It’s been only four days since typing “account paused” into the Instagram bio and deleting the little pink app.
Only four days, and already, a lot has changed. The first thing that happened off the bat was hours were freed. The second thing that happened was I began to notice just how many hours had been locked away in the first place.
For so long, I’d gotten used to operating on what I’d call now a shrunken clock, one missing many of its precious hours. What that looked like was moving through the day in turbo-speed, trying to cram as much as possible into a tightened bracket of time.
Days felt like they were melting into nights, and not in the positive, flow-state kind of way. More like quicksand falling through fingers, without ever being able to be fully grasped.
Life, in other words, was moving too fast. I was starved for time, starved for those caged hours.
As malnourishment does to the body, time-poverty does to the psyche. I became weak and stressed at the thought of any and everything—on the constant brink of becoming a valley of tears.
And so I looked around. A mistake. Because everyone else seemed so much stronger, so much more capable. Of course, everyone on the outside does—we move through this world in a shiny, yet invisible veneer. But we forget that when we’re in this state. Our only thought is: I must be broken.
The natural Western response to this is to put a Band-Aid on the crack and push on, wear the self out until thinner than gauze. What comes next is the thing that is obvious from a zoomed-out lens, but often unexpected when caught in the thick of it all. That is: the gauze tears.
And then the even less obvious part: the realization this is a gift.
When we break the blindfold we’ve unknowingly strapped on—the one that’s led to this running through life blind to the problem at hand—well, it falls off. And we come slowly to see. Our eyes adjust, so to speak, through this opportunity to question the self.
Why did my clock shrink? Where has my time really gone?
To find those lost hours imprisoned in the cell of social media can be a scary thing. Not everyone will find them there, to be sure, but many of us, especially in this day and age, will. Because social media, Instagram specifically, seems to be the most powerful siren’s call of all. It lures us in with an armload of glossy promises. Whether those look for you like the obvious dopamine hits (followers and likes) or whether they take on the form of client acquisition and sales—Instagram offers them all, and in the most enticing packaging.
Of these, some will be delivered, but all at a cost. And that is this: if we’re not careful, our hours will be extracted and locked away, and we will forget for a long while to look there, in social media’s lost cave.
When the blindfold eventually falls off, and the opportunity to question the self arises, we have a choice. Will we be honest? Will we be brave enough to look at our values, our behaviours, and to see if they align? Will we be able to ask if we are living the way we want? Or if we have simply fallen prey to societal messaging of “what is done?”
If taken, this opportunity becomes a gift. The gift of awareness, which, unfolded, can breed change.
Most of us value relationships, for instance. Yet, in the face of this digital landscape, deep relationships have been dealt a rough hand. To hold them dear we need to ensure we’ve set up our days to give them the space they deserve.
Removing social media, for the time being, is the way I’ve chosen to do this, at least until I can feel the earth steady again beneath me return to equilibrium. And that will involve sorting out whether Instagram will forever present the risk of a slippery slope, or whether boundaries regarding time spent on it can be strong enough at some point to move forward more healthfully.
Until that point, I feel no rush to return. The effects of life post-social are too rich right now.
I watched a squirrel and then a bird yesterday, which present the perfect comparison here. When we’re wrapped up in over our heads—be that with social, with work, or what have you—our stress tends to lead us to act like squirrels. We dart, pause, look around with beady, anxious eyes, shove food into our mouths, and then dart somewhere else, never getting anywhere. Whereas, when we’ve culled out space, we become more like birds, soaring gracefully from one tree to another. Anxiety dissolved. Everything calmer. The small act of uncorking a wine bottle enough to bring about the feeling of deep presence.
And isn’t that what we all really want from our time on this planet? To feel fully in our bodies, fully alive?
If we could just look down at our hands, see that there in our fingers lie the keys, and go on to unlock those lost hours, we could be free. Who knew? It’s so simple.