Why I Don’t Follow Anyone On Instagram — #HowToChangeTheWorld

“If everything you read on your social media feeds was a book that was printed out to you every morning, would you still read it?”

I’ve always been a person with a dynamic online presence. In my teen years I gravitated towards such social digital mediums because they helped me compensate communicatively when my stuttering was just too challenging. In the past few years I’ve tried to go above and beyond asking girls for coffee and posting pictures of my vacations to producing content (blog posts, podcasts, etc.) of value. If you follow me on Instagram, it’s certainly noticeable that I don’t follow anyone back. I want to explain this bit of douch’iness and perhaps some of my reasons might be applicable to you and your digital life. Here is why I don’t follow anyone on Instagram.

As a digital native, I’m no stranger to social media and have essentially grown up with it being a part of my life. Hence, I know all too well the negative feelings the channels can induce. Yes, those pings of anxiety you feel when you scroll and see your crush hanging out with someone else or your friends at the movies without you has a name. ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (more colloquially known as FOMO) is the anxiety you experience when you’re scared you’re missing out on something fun that’s going on. And with social media not going away anytime soon, I assessed my own FOMO and decided getting rid of my Instagram feed was just one method to mitigate it. I take still check up on my friends and families regularly on Facebook and seeing essentially the same pictures that would have been on Insta.

As a bit of a learning freak, I’m always seeking new learning that helps me to think differently about the components of my life. On a podcast on Freakonomics radio this summer, Aziz Ansari proposed an interesting metaphor that challenged my social media use further.

“If everything we viewed on social media was a book, would you still read it?”

I took this analogy to heart and concluded that if an anonymous fairy (opposed to a fairy that I did know by name) printed out my next day’s Instagram feed into a book and left it on my doorstep for me to read every morning over coffee, I just wouldn’t do it. Therefore, I shouldn’t spend the same time and cognitive energy reading the same content on a screen. I apply this metaphor to all my social media channels and now have significantly less Facebook friends and follow less people on Twitter.

The next reason is oddly personal. As a young man who has strived to make as many meaningful connections as possible, there are people I’ve made memories with that it would be hard to see pop up on my phone everyday. Not even ex-partners, but people it would be hard to see on the beach with their new love interest everyday for the rest of my life. I used to think of myself as soft for not putting myself through this, but I thought of another Ansari metaphor. In the 1970’s, no one would ever mail their ex-loved one pictures of them with their new love interest on the beach. Hence, I see no reason to put myself through this now. I’m genuinely thankful for the significant connections I’ve made in my life, and wish them all the best, but I have to make my mental and emotional health my priority.

A proportion of my friends and family are starting to undergo momental events in their life such as getting married and having kids. I found, for me, that witnessing such magic everyday on Instagram took away from the real life experience. I would rather see a picture of my friend’s new born baby every week or two (when I choose to go look at their Facebook profile on my own time) opposed to everyday in my Instagram feed. Although this sounds harsh, my friends get to see my face light up when I see their kid in person and can’t believe how much they’ve grown. The same process applies for learning about my friends life events and whereabouts. When I see my friends at parties, I don’t know that they went to Mexico over the holidays and they can describe their trip to me in person. Life feels a bit more novel and special again.

I thank you all for sticking with me and embracing my quirks. Here are some tips for combating FOMO in your own life:

  • A GoogleChrome extension to block your Facebook newsfeed.
  • Turn your phone off half an hour before you go to bed.
  • Only allow yourselves to check your feeds at certain times in the day (Ex. One scroll through in the morning and once at night)
  • Tell your friends and family if they need to reach you in 24 hours, call your phone opposed to sending a Facebook message.
  • Turn off push notifications on your phone.
  • Took your wifi and/or data off at school or work.
  • Unfollow Ex’es where you need to. If you think it’s necessary, give them an honest phone call and explain its out of love and respect.
  • When you go out for dinner, have you and your guests put your phones on silent and in a pile in the middle of the table. The first one to reach for their phone for any reason has to buy the person to their right a drink of their choosing.
  • Be mindful about what you post. Think of the 1970’s metaphor.
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