How do you know you’re addicted to Instagram? Delete the app from your phone and keep track of how many times you go to open something that‘s no longer there. You may be shocked by the number.
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my phone. I look for new texts, emails, social media likes, comments, and DMs. The last thing I do before bed is check my phone. I clear emails, texts, notifications and DMs. Every social interaction since I opened my accounts on social media has become a source of satisfaction (I reached someone!) and ultimately motivation to do more. To post more. To create more. It’s an endless cycle with very few rewards…except a brief feeling.
How do you know you’re addicted to Instagram?
Studies have shown that social media has a powerful effect on the brain. Using social media activates the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, a “feel-good chemical” linked to pleasurable activities such as eating, exercise and social interaction.
Dopamine is the brain chemical responsible for making all the behaviors essential to survival rewarding and desirable. This includes social behaviors. Once your brain has learned to associate a particular behavior with pleasure, just anticipation of that behavior causes your brain to release dopamine.* So what does one do when they want to feel good? They apparently open Instagram.
I open an app repeatedly hoping to find something to make me feel good. Maybe it’s a direct message from a follower or someone new. Perhaps a reel has finally gone viral. New followers? An influx of comments?Whatever it is, I enter cyber space on and off, all day long, looking for the temporary high that comes with a notification.
There is more to my relationship with Instagram that notifications. I love sharing my musings on motherhood and mental health. Making funny videos and posting photos tap into my creative side. I truly like having meaningful conversations with people in DMs. And I love making new friends. Funny memes brighten a dark day and inspirational messages can sometimes be life-changing. Instagram isn’t the worst platform in the world — clearly it has its benefits. But it’s also not the best place for me to be spending a lot of time.
My relationship with Instagram is very unhealthy. I rely on the app way too much for frequent doses of dopamine and ultimately end up chasing a feeling that never lasts. As a big advocate for mental health awareness, it’s about time I recognize the signs that my own mental health is suffering. Life is too short to be spent practicing unhealthy habits. It’s time I find something more substantial to give me long-lasting feel good feelings I need to be my best self.
So what does this mean for me? I am not sure… but something has to change. There is more to life than feeling like I’m addicted to Instagram.
“Why don’t you just step back from social media?” You know it’s funny how many times I have tried to do this. For the last six months when I thought I was putting less energy into Instagram, I’ve been putting more energy than I have into Instagram. Because let’s face it: Instagram is addictive.
Maybe it’s only opening the app with a purpose to post on stories and chat with you in DMs. Or maybe it’s not opening the app at all. I doubt it’s the latter because I do love the community we’ve built on Instagram together. Whatever happens will be what is supposed to happen. I just need some time to figure it all out.