How I knew I had to quit Instagram

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I wrote a detailed account of my fight and shared it with my followers, along with my plan. I knew from my experience with alcohol that public accountability was important. I also knew I had to go for the cold turkey; moderation didn’t just take a huge amount of energy, it failed me every time.

In the months that followed, I felt freer, lighter and more focused than ever. I did everything I did, without having to capture it, pack it up and share it. I still felt anxious because I’m an anxious person, but I wasn’t choking. I was more productive, yes, but most incredible, I was actually present with the people who were in front of me.

I also became curious. What was Instagram so destructive to me?

I realized that every time I was on social media I was chasing an unattainable goal.

When a post worked well or I had a bunch of followers, I felt great for a minute, but just as quickly, I felt the pressure to do it again. If something was received negatively or if I lost people, I was consumed with anxiety and felt compelled to “fix” it. Over time, I made hundreds of small adjustments to how and what I shared, tweaking myself to get the best result. But there was no “better” result. No matter what I did, there would never be enough followers, enough approval, enough success. The more I posted, the less I felt myself.

In this way, it was very similar to alcohol, in that drinking also became fundamentally dishonest – the person I was when I was drinking was present a false facade to the world too.

“Once we hold onto a false image of ourselves, online or otherwise, we become alienated from ourselves and we start to feel unreal in the world, and unrelated to our existence,” Anna said. Lembke MD, medical director of Stanford. Addiction Medicine and author of “Dopamine Nation,” in a recent interview for my podcast. “It generates enormous amounts of anxiety and dysphoria, and it’s a really dangerous place.”

There are so many ways we are tricked into adopting a fake me on social media, but when we do, we lose something vital: the ability to experience life in the here and now. And “the here and now” is where the real self lives.


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