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"It forced me to spend some more quality time with myself, appreciate unplugged moments, and think about life outside the little squares." (Image: Getty Images)
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I did an "Instagram cleanse" for 3 weeks and here's how it went

We all know that we spend way too much time on our phones. But let me drop some crazy statistics for you:

According to Nielsen's quarterly report on media consumption from July 2018,

  • American adults spend over 11 hours per day consuming media (of any kind) and 29 percent of those 11 hours is spent using apps or the web on a smartphone.
  • Young adults (ages 18-34) spend 43 percent of their time consuming media on digital platforms.

That’s almost HALF of your day spent consuming media. What?!?

I was pretty appalled when I first used the “screen time” feature on my iPhone and learned I was spending over seven hours on my phone some days, and picking my phone up at least 90 times per day. Granted, I work in news media, so my phone is necessary to do my job but regardless, that's a lot of time to be holding and looking at my iPhone.

This realization is what led me to the above statistics (*insert furiously Googling here...on my iPhone...) Turns out, I’m not the only one spending a good chunk of my day scrolling.

I assessed my phone use a little bit more -- I wondered, which apps am I using the most? Social media apps, of course. Twitter is my most-used social app, with an average of 1 hour 40 minutes spent tweeting and reading others' tweets. Instagram was a close second, with about 1 hour on average per day.

I decided that I needed to do a “social media cleanse.” I couldn’t swear off all social media because of work, so I decided that Instagram would be the one to purge. It’s often the one that leads to FOMO or envy, and definitely a lot of mindless scrolling. So, I deleted the app off of my phone for three weeks.

The first couple days were pretty weird and eye-opening. I found myself going to check Instagram and trying to click on the app that was no longer there. These were good moments because they forced me to think about where I was and what I was doing when I was attempting to check the ‘gram. I found that often I was filling empty time (in an Uber, for example) or just simply bored or procrastinating.

I then caught myself checking other apps more often to fill this void. I was checking Pinterest a ton, and then even started scrolling through Venmo and clothing apps (how crazy?!) It became apparent to me very quickly that I was addicted to the simple act of scrolling and I was clearly gravitating towards image-focused apps.

As the second week approached, I consciously checked my phone less. I would catch myself reaching for my phone and would actively decide to not pick it up if I didn’t have a reason to look at it. I cut my screen time by over an hour and a half in that second week. I count that as a win!

By the third week, I noticed I wasn’t reaching for my phone as much and was definitely not subconsciously searching for the Instagram app. I tried to cut my phone use in general in the third week, too. I started to bring a book with me when commuting so I was consumed by that rather than mindlessly clicking through the same apps over and over. The book trick helped and I really enjoyed those moments I could read! I also started to savor the quietness of moments doing nothing. I honestly don't remember the last time I had drank my morning coffee without my phone in the other hand. But in the third week I actively decided to sit and just drink my coffee --- phoneless. It was my favorite part of my days.

At the start of week four, I re-downloaded the app. I immediately posted a photo I had been wanting and waiting to post (...it's hard going cold turkey!)

However, I set up some new Instagram rules for myself:

  1. Turn off Instagram notifications (I'm reminded of Instagram less that way!)
  2. Only check Instagram stories once per day (I don't have Snapchat, but Instagram stories is a black hole of mindless clicking for me. Do I really need to see a photo of every meal you ate? Probably not.)

I’ve also implemented two rules to curb my general phone usage:

  1. No phones while commuting (via Uber, Metro, walking, etc.)
  2. No phone while eating breakfast (just me, myself and my coffee)

These rules have been easy enough to follow, so that’s my suggestion if you decide to also reassess your relationship with social media: make changes that you can realistically keep up with.

Overall, my break from Instagram was healthy and eye-opening. I wasn’t really missing all that much by not checking it and honestly, it felt nice to not constantly be looking at all of the fun things my friends are doing, the gorgeous outfits fashion bloggers are wearing and the intense workouts health gurus are doing. It forced me to spend some more quality time with myself, appreciate unplugged moments, and think about life outside the little squares.

Have you ever done a social media cleanse? Let us know!

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