A Quick Tactical Guide to Improving your Instagram Time
This post is about managing how you use your Instagram, cleaning out your feed, and limiting your usage if you find that you spend too much time on it (and it keeps sucking you back in).
Instagram is the main platform I use, both as a contributor and consumer of content.
For many months, long before #Covid19 came along, I've been diligently cleaning out my feeds. I asked myself, how can I get this thing to help me in life rather than steal my time and attention away from me (and make me feel unhappy on top of it)?.
Why Use Social Media At All?
Like most people, I'm somewhat of a sponge to what goes on around me so it's imperative to my #mentalhealth that I'm actively aware of what goes into my brain.
I use Instagram for basically 3 reasons: to connect with others, share ideas & learn, and get inspired.
What do you like to use social media for?
If I'm not more energized after I've spent time on social, I've done it wrong. I've looked at the wrong things, and need to readjust how I use it.
Those times when I've done it wrong, I've closed the app feeling more exhausted, jealous, scared, bored, angry or envious than before... all the opposite of why I'd ever want to go on there in the first place.
Everything we expose ourselves to seeps into our subconscious mind. (More on the subconscious and how it affects us here.)
The act of scrolling mindlessly lulls us into to a zoned-out state and lets our guard down to let in a ton of junk.
If we want to improve what we're feeding our minds, we need to be more proactive.
In the time of #Covid19 and widespread panic, this sort of vigilance is more important than ever.
How To Manage Your Feed (a.k.a The Accounts You Follow)
Phase 1: Removing crappy stuff
The easiest unfollows are accounts that post things meant to anger, offend and terrify people. (I hate to break it to you, but some of those will be people you know, celebrities, and news outlets.)
One quick sidenote here: being famous does not make someone a thought leader. If you want virtual mentors and inspiring people to lead the way for you, being famous isn't enough. I used to follow a bunch of famous people until I realized they really don't add much value to my life (except for a few like Reese Witherspoon and OPPRRAAAAAHHHHH!!!!).
The next wave of unfollows is accounts that have nothing to do with why you enjoy social media in the first place. When the subject matter is way off and you're going for a more curated approach, random stuff really sticks out and is easy to spot.
Pulling out the weeds in your feed is an ongoing process, there's no need to try to do it all at once. Also: if you don't want to "unfollow" for whatever reason, you can reduce your exposure to an account by opting to "mute" it.
Phase 2: Finding & Adding In More of What You Like
Consuming content with intention is easily done by clicking on hashtags that interest you. If you don't explore hashtags much, they end up creating curated feeds where the good stuff is (with a few minor random exceptions you can ignore).
If you really like what you see (which will be different every time you go on, because content is always being added) then you can "follow a hashtag" and have a few things pop up in your own feed weekly.
Beware of the Explore Tab
I'd say that if you're feeling uneasy with the state of the world these days, use caution when going into the "Explore" section, which can be a real free-for-all. I've seen some really disturbing shit in there that I can't unsee -- and I never asked for -- but that's what you get in the Explore tab.
In the first few days of Quarantine, I really wanted to find comfort and mentally escape on Instagram, but really could NOT get away from the pandemic.
Then I remembered that quote about always looking for the helpers.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” - Fred Rogers
How to Limit Your Time on Social
You can use the timer apps on your phone (on iPhone it's under to Settings --> Screen Time) which will boot you out of certain apps after a given amount of time. This is handy if you have trouble setting limits for yourself in real-time.
If you're unsure how your social media time adds up over a given week, you can also view how much time you spent on each app under those same settings in iPhone. (Spoiler alert: it's not pretty.)
You can set an alarm clock, or add a timed reminder, if you tend to get lost in the scrolling and exploring. (It's not you, they designed it that way.)
I know some folks who've made rules for themselves, such as nothing online before 12-noon. Or, if your trouble spot is falling into late-night rabbit holes, then some don't access ANY social after 4 or 5PM, well away from their bedtimes. When you know your weaknesses, these tactics are really helpful.
You can charge your phone away from your bed, which really helps curb night time as well as early morning Insta sessions. Across the room or even in another room both work.
A Final Word On Habits
People who are in their late-30s / early 40's right now are the last generation that grew up analog, and then turned digital. We're called Xennials, meaning "people who were born during the cusp years of Generation X and the Millennial Generation do not fit the mold of those generations but rather share the characteristics of both."
(Amusingly our micro-generation is also called "Generation Catalano" in honour of Jared Leto's Jordan Catalano character on My So-Called Life 🤣)
The point is we don't all have the best habits when it comes to social and phone addiction. But I ask myself, how am I supposed to convince my kids to get off devices when I have trouble modelling the behaviour myself? So I'm trying to improve on this.
I hope these ideas can help you too.
You can find me on Insta here. Before we go, what are 3 accounts you love on Instagram?