggest you read the book—The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg, who is an author and a Pulitzer winning reporter. It will give you a thorough understanding of habits, how they are formed, how to identify them, and how to change them. It is quite practical and leaves you with the realisation that you majorly operate out of habits, and if you know what fuels them, you can change them. Personally, it has been a transformational book for me, and in fact, is the sole reason this article even exists today. After reading it, I became aware of the different destructive habits I had and succeeded in replacing them with constructive ones, Instagram being one!
8. Use the Daily Reminder Feature
If you worry about losing track of time on Instagram and would appreciate a little nudge whenever you are going overboard, then there's a helpful feature for you. Go to your Instagram settings and tap the 'Your Activity' option there. That option will take you to a page which contains your weekly average usage along with a few tools you can use to manage your time. One such tool is the 'Set daily Reminder' option. Tap on it and set your daily usage limit, and whenever you reach it, Instagram will notify you.
However, as soon as you receive the notification regarding daily usage, close the app. Never use the app after the reminder, cultivate discipline and stick to your commitment.
10. Be Mindful
Now that you've followed all the above steps, only one thing remains—being mindful about your usage in general. As in, whenever you get the urge to open the app, don't just sheepishly do so, but develop the habit to ask why do you want to do so? Is it because you want to share some pictures? Is it because you wish to express yourself? Is it because you quickly want to skim through your feed? If yes, then go ahead, otherwise, if you are trying to avoid boredom or run from a situation, then it is a bad idea.
Face your neighbours or relatives instead of distracting yourself with your phone, get to know them better. Relationships with actual people are any day better than relationships with inanimate 'smart' devices. When you open Instagram every time you are bored, it becomes a habit which we want to avoid at all costs. Instead, when you are idle, spend a few moments to think about your day or things which are on the back-burner but shouldn't be. If it is something like a ride in the elevator, then spend time with your thoughts. There is no need to distract yourself every other moment. Spending time with yourself is something that aids your creativity, and is also something we have stopped doing lately. So, go and listen to your thoughts, perhaps, you will find your Eureka moment?
The Bottom Line
- This article applies to the general public, those who struggle with Instagram addiction. If you are a business holder or an influencer, then some of the steps highlighted in the article may not be applicable (like making your account private) for you. In that case, you can still make use of the other methods outlined and discipline yourself—to be productive and even keep your Instagram page booming.
- Regarding 6th step (Unfollow! Unfollow! Unfollow!), I do not mean to say that you have to let go and lose touch of all your friends through the years but, separate your accounts. Have two accounts, one private and one public. Follow step 6th for your private account while you can follow anyone you feel like on your public one. The idea, however, is to use the private account majorly to avoid all the clutter and use the public account only when needed (Step 10). I operate four different accounts - for food blogging, sharing quotes, a public account and a private one. Only when I eat something different and have to post, I use the food account, same applies to the quote account. I rarely use my public account, and when I do so, it is to post general pictures and things. I use private regularly, but only for 5 minutes.
- Use Instagram as there isn't anything wrong with it. If, however, you find yourself glued to it rather than be busy with other things, then something has to change. Time is one resource which is limited and is continuously getting exhausted, whether we utilize it or not. So, think not about all the time you have lost so far but think about the time you still have left, and make it count.
© 2020 Trihorus