I’ve always set high expectations for myself.
As an incredibly diligent Hebrew school student, I could not accept a grade lower than an “aleph,” and especially when it came to Bat Mitzvah preparation, I had to be the most vocal and overachieving student. When the day came, I read three full Torah portions, a Haftarah, and lead the entire Torah service like a pro.
This mentality did not end at Hebrew school, and as I got older, I became a harsher self-critic, often manifested through a subconscious comparison to others.
For the first time this summer, I took a big step to quell what had elevated to an anxiety-inducing situation for me. I lacked a sense of grounding as a result of my unrealistic and often impossible self-expectations, most often dealing with body image; I couldn't escape the despairing self-perception that I was a 20 year old trapped in an innocent 15 year-old body. In a moment where I craved a sense of control over myself and my feelings, I did the only thing I could do: delete my Instagram.
This simple action is not a new phenomenon, and I am no revolutionary. I know this is no panacea, but my actions this summer helped me reduce anxiety and gain a sense of self-empowerment.
No matter how much I want to deny it, I definitely cared about getting likes on my photos; with each new notification came a thrilling and instantaneous sense of satisfaction. Although well aware that this was a ridiculous fixation, I found it almost impossible to override these thoughts when I ended up on the discover page where people were much cooler than I was and were getting more likes than I had followers. A low of mine was when I confided to my sisters that I was disappointed about the low number of likes of one of my photos. It wasn’t supposed to matter, but it did.
The short-lived giddiness of posting only made me want to have more opportunities to post, contributing to my already obsessive mindset. I found myself manipulating natural moments into photoshoots. If I looked cute, I wanted to preserve that moment. With so many beautiful and seemingly perfect people on Instagram, I competed to fit in. However, I never got the full sense that I truly fit in because in my head, I couldn’t actually fit in to Instagram’s standards in real life.
A discussion with my therapist about deleting my Instagram helped me better understand the extreme negative emotions the seemingly innocent app was stirring within me. With just the absence of the app on the home screen of my phone, I realized how I no longer had the burden of everyone’s lives looming over my head, providing a wonderful sense of separateness and autonomy. Rather than being bombarded with people’s lives, I now had a choice about how involved I wanted to be. I could live my life separately from others -- I could be more independent and worry more about what was happening in my life. My friends’ lives had more mystery to them, and if I was dying to hear from someone, now I was forced to call or text them, getting more personalized, authentic information from them.
My therapist explained that my anxiety was not unfounded and that there is an interesting correlation between the need to post a picture and levels of anxiety. Anxiety is an obsession about the hypothetical future, so those who suffer from anxiety constantly worry about what is to come. Posting a picture to Instagram works similarly. When taking photos with the end goal of posting them, I would ruminate and worry about a hypothetical future. Constantly looking into the future can feel overwhelming and stressful because it sets unrealistic expectations and prevents the enjoyment of the present. Now that I don’t have Instagram looming over my head, I take fewer pictures and don't care as much about how I look in them, a very liberating feeling. Isn't that what liberation is in its most rudimentary form? Having the privilege to not care?
And while it may seem like I am simply avoiding my issues, I did what I could not have done months ago: calm myself and combat my anxiety. I am confident and proud to say that I will never go back. Even though I haven’t deactivated completely, I know I don’t need to; I’ve already gotten this far after all. And of course, I will always have Twitter.
DELETING INSTAGRAM WAS A FORM OF SOBERING UP
By Micaela Goldzweig