Last week I wrote an article about how social media is deliberately designed to keep us engaged for as long as possible. This week, I want to delve even deeper into the web that they’ve made.
After a recent self-evaluation, I realized that I was spending an inordinate amount of time on Instagram—to the point where I was actually showing up late to things because instead of waking up and getting ready, I was waking up and scrolling through my feed and Instagram Reels.
So, I decided to delete my Instagram account. After all, I don’t use it to keep up with friends or family, and I hadn’t posted something myself in more than a year. Really and truly, I was using it more out of habit than actual desire.
But I quickly ran into a snag.
You can’t delete your Instagram account from the Instagram app on your phone (or tablet). Nope. Instead, you have to login to Instagram from a browser. Crazily enough, if you have your password saved from the Instagram app, it won’t work on a browser app, such as Safari. Nope. You have to have it saved from the browser as well.
Already Instagram made it inconvenient for me to delete my account.
Now, I could delete the Instagram app quite easily or even just logout of my account. But I still needed the app for work purposes, and considering the addictive behaviors I was exhibiting, only logging out would still present a temptation to someday log back in. I needed to cut that cord.
So I logged into Instagram’s website from my computer and boy, oh boy … turns out the reason I couldn’t delete my account from the app was because Instagram doesn’t want you to delete your account.
Once I found the delete instructions (on Instagram’s Help Center), the first thing it says is, “If you’d just like to take a break, you can temporarily disable your account instead.” Then, once you proceed to the account deletion page, it asks for a reason why you’d like to delete your account. The options are “want to remove something,” “too many ads,” “privacy concerns,” “trouble getting started,” “created a second account,” “can’t find people to follow,” “concerned about my data,” “too busy/too distracting” or “something else.”
Then, once you choose your reason, it still tries to stop you by saying, “Please consider the following articles in our Help Center before permanently deleting your account.”
These articles are then tailored to convince you that there’s no need to delete your account.
Can’t find anyone to follow? No problem. They’ll explain how to use hashtags or even link your account to other social media networks so you can find your contacts. Having some privacy concerns? Ha! Even if your account was hacked, they’ll help you find a solution that doesn’t require deletion. Too distracting (which was my original reason for deleting)? They literally give you step-by-step instructions for how to delete the app from your phone so you can have a break but not delete your account.
In fact, the only way Instagram doesn’t try to stop you from deleting your account is if you have data concerns. I guess there was no way for them to sugarcoat the fact that they collect and exploit the data (via ads) of all their users.
It’s a shame that the “something else” option didn’t allow me to type out my own response. Because if it had, I would’ve written: “It’s a matter of principle now since Instagram made this process so difficult.”
Eventually, I deleted my account successfully. Annoyingly, it takes a full month for this to become permanent: Your account is hidden during this time, and if you change your mind before the 30 days is up, you can log back in and undo it. But still, it’s nice.
It might seem daunting to delete a social media account for some people. Between FOMO (fear of missing out) and … actually, that’s the only reason I can think of. And let me just assure you, there’s nothing happening on social media that is more important than what’s happening in real life.
Yes, social media has its uses. Yes, some can use it well. But given all the pitfalls it can involve, you might want to consider whether you really need it in your life. Your friends and family will find ways to contact you. If something major happens in the world, you’ll hear about it in the news. And when you aren’t spending hours scrolling through videos, you’ll find time for things that actually bring you joy. For me, my house is clean (which lessens my anxiety), I’m actually getting up and getting ready on time (again, less anxiety), I’m spending more time with God and I’m spending more time engaged with loved ones. And those things are way more valuable to me than Instagram Reels.