I’m in the middle of a month off Instagram. I’m not going to lie: there have been some challenges. I’ve noticed, each time that I take a forced break, that my brain goes through this decompression period where I catch myself constantly thinking about how I would caption any given moment if I was to share it online. It’s a bit frightening. This passes after about a week – what is likely the addiction fading.

An obvious challenge is that there is a wealth of information online. Sometimes I want to reference something I read in a post. Sometimes I want to share a picture with someone. Sometimes I’m researching local businesses and Instagram is the best place to find them.

Another challenge is the real disconnection that I feel from people that I chat with online regularly. I’ve made real life friends on Instagram. We comment on each other’s photos. We share posts that we think each other will enjoy or that relate to conversations that we’ve had in the past. Sometimes we get into deep and heavy conversations about how the world works. I genuinely miss those conversations and I think that’s one of the reasons I will eventually come back.

Finally, social media is a marketing tool that I do use to promote things that I make and write. My blog audience has cut in half since I stopped sharing the posts on my grid. I’m also selling goods online and it’s much harder to find an online audience when I’m not marketing the things that I make.

One bonus that I have noticed is that I have completely detached from my phone. I no longer carry it around with me or check it randomly during the day. Most days I don’t use more than 15% of the battery life and only need to charge it every three days. I use it mostly to read ebooks. (Speaking of which, I’ve made it through almost 2 new fiction books and I’m about 40% of the way through The Dawn of Everything.)

Tonight I was checking a local business online and got caught scrolling. I’m kind of glad that I did because I hit this post from Devon Price:

He makes some great points and really succinctly summarizes why I no longer want to be online but really feel like I have to.

I also came across a reddit post where the poster asked folks to comment on experiences that they really used to enjoy but now make them upset because of how they have changed in recent years. One commenter talked about how social media and the internet in general used to inspire hope: a way to connect with each other and share news and resources for free which has now become a toxic capitalist wasteland of people just trying to get rich selling the latest app or being famous on YouTube.

Okay, so, like – we know social media is rotten. But it really was once hopeful and good. And as mentioned above, Instagram does have some really awesome features that help me find and connect with friends. If we were going to recreate the best possible solution tomorrow, are there pieces of online social media platforms that we would salvage?

Would it be possible to have a de-commercialized, decentralized, non-capitalist social media platform that actually served people without having it become painful and addictive?

I think back to the early days of Facebook and how cool it was to connect with old high school friends that I hadn’t seen in years – people I went to camp with as a kid! I remember that early wave of friend requests and how amazing it was to see who had found me online.

Now I worry that I’ve put myself online so much that people would likely be afraid to get in touch.

Finding local businesses is a really cool feature that I didn’t realize that I appreciated about Instagram. Would there be another way to find these mom and pop shops without a centralized social media platform?

Finally, as someone who moved to a new area during a pandemic, I can tell you with 100% certainty that social media interactions have replaced in-person interactions – for better or for worse. Could there be an “IRL” social media network component that actually connects people in real space as well as online?

These are obviously just some disjointed thoughts but I do like the idea of creating a vision of what might work better than what we have now. And maybe the actual solution is for us all to just disconnect and go to the local farmer’s market or organize neighbourhood potucks. That sounds pretty awesome too. I do feel, though, that there should be a middle ground sweet spot that could have all the perks of social media without the toxicity that we’re all trying to navigate now.