Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Logging off: The start of my Instagram addiction

Sunday, February 13, 2022
Graphic designed in Canvas

In seventh grade, my crush at the time asked me if I was on Instagram. I had zero idea what Instagram was, so I did what any middle schooler would do and lied before proceeding to furiously Google the term after school.

At that time, Instagram’s icon still gleamed in shades of brown and beige. No ombre mix of sunset colors. No sleek white outline. It was a time when people still posted selfies with Snapchat dog filters or badly photoshopped collages of their families at the beach. I downloaded the social media app on my mom’s phone, and so began my fate.

For three years, I checked my Instagram only by stealing my mother’s phone about three times a day. Thirty minute scrolling sessions were pretty typical, because any longer and my mom would start yelling about her missing phone (usually blaming my brother). I couldn’t download the app myself because I had an ancient budget LG flip phone at the time.

(Sidenote: there was internet on my old phone if you could type words accurately enough for Google to recognize it as a real language. A difficult feat with keys as wide as a millimeter.)

When I finally got my own iPhone in high school, Instagram was my first download. My newfound freedom allowed me to scroll for hours and hours and hours without interruption from my mom. Checking the app became a habit, a morning and night routine, a freetime activity and everything in-between.

It was all rooted in a forever FOMO. The same FOMO TikTok created with its personalized algorithm and endless feed. (But that’s a conversation for another day).

For the past year, I’ve been trying to delete the app, but always hesitate before pressing that little red “X”. I keep thinking, “What if I forget my password?” “What if I need to contact someone for work?” “What if I miss messages from my friends?” So, instead I’ve removed the app from my home screen.

This means the app is still on my phone, but only accessible through the App Library – one left swipe past the home screen. Nothing has changed with my Instagram checking habit. It just takes my thumb one extra swipe to get to the app now.

Today, I decided to spend one day without Instagram. Yes, one day. We’re taking baby steps here. Despite the cleanse, my thumbs still swiped to the App Library page and tapped the Insta icon multiple times. Either it’s muscle memory or my thumbs are possessed by Mark Zuckerberg. Every time I accidentally tapped the app, I exited right away – usually shocked – then found something else to do.

Things I did today instead of scrolling: read, watched the Olympics with my mom, completed homework and wrote this column. I’m realizing I have a lot more free time than I thought after adding up all those little moments when I’d usually scroll through Insta.

I’ll explore different ways to “log off” from the world of constant notifications, likes, emails, little screens and big screens in this weekly column.

To me, the internet and reality have always felt like two separate worlds. When I constantly check my phones throughout the day, it’s like I’m on an endless seesaw between the two. Back and forth. Back and forth. It’s exhausting.

This semester, I’m hoping to let the “blue light” world go dark for just a little while, and find ways to be present in this world – the one where I can not only order a double chocolate espresso, but taste it too.