Fighting a habit can be very hard, especially if there is an army of programmers, behavior scientists as well as data analysts working against you. I am speaking of the habit of wasting hours of your day scrolling posts of people you barely know, who are trying to make you jealous by posting their fake life on Instagram. I tried to get rid of my Instagram addiction for more than a year and finally, after reading various books as well as blog posts about it, tried many different techniques — and succeeded. Here is how I did it.
So first of all, this might be a good news for some of you — it is not that I do not use Instagram at all anymore. I actually do use it for business purposes and I still have a personal account as well . But the thing is that I am not endlessly looping through the app anymore and now control my usage behavior.
I worked in Social Media Marketing, especially focusing on Instagram and as I was both using it personally as well as professionally, my entire life was circling around it. This pushed me even deeper into the famous “instagram loop” than a normal user is— and even for a “normal” user the addictive effect can be overwhelming. After a few of the top Facebook/Instagram executives leaked and heavily criticized that they implemented various sophisticated and data-driven methods to keep you spend as much time as possible on the platform, I became more sensitized to observe my own sick usage behavior.
Two things really got me worried: First, I was wasting insane amounts of time. Secondly, it was heavily affecting my mood. After browsing through the shiny looking, faked life of strangers on Instagram, my mood constantly dropped, leaving me in an absolutely brain-dead mode for the rest of the day. And despite that I could observe that it had zero positive but just strong negative effects on the quality of my life — I could not stop. So I started trying to figure out a way to get rid of it.
Step1: Simply delete it
So my first thought was to just delete the app. But as I was working in social media marketing, the only thing I could do was deleting it on my private phone. Which had the effect that I was just using my business phone all day instead. So that did not work out at all.
Secondly, I logged out of my private profile, just using business profiles instead. The problem: In just 3 seconds and with two clicks, I could switch back into my private profile -and guess what — I did all the time.
So I then thought of deleting the app from both of my phones, just using the web app on my laptop instead. The problem here was: You cannot post content from the web version — this is just possible on the Mobile app version. Thats really strange and I am wondering if Instagram does this to exactly prevent people from switching to the web version to reduce usage — or if it has a technical reason. Either way, it did not work for me.
At the time, I was thankfully switching jobs so I could move further away from Instagram on a professional level. This allowed me to actually live without it — theoretically speaking. This was the time when I constantly deleted the app. Just to download it back again a day later. I did this over an over again. I am sure a lot of people can relate to this phenomenon. It is probably just like when you aggressively try to quit smoking: You wake up, throw your cigarettes in the trash, just to buy a new pack the next time you go out. With the only difference that Instagram is free — and so the financial punishment of such behavior does not exist, which would otherwise probably prevent you from doing it dozens of times.
Step 2: Detox
So after realizing that deleting the app did not work for me, I started trying to detox. So I told myself to live without it for a week. This actually worked at first and I could also feel how my craving for the app significantly decreased after such a week. Unfortunately it was not enough to prevent me from falling back into the loop right after. But it did in fact still helped me, as I proofed to myself that it really had a positive effect on my life when I did not use it.
Step 3: Awareness
The third technique I tried was to constantly be aware of my behaviour while using the app. Whenever I was scrolling through shiny photos of amazing holiday destinations, clothings I could not afford or people flying in helicopters for a weekend trip to Mykonos, I was constantly trying to force myself to be aware of the process. Why I was doing it as well as for how long. It did help me to significantly reduce the time wasted as well as not falling into the brain-dead mode afterwards.
Step 4: Getting rid of other addictive Apps
Now that I was getting a bit better with Instagram, I realized that it was not the only loop that I was falling in. Other apps were doing the same — such as news as well as career-apps. Those were easier to get rid of, as they had full-functioning web applications that I could use instead of the app. Getting rid of these “alternative drugs” helped me to become much more aware of my general phone usage behavior which in turn further helped me reducing my Instagram usage. I guess this is like alcohol and cigarettes — a lot of people have to smoke when they get drunk.
Step 5: Cold Rehab
I did a full 14 days cold phone rehab. I was only using my phone during 30 minutes of the day. Which was only possible during my holidays of course. It is something I can really recommend as it shows you how dependent we got on these little things in our pocket.
Step 6: Time Tracking Apps
I downloaded a time-tracking app on my phone which measured how many minutes I was using each app every day. The result was shocking: Between 3–6 hours of straight Instagram usage. What a waste of precious time. Think about your time on this planet being limited — I was thinking about what I would tell myself when I was old about spending years on Instagram. I would probably heavily regret it. This thought really helped me to push forward on limiting my app-usage behavior.
Step 7: Get hobbies
It is quite simple — when you do not have any hobbies that excite you after work, you are easily falling into negative habbits — just out of boredom. So it is crucial to find things that excite you. For me it is coding PLUS I started to write..
Step 8: Combining Step 1–7
This is how I actually managed to finally get my Instagram usage under control. After trying various techniques, for me the solution to the problem is using all of them together. So there is no simple one-shot solution to it — at least not for me. It is a combination of 1. Deleting the app if you can, on as many devices as it is possible taking your job responsibilities into account. 2. Detoxing from your social media applications from time to time. 3. Being aware of how you use your devices (this is the most effective one for me). 4. Getting rid of as many time-wasters on your phone as possible. Step 5. Doing no-phone days from time to time — take Sunday for example. Step 6: Track your app usage and think about how you would judge yourself as an old and wise person on how much time you wasted on this stupid app (that probably wont exist anymore). Step 7: Get hobbies and work on side projects that excite you more than any bad habit. This is more valuable than anything else and very important to your general well-being.
Hope you can use some of these tips and find your own techniques to add.
Thank you for reading :)