30 Days off the “grid”

Thirty days ago I decided to delete my Instagram account. Of course, I chose the temporary delete option and I said I would be back when I felt that I could control my addiction.

I’ve always had these dreams about living off the grid. Of course, I was imagining a remote tropical island, a beach bungalow, a hammock, and my cat. I could see myself, swimming and surfing in the morning, and running in the jungle after lunch. What a wonderful life isn’t it? I started dreaming about this after I “accomplished” my long-term dream of moving to Los Angeles. Now as an Alien in LA, I am eager to leave this city and spend my days in nature. 

Why did I decide to delete my Instagram?

There are many reasons to leave Instagram and every time I try to answer this question I tell them something different.

  1. I am addicted

I realized I was addicted to social media this Christmas when I was visiting my family. I was anxious and wanted to escape the reality I was in so of course my subconscious did what it does best – went online. My screen time doubled from 2 hours to 4 hours a day. I would watch hundreds of stories, reels, and memes and stare at my phone during dinner while watching TV or walking around the streets of my hometown. 

I blamed my jet lag for my screen time. I was up late at night and I had nothing else to do. Maybe that was partially true because my screen time dropped back to 2 hours a day when I came back. Still, two hours is a lot of time scrolling on Instagram. I tried turning off my notifications but this made me even more anxious. What if I was missing an important message? What if people get mad at me for not answering immediately, what if someone reaches out for a job and I miss the opportunity because I was too busy living my life offline?

I turned my notification back on and set up a screen time limit on my phone to 30 minutes for Instagram. It sounded like a great idea until I realized that when my 30 minutes were up my phone would just send me a notification about it and then give me the option to snooze an extra 15 minutes for the day. Guess how many times I hit the snooze button until I got sick of this and turned off the screen time limit. 

At that moment I knew I had a real problem. I couldn’t control the need to open Instagram. And it didn’t matter if I was posting a story or not. I just had to be online. I had to watch stories. I had to reply to every single cat story I saw and I had to send memes to my friends. And then I had to watch all the memes and reels they were sending me and respond to them. I was working and trying to find a moment to hide and check my Instagram. I would play with my cat with one hand and scroll with the other. I was watching a movie while watching reels at the same time. I had no control over it and I knew it. That’s why I decided to delete my Instagram account, delete the app, and delete all other social media apps because I was afraid I was going to replace one addiction with another. 

  1. I need to make some life changes and I don’t want to be influenced

Believe it or not, social media is influencing us every time we log in. Maybe that’s why all the cool people with the blue check marks are called influencers. I started thinking – am I making my own decisions? After all social media does include the word “social” which comes from society and I’ve always been against society dictating my way of living. I would say stuff like I don’t need to get married and have kids this is just something that society wants me to do, but then will log in on Instagram and and live in a reality that is regulated by society. The fact that it’s not the traditional form of society doesn’t make it less structured like one. There is no difference between society off the grid and online. Same people, same rules! 

These are the two main reasons I deleted my Instagram account. I wanted to take full control of my life, my thoughts, and my decisions. I am already feeling like an Alien in LA and being constantly online is not helping me integrate and experience Los Angeles the way I wanted to. Hiding behind my phone is not helping me with making human connections. I get dopamine hits all the time and I never truly get bored and have the desire to go out and explore. I was getting distracted all the time and my creativity level dropped to zero. 

Leaving Social Media is not a magical pill that is going to turn you into a real Human!

If you are thinking that going off the grid is how you will stop being an Alien and become a real human, you are wrong. There is a lot that needs to be done but at least I believe I am on the right track. It’s only been thirty days but my attention span is already better. I have been having better face-to-face conversations with the people around me and instead of watching memes and reels I’ve been reaching out to people and texting them. I know that this is just the beginning and I also know that I might be back someday. It is a change and it is hard and that’s how I know it is working. 

Loneliness

Two nights ago I burst into tears because I felt the loneliest I’ve felt in a long time. My phone wasn’t ringing, I had no social media to entertain me and my cat was sleeping under the couch. I felt like nobody cares about me and if I die at that moment my cat is going to slowly eat my rotting body until my neighbors call the landlord because of the smell. I downloaded the Instagram app and I stared at it. Should I log into my account, watch some stories, and reply to them? When people answer is that going to make me feel happier? Am I going to feel like someone cares about me? I cried for a while and then deleted the app again. I didn’t log in. I knew it was going to be hard and I knew I was not the most outgoing and I was not surrounded by friend groups asking me to hang out every night. Instagram is not going to fix that. And I don’t know if I need anything to be fixed. Sometimes the only reason I want to be social is because I am watching other people being social. Deep inside I know that I have other goals and right now I need to focus on them. If anyone wants to reach out and ask if I am ok they can do it without me downloading Instagram or liking their story. 

It’s just been 30 days. Then what?

I don’t know how long is it going to last. I am not against social media. I live far away from my family and childhood friends and it has been a great way to keep in touch with them. The problem is that it got out of control. Imagine that – it is nice to have a beer with friends once in a while but it is self-destructive to start your day with tequila shots and finish the bottle by noon. And that’s what social media was/is for me. A bottle of liquor that was always by my bedside, tempting me and giving me false hope, validations, and fake happiness. My goal was to stay off the grid for at least 30 days but I know this is not enough. I need to be out for at least 3 months and maybe more. I don’t know if my life will change. Maybe I will become a better Alien, one that understands people and connects with them. Maybe it will help me deal with my in-person social anxiety. Or maybe I will go back to social media and spiral back into the two-hour mindless scrolling, liking, and responding to reels. 

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