Surviving my early 20s without Instagram


Laura Leigh Vought, A&E Editor

I am a 22-year-old woman who does not have an Instagram account. I do not have a Snapchat, a Facebook, a Twitter, or a Tumblr account. And before you ask: no, I did not grow up in one of those lockdown anti-tech households. In fact, I grew up surrounded by Social Media and even secured my own Facebook account at the age of 12.  

I get asked a lot about my decision to wipe out my social media accounts. I have not noticed until recently, but each time I am asked this question, I find a new reason to strengthen my decision. It seems that the longer I stay away, the happier I become.  

In February of 2021, I shut down my Instagram. The hiatus came as a surprise to my many of my family and friends. Although, it was expected by my closest friends as they knew I had been considering the jump for a few months.  

 I have never been the type to post my every waking moment online, but I posted enough to maintain a hearty following of “friends.” My feed consisted of the occasional birthday party, a sprinkle of selfies, a helping of date night photos and a dash of animal uploads.  

 The thoughts of deleting my accounts originally began to grow as I caught myself looking through the tiny blue screen of my phone as I watched my niece blow out the candles on her first birthday cake.  

 After realizing I had missed witnessing her first birthday wish, I looked around the room. I quickly noticed that there was not a single person in the entire room to physically witness the special moment. While my family, including the parents, were physically present, their eyes were preoccupied with securing the best angle as they recorded my niece through their phone cameras. 

 In the months following, I noticed my tendency to judge the success of an experience based on my ability to secure an Instagram-worthy photo to share later that night. I began questioning myself every time I grabbed my phone to take a picture. “Am I doing this for the memory?” I would ask, “Or to impress my followers?” 

 Eventually, I found that most of the time I acted for the sake of my Instagram feed. Which then raised the question: What else did Instagram control that I was not aware of?  

 At first, I laughed off the idea that I should delete my socials, because I saw it as one of those things that kids in my generation were expected to participate in no matter what, like how people born in the 60s only read the newspaper with coffee.  

 As I mentioned the idea to my friends, I got the occasional “Go for it! #Girlpower!” However, I rarely found anyone who would consider making the jump with me. After all, how am I expected to survive being disconnected from the world if I am the only one that’s disconnected?  

 I shrugged off the idea for a few months until I scrolled upon a Netflix Original Documentary titled, “The Social Dilemma.” 

As I watched the documentary, I saw real people doing the thing I was most scared to do. I saw successful individuals stepping away from the crowd and giving up on social media for good.  

Before finishing the first half of the film, I had already snatched my iPad and began the process of erasing my Instagram account. To this day, I am still not 100% certain as to what sent me over that fence to finally commit.  

Perhaps it was seeing the happiness of those that had already taken the leap that encouraged me; or maybe it took seeing popular people surviving the brave steps for me to finally act. Either way, I am incredibly grateful that I decided to erase my Instagram footprint. 

 I will not lie. At times, it has been extremely difficult to maintain my stamina. For example, when I got engaged, my first reaction was to grab my phone and record my love on one knee. Had I still been an active presence on Instagram, I likely would have done just that.  

 I desperately wanted to see my Instagram feed light up with well-wishers followed by loads of followers and attention. I even cursed myself under my breathe as I resisted the urge to snap a selfie.  

While in the moment it felt unfair, I can see after-the-fact that deleting Instagram has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. 

 There is a certain sense of freedom that comes from removing the chains of socials. I have noticed myself becoming more confident as I am not constantly comparing myself to the edited women on my feeds.  

I see myself making decisions with myself in mind, rather than acting according to the wishes of my followers. For example, I recently celebrated my 22nd birthday in New York City. As I maneuvered around the bustling city and attempted to survive my first visit, I chose to visit the attractions that seemed the most interesting to me rather than those that would secure me the best photo opportunity.  

 In the past, my priority when doing relatively anything was to snap a likable photo and prove my worth by accumulating the most likes. Now, I get to live my life following my own formula and make decisions for my own benefit– not for Instagram’s.