A week ago, I decided to take the next step in my digital minimalism goal and tackle a big fish: Instagram.
Too Much of a Good Thing
I’ve been using Instagram since 2016. I joined pretty late in the game, first using it for sharing random photos/thoughts and later creating a second account to connect with the book community. Like most social media, Instagram is what you make of it. Over the years, I’ve managed to start or maintain some good online friendships through the platform, which (beyond sharing book reviews) has been my main focus in using social media at all.
More recently, I’ve found Instagram to become quite a time suck. I spend a lot of time trying to keep up with everyone I know on there—that is, both their pictures and their Stories—and I also get readily sucked into the algorithm of recommended pictures. The algorithm is just poor enough that it barely knows what I like (I finally trained it to show me bookish jokes/memes, cute animals, and pretty costumes), but it’s just good enough that I find it incredibly addicting, whether I’m trying to unwind for the day or feeling sad-bored. Between both of these feeds, plus posting my own content, I can easily spend 1+ hours a day on the ‘gram.
Last weekend, I decided to confront this unhealthy habit. I didn’t want to quit Instagram altogether, because it’s still a great and fun tool when used in moderation. What I did was uninstall the app from my phone, but I left it installed on my iPad and on my desktop computer. You may be thinking, “well, what good does that do?” Surprisingly, quite a lot!
The key to this approach lies in Instagram itself. The experience on iPad and desktop is notoriously bad. On the iPad, Instagram can be installed and used, but the resolution is still geared for phones, so you’ve got all the cumbersome-ness of a tablet without the full benefits of a tablet’s screen size. On desktop, Instagram is so boiled-down, you can’t upload a photo easily. (There is a hack to do it, which is a little roundabout, but it works for me since I only upload photos once a week or so.)
Given the inconveniences and a better self-awareness, I don’t enjoy using Instagram nearly so much when it’s not on my phone. So far, this has helped to greatly reduce my usage. When I am using it now, I focus on keeping up with my closest friends, and I don’t feel inclined to look at endless recommended pictures.
Saying Good-Bye to Pinterest
I’ve had Pinterest longer than I’ve had Instagram, but surprisingly I never found it to be addicting. There were seasons when I would spend more time on it, especially during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but all in all, it’s never been an addiction for me like Tumblr or Instagram were. It’s probably because Pinterest feels less social to me than Instagram, and up until recently, I had trouble finding pictures I liked on there anyway.
That said, I decided I don’t need Pinterest to save pictures I like, so yesterday I saved my favorite pictures for future personal reference and deleted the account. Unless the website dramatically changes in the future, I don’t think I will miss this one, either.
“Pinterest in Real-Life” … AKA Photo Albums
For the longest time, I’ve wanted to start scrapbooking. Nothing elaborate, just collections of my favorite photos, paintings, and quotes.
While I hesitate to start yet another hobby (!!), I find there’s something wonderful about a physical photo album, such as my mom created for each of us children when we were young.
- A physical album is only so big, so you have to choose the most important things to include. You simply can’t hoard the equivalent to endless amounts of digital photos (as I do 😛 ).
- It’s something you can carry with you and look at even if the power goes out, a website goes down, or your laptop conks out.
- It takes a lot more effort to arrange a nice photo album, which says a little bit more about you and not just the pictures themselves.
I don’t know when I can start yet, but I plan to create albums for the really important memories, like our best family vacations or the most beautiful flowers I’ve seen. And when I do that, I think I will just save one digital photo copy as backup and let the rest go.