I like Instagram. Of all the social media platforms, I feel that it is the only one of the big three (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) that has not been weaponized and has positive elements for connecting with friends and family; but I am still leaving. Why? Well first let me share with you a brief history of my social media journey up to this point.
I began my journey with social media in 2005 with a little platform called, MySpace. My best friend Scott and our wives were both at our adoptive family the Reeves for the holidays, and he showed me his MySpace page, I began to dig around his page and found that a friend of mine from Junior High back in California was living in Collegedale, TN. I thought, “how cool is this; I would have never found her without MySpace.” Immediately I created my own MySpace page and thus began more than 13 years of steady addiction. MySpace of course eventually phased out, and the new cool kid on the block was Facebook, I loved Facebook in those infant stages–before it became toxic. I then took notice of Twitter when Ashton Kutcher was battling CNN to become the first Twitter user to reach one million followers in 2009. By the way, Ashton Kutcher is not even in the top 100 of accounts followed in 2019 and his one million followers which seemed huge in 2009 is now a paltry sum to Katy Perry’s 107,000,000 followers. I signed-up then for Twitter but didn’t start utilizing Twitter ’till church politics began to get a little intense around 2010 or 2011. What I loved about Twitter even though I was following the rhetoric of church politics was the easy access to articles, blog posts, and real-time news stories shared on Twitter, but then it also became toxic. And finally just three or four years ago I became a part of the Instagram world. I didn’t get it at first, but then I began to love it. I have a lot fewer followers on Instagram than I did on Twitter and Facebook–so I feel like there are people there I want to connect with. Which is also nice because that means almost every picture I look at is of someone I care about, except for Candace Cameron Bure, Kristen Bell, and Kelly Slater whom I also follow. At one point I was on all three platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then…
Almost two years ago I left Facebook, I actually tried to leave in 2011 but quickly got pulled back in. It took a couple of weeks for me to adjust, but the two years without it, I’ve been better off. Then six months ago I left Twitter. I did so because I had just experienced two intense weeks in church politics and our world politics, filtering both through the lens of Twitter and all the anger out there was becoming my anger. I took one week off in the midst of some important church meetings, I still kept up with what was happening at those meetings, but did so without Twitter and you know what, something was clearer to me than the previous weeks–Jesus is still in control, and I didn’t feel that way because the meetings were awesome or went the way I wanted, it was just because I wasn’t letting the Twittersphere dictate my thoughts.
So now that brings me to Instagram. Why leave Instagram if I like it? Why leave it if it hasn’t become toxic as Facebook and Twitter did? Because all those case studies that set out the optimal client for the social media industry, addicted, click-happy–yeah, that’s me!? And three events opened my eyes to this:
- I was sitting in a one-on-one meeting at the office. I informed the individual I was speaking with that Christina (my wife) would be texting me some info about the kids, so forgive me for checking my phone. Well at one point she did text, I received the text, told the person it was my wife, they said no problem and kept on talking. I responded to Christina’s text and then without even thinking I immediately clicked over to Instagram and began scrolling. The person I was meeting with had no idea. They kept on talking. But I knew. As I said to Christina later, here I am the Senior Pastor in a meeting with a member and rather than giving that person the full attention I’m mindlessly scrolling through Instagram.
- Christina announced, “Sunday we are going to do a purge of our closets.” I had seen, through another friend’s Instagram, about this type of tidying up referred to as “Kondo.” So I googled “Kondo” and discovered that it is a reference to a Netflix show about an organizer named Marie Kondo. I browsed some of her videos on YouTube, got motivated and Sunday I purged, and also Kondo’d my drawers and closet (I can’t wait to do this with my books and office at work). But during the project, I had the intense urge to take a picture of what I had done and Instagram it out to everyone. And at that moment it dawned on me, every time I do something “good” I Instagram it out and then people “like” my post and I feel affirmed. Two things about this: First, as someone that struggles with ego already I don’t need to have it inflated and second, posting what I post puts a false picture of me out there. This was confirmed when I told my friend I was leaving Instagram and she said, “oh I’m going to miss seeing what a great dad you are.” Now, this friend has known me since I was eight years old and been a close friend since I was 13. She was a bit hyperbolic–she is well aware “great” is not the appropriate adjective for me; still, when she said it, it confirmed what I was afraid of, the real “me” is not being put out there on social media, and I’d rather have no “me” out there than a false “me.” I never post the pictures of my kids after I’ve yelled at them unnecessarily, or the side of my bed when I have five dishes that need to be picked up or of me after I’ve chosen not to go for a run.
- And now for event number three and the event that should have driven me away from Instagram weeks ago but I am dull and slow sometimes to hear God’s promptings. My middle son, Landon, is by far my biggest cuddler. He loves to cuddle his dad–I’ll never feel unloved with Lando around. One night a few weeks, maybe even a month ago I was “cuddling” Landon and scrolling through Instagram, he was asking me questions about the pictures, “who’s that?” “Do you have any animal pictures?” “Can we watch the people crash on the skateboards?” etc. After a ‘bit, I said, “Okay bud you go to sleep. I love you.” And Landon said, “Dad you haven’t cuddled me yet.” I said “Landon stop trying to stall. I’ve been cuddling you the last ten minutes.” His response, “You weren’t cuddling me. You were on Instagram.” It stung but not nearly as much as it should have. Now jump forward a few weeks, Landon as he was heading to bed asked, “Dad will you come to snuggle me.” “Yes, I’ll be up in a minute.” And then he called back, “Snuggles though Dad, no Instagram.” He remembered my focus on Instagram over loving on him, and it was seared into his brain.
Three events. Three reasons to quit Instagram. My mental health. My spiritual health. My relational health with my family (when I told Christina I was leaving Instagram she was happy, that says something to me also!)
So this was a long post to communicate such a simple act. But I do so for two reasons: First, it may help someone who is considering similar action to take that step (I do believe life would be better off if we all left social media completely). And my second reason is that when I went off Facebook, some were irritated that they could no longer talk with me through that avenue. Then when I deleted Twitter, some people were hurt with me thinking I had blocked them from my account, which was not the case, I just wasn’t there anymore. Now with Instagram I hope everyone out there will understand, I appreciate y’all, I will miss y’all. But I think for me, 13 years of social media is enough, and I am ready to break my addiction and just be what I think will be a better and more present version of me for my family and the church I serve.