Instagram: A generation’s drug of choice.

Truth be told, technological advancement have been great for humanity. It’s literally changed life as we knew it. The world is smaller, faster, better and interconnected but we have to admit that it’s been a double edge sword.

Every morning I wake up and right before opening my eyes, my hands are scanning the bed to reach for my phone. If I don’t find it, which happens more often than I care to admit, I find myself having a mini panic attack. I shake my covers and anxiously search the floor in the case it might’ve fallen during my agitated sleep. Finally, a sense of relief comes over me as I find my phone hidden under my pillow but then follows the feeling of aggravation when I realize that I forgot to charge my phone overnight. That’s quite the emotional rollercoaster for the first 30 second of an 18 hour day.

I woke up with a dead phone.

So I put my phone in charge as I get ready for the day but I can’t help this very faint feeling of anxiety. I wonder who DM’d me while I was a sleep? How many people liked my pictures? What ended up happening after I left that party last night? Any crazy news? Nicki probably talked a whole bunch of sh*t on Queen Radio. smh.

Side-note: It’s so crazy that I feel the anxiety i’m describing as I’m writing this. It’s like I’m re-living it.lol

All this really affects my day more than you think. These are examples of my thoughts:

“D*mn it! I can’t go out without my phone. It has to be charged to at least 85% judging by the amount of time i’ll be out .”

(Yeah! Because I lost my portable battery and lately I had to resort to bringing my Macbook around so I can charge it in my backpack while I go run errands.)

“I got a client breakfast meeting this morning, I definitely can’t show up with a backpack. It’s at the Faena Hotel so you know i’m gonna have tons of quality content for my IG story. Hopefully the Uber will have a USB port so I can charge it up on the way there.”

My brain goes on and on with these thoughts and little ways to strategies the survival of my device for the sake of social media. You wouldn’t believe the extent to which this goes. That, my friends, is proper digital addiction. A couple of engineers thought it would be cool to connect people by having them share their world through photos. Awesome idea! Simple, pure and straight to the point but when did it all go wrong. Well, like anything in this world, whenever something is touch by humans it leads to a series of horrible events(for the most part).

1. A drug by design

People like the platform. That’s cool, but running it costs money and therefore that startup is going to need to generate some. Advertisers need an audience and they will pay to have people lay eyes on the product they are selling. In order to do that Instagram needs to retain our attention.

Attention + Data = Money

There goes one of the source of our addiction. Engineers up in a office that looks very close to an arcade I used to go to when I was a kid, display content based on the data you and I provide to them. It goes down to the design and colors, to even the sound of a notification. The product is literally designed and engineered for you to spend more time on the app which translates to an addiction. INSTAGRAM IS A DESIGNER DRUG. Think about it. The business model is to make you an addict and gather data around your character type so they can offer you up to the proper 3rd party best fitted to make a sell. You can only do targeted marketing if you have the right data to classify users, else you’re just shooting in the dark. Nothing in this world is free. Especially in the current digital market. You’re paying for it somehow. In this case data is your currency. The more you use, the more data you give, the more engineers will work a way to optimize the app for you to spend more time on it /make you an addict. My goal is not to paint Instagram as this evil company. It is merely to explain the social impact caused by the optimization of their business model which, I should underline, is the same as most media companies.

2. FOMO ( Fear Of Missing Out)

The anxiety I felt in the morning is a physical manifestation of FOMO. My whole social circle is on Instagram. The platform truly touches on our innermost need to connect with other human beings in a social aspect. It’s a simple way to be updated on anything going on with your peers without leaving you’re couch. Your whole social world is on it so when you’re not, it feels like you’re missing out. That’s one of the reasons we feel the need to open and check on what’s new on the app. On average we check our phones 150 times a day and I know I spent a solid 90 of those times checking Instagram. I can’t remember the last time a joke or a simple conversation hasn’t referenced something happening online. Every second of the day some news breaks out that will be talked about in a Sunday dinner with the homies. Truly one of the best time of the week and the last thing I want is not being able to be part of the conversation. I absolutely hate being out of the loop.

3. Highlights and Comparisons.

Fierce Forward

I choose to take a picture from a certain angle because it makes whatever is in front of me look the best it can be. I post it because it looks dope and therefore makes me look dope. Somehow, someway my posts and how I feel about myself have become interconnected. Any likes and comments, validate or destroy how I’m feeling about myself. As part of that digital community, I comment, like and DM others which includes me in the cycle. We have received a power most haven’t acknowledged, which is to validate or destroy others through their self-esteem which directly correlates to the life they’ve expressed on IG. I scroll down my timeline and see how amazing everyone is doing, which my reflective nature forces me to turn the question on myself. “How am I doing? Am I doing as good as everyone else? Everything seems so perfect on their end. My life is far from perfect.” That constant feedback loop our generation have found itself in might just explain the raise of diagnosed depression amongst teens. This is what I would say is the biggest killer of the three. A picture takes less than a fraction of a second to be captured and yet people will compare their entire lives to it. An entire existence compared to a series of photos that if added all up would never amount to even one full second of life. How crazy is this?!

How I have dealt with it.

My productivity is trash.

I had to figure out what were the things that would mess up my productivity. Of course the first thing that came to mind is Instagram. So I decided as a first step to cut off all notifications to instagram. Which worked pretty well in the beginning. At least I thought so but I notice that whenever I hit a mental block at work I pick up my phone and start scrolling through my apps. Also I found that the numbers of notifications would still popped on the corner of the app logo which then got me checking every so often if I had a notification. This lasted for a while. I had made a slight progress but then regressed back into my old ways even though I didn’t have the notifications anymore.

Then came the beautiful iOS 12 update with the birth of a new feature called ‘Screen Time’. How Awesome! I’m going to be able to check exactly how much time I spend on Social Media. Which can’t be that bad right? Well, that excitement was short-lived. I found out I spent 27 Hours a week on Social Media. Close to 19 Hours of those were on Instagram. I felt deeply disgusted with myself.

It’s time for a change.

I discovered that theres a feature allowing you to limit your time on certain apps. So I allowed myself 1Hr a day on social media. It would cut my IG time to 7Hours a week which would be substantial progress. It worked! Well, Sort of. This did reduce my use of Instagram but the option to unlock the app for just 15 minutes messed my whole strategy up. 15 minutes turned to 30, then turned to 1Hr then 2Hours. This is wild ! Am I ever going to be able to tame this addiction?

So I decided to detox.

I temporarily disabled my instagram and all other Social Media. I blocked them from my browser and deleted them from my phone. It’s been 3 days now. Boy! What an experience. I’ve notice habits that I never knew I had. Most importantly the roots of these habits. The biggest i’ve noticed is I used Instagram to fill a void. A temporarily lapse of creativity, a mental block, being upset, being bored, procrastination will all lead me to picking up my phone. I have this thing I call “Phantom Scroll”. It’s when I pick up my phone and subconsciously look for social media apps for a solid minute until I snap out of it and realize I had deleted them. It’s hilarious in the beginning but then made me reflect on how deep seeded the issue really is. I have noticed I have so much extra time in the day. I usually feel like everything flies by but that really slowed down time for me. My focus and work have been optimized to the best it’s been in quite sometime. I am really happy to have made that decision. My goal is to hit 30 Days. I guess I’ll write about the difference this made in my life then. Knowing the drastic change in 3 Days only God knows what’s going to happen in 4 weeks.

In conclusion, Instagram is a drug induced in our society that has affected the way we feel about our lives, the way we work and the way we operate in our day to day lives. Though I am happy it’s around I can’t help but think about the thousands if not millions of young minds poisoned by it. There are tons of kids dealing with self-esteem issues and depression because of dopamine rushes created by a few lines of code. I do believe that everything is good with moderation. Social Media is not all bad, it’s just structured in a way that forces manipulation of chemicals in our brain for it to survive and ultimately bring in profits.