Five Things I Learned from my Five-Month Break from Instagram

At the end of every year, our church challenges us to pick a word that we are believe God will use in our life in the coming year. For 2019, I chose the word resilience - the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

The end of 2018 was a tough season for me; I felt fragile and defeated. It was the culmination of all the basic everyday stuff: leadership, owning a business, wife-life, mom-life, trying to honor God correctly, and feeling insufficient to serve in all the other roles that matter to me: daughter, sister, neighbor, friend.

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For the second half of 2018, I went to bed every night feeling inadequate.

At some point during this time, I watched a YouTube video of Chamath Palihapitiya, an early senior executive of Facebook, talking to Stanford University graduate students about the way social media changes the way our brains and society work. It was intriguing - and frightening; frightening in the I-gotta-make-a-change kind of way. The link between this brain change he was describing and my feelings of inadequacy was undeniable.

So, I decided to take action. I took a big step back; I decided to break-up with Instagram. This separation from social media was beneficial in so many ways.

Here are five important lessons I learned in the process.

Chamath Palihapitiya, you’re probably right.

Palihapitiya believes that we’ve all become trained by social media to rely on short-term dopamine hits that remap our respective brains. And that chemical reaction is changing the way we interact with one another.

In addition, he worries that when we choose to curate our lives for the validation of others, we are creating a vapid, empty population that spans the entire world - as in, billions of people. So, billions of vapid, empty beings craving validation from others. His main point: If you feed the beast the beast will consume you. If you push back on it, we have a chance to control it and reign it in. And he is right. We need to be aware that the process of filtering our lives for the eyes of others just isn’t natural. We need to internalize this truth, see the toxicity of social media, and be cautious as we use it in our daily life.

That doesn’t mean it has to be all or nothing.

My personality tends to live in extremes at all times; so, after digesting Palihapitiya’s perspective, my instinct was to say - I’m out; I’m out of social media; I’m out of social media forever. And that’s what I did. I got out. And I loved it. I truly felt at peace and at rest; I hadn’t felt either - or the beautiful combination of both - in a long time. I found myself focusing on quiet time with God; enjoying quality time with my husband, kids, and closest family; seeking rest; serving in a way that was fully present. But as the holidays came, I began to miss the sense of feeling macro-connected and micro-connected. I missed the constructive things that the Instagram community provides: connection with friends who live far away, special inspiration from a sister in Christ, learning a new recipe, a fresh wellness tip.

I realized quickly that I am in relationship with Instagram. And just like a friendship, there are seasons when time spent with that sister is good, rich and fulfilling. But, just as real, are the problematic patterns in any relationship that can suck joy out of your life.

Personalizing that connection to Instagram can help us recognize these dangers and remind us to step back.

Pay attention, and take a break.

So, what do you do when you find yourself sinking into unhealthy patterns? (And you will.)

First - get off your friggin’ phone. Seriously.

And do it the first time you have that little twitch in your spirit to do so. Don’t wait until it’s snowballed into something more. A lot of people take one day off a week -  i.e. No Social Media Sunday. Others delete the app from their phone for a week at a time when they start to feel too absorbed.

I, personally, love the new iPhone screen time feature that locks you out after a certain period of time. I set it at 20 minutes per day, and I don’t allow myself any longer than that. Game-changer.

Maybe you need an extended time of sanctuary. If so, you should suspend your account for awhile. If anything, just remember - you know you, and you know what you need. The only thing I know for certain is we all need a break sometime. Find yours.

We need to give each other grace and love.

Guess what - there are people who don’t like me out there. This used to eat me alive. During my break from Instagram last fall, I really began to understand the power of vulnerability. I came around to being okay with not being liked. It’s a little humiliating to admit that I’m really just now learning this as a mom of five at age 32; but, I am.

And guess what - there are people who like me out there! The little messages I received when I got back on Instagram were so special and uplifting to me. It was a great reminder to me of the power of our tongues and how much the little stuff matters. Instagram is a great tool to spread positivity - we should grab that chance whenever we can. The women I know who live this way, using social media to encourage others whenever they can, are truly the happiest, kindest, and most confident women I know. I want to live with that kind of alacrity, too.

Love your own highlight reel.

The #1 fan of my life is me! And you should be yours. #noshame

One of the things I missed most during my time off from Instagram was looking through my own page. While we are all busy curating and filtering our lives for the viewing of others, we’ve created a picture perfect album of the way God has blessed us.

Try this: after a long, hard day, scroll through your better moments preserved on Instagram and feel the gunk of the day melt away. You are blessed, my friend.

This is just my story; and only some of things I learned during my break from social media.

We’d love to hear from you! Tell us about your social media fast or a way you use these tools to spread positivity. Share in the comments below!

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Kat Eckles

Kat Eckles is the owner and chief visionary officer of Clean Juiceas well as the driving force behind well happy + kind. Eckles co-owns Clean Juice with her husband, Landon. They have five children together. In 2018, she was an honoree in the Charlotte Business Journal's Women in Business awards program.

Follow her on Instagram here: @theecklestribe