Lent, aka the Instagram break

It may surprise you to learn that in spite of running a blog – albeit one I’ve been doing a crummy job of updating this month – I’m fairly private as a person and I don’t much care for social media.

I’ve had several blogs over the past ten years. My first one was writing about politics and current events on Blogger during my freshman year of college. Back then I could get up at 3 or 4 a.m. – no, I’m not making this up – to read my devotional, then follow that up with whatever book I was reading for pleasure. After a chapter was completed, I’d read some of my favorite columnists and work on my blog.

By my sophomore year the blog was abandoned, and at some point I deleted it. Then after graduating I decided to start blogging again, but this time on WordPress about whatever tickled my fancy. Typically I divulged into personal topics such as my battles with acne, accepting that I was still a virgin at 22 and really examining the reasons why (religion had nothing to do with it, by the way.) I also wrote a long piece about forgiving my biological father for leaving my mom and I, and how an 18-year-old door was finally able to close.

I actually got an email about forgiving bio-dad from someone in his family. They were what people far younger and cooler than me refer to as “big mad.” I didn’t reply to them. Frankly, I didn’t need to. My past is what it is, I’m at peace with it, and it’s far easier to smile to myself about inconsequential people than take them seriously.

That was me then, and being open about my life from the ages of 18 to 28 isn’t something I regret. For a lot of young adults, sharing and even over-sharing is a way of learning about themselves and the world around them. But then last summer, at the ripe old age of 28, I noticed one thing within me was changing. The desire I had to share my business with people I loosely know or knew once before a long time ago pummeled.

Frankly, Facebook was a drag. It had been a drag for a while, with me frequently asking myself, Why am I even on here? I don’t particularly care about other people’s politics. Seeing goofy, performative happy family pictures gets old, especially when these same people seriously dislike their partner and make no secret of it in real life. I’m not buying anything off high school acquaintances involved in pyramid schemes, nor do I really care about a mutual friend of a mutual college friend’s relationship woes with their child’s other parent.

Speaking of parents, I’d find myself becoming increasingly bothered by how much parents of young kids are willing to overshare. I don’t want to see full frontal nudity of someone’s toddler in the bath or potty training. I could do without photographic evidence of a preschooler’s food poisoning. I found myself getting angry with the parents who upload pictures or their kids in the emergency room wrapped up in hospital gowns and visibly crying. For the love of God, couldn’t these people put down their phone and comfort their own child? The rest of us can wait until you get home for a status update.

I finally decided last June to pull the plug on Facebook and a rarely-used Twitter. Both were infinite loops of anxiety, jadedness and fear on top of more fear. In retrospect I’m not really sure why I didn’t deactivate my accounts sooner. The people in my immediate circle that I regularly talk to have my phone number, and if anything happened in my life I’d give them a call to tell them about it.

Eight months later I don’t miss it one bit.

As of now the only social media I’m on is Instagram, which turned into a time sucker and a constant source of irritation. I know this is terrible to admit, but: I struggle with being judgmental.

I found myself falling down the rabbit holes of parents who need to stop photographing every spit up or diaper change, self-professed small business owner boss babes (distributors of pyramid scheme products), and self-styled influencers/activists who should either develop a skin thicker than molasses or stop posting so many pictures of themselves in their underwear if they don’t want to deal with jerks commenting on their appearance. What never ceases to amaze me are the folks who feel the need to over-explain themselves or some minor decision of their daily life that isn’t even anyone else’s business, as though they were an elected official just caught having an affair.

It’s okay that you haven’t lost baby weight at three weeks postpartum, Shelby.

Nobody asked you to look like one of the Victoria’s Secret models, Amber.

A part of me says that if Instagram addicts don’t want their lives judged, they should have some discretion and not post so much personal stuff. Therefore – my brain tries to reason with me – am I really a garbage person for judging someone who could either be clueless, a narcissist, or both?

This answer really could go either way.

I’m not thinking of deleting Instagram like I did the other two, but I realized last week when I was getting way too frustrated over some smug wannabe influencer that it was time to take a break. It also happened to be Ash Wednesday, also known as the first day of Lent.

While I am a Christian, I was never a big Lent person. Mainly I made a habit of saying I was giving up something impossible, like sweets, only to devour a candy bar the next day. The first day of Lent seemed like a perfect opportunity to log off the app, delete it from my phone and leave it alone until Easter. Or maybe I could even stretch it out past Easter. Either way, it was time for a break.

As of today it’s Day Four without Instagram. The first few days were easy. I felt like my day immediately got longer and I had more time to clean my place, job search and do some quiet reading. Then yesterday I started to feel a little bored. Today the boredom has been coming in waves. I’ve already decided I’m not letting myself break, but man, this decision might be harder than trying to avoid chocolate. Which I’m now craving.

Darn it.

But for now I’m enjoying having one less distraction. I’m not anxious or irritable, and I’m having fun proving to myself that I’m not addicted to my phone. I’m a very firm believer that every once in a while, we need to take breaks from the things that aren’t productive. Metaphorically speaking, prune the roses and get those dead ends trimmed off.

And then go dig for a candy bar in the cupboard.

I’m curious to know if any of you are doing Lent. If so, what are you resolving to give up and how’s that going?

Yours in writing and running,

Allison

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