Instagram and anxiety, I feel like those two go hand in hand. Whether you notice it or not, it’s creeping in. You, me, none of us are immune. Even if we’re only limiting our use for business or keeping up with friends and family. 

Right now, as I write this and as you read this, I’m actively trying to change my relationship to social media because, frankly, I felt like low-level shit. Not all the time, but most of the time. I feel like I carry around the low hum of constant anxiety and a worry that something is about to go terribly wrong.


Instagram and Anxiety. My experience trying to cut it out.


It never occurred to me to do less of what was causing me anxiety. I feel like an idiot saying that. But it’s true. That is what I felt. 

Usually, when things get hectic, I try to reach for the tools I know will help me, like meditation and going to the gym. 

When I notice things getting rough, I often think to myself, shit, I need to give my meditation practice a swift kick in the ass. I need to turn up the intensity of my workouts. Perhaps I should eat better and sleep more. I figure out all the ways to complete the stress cycle. I realize how important it is to cycle stress through the body so it doesn’t build up and become chronic. 

That all being said, it never occurred to me to try doing less of the things that might be causing the anxiety. Or, at the very minimum, be a contributing factor to it. 

In late Jan 2022, I was standing in the guest bedroom of my brother’s house, and just as I opened up the Instagram app, I had a thought. 

I no longer wanted to know what people thought about anything, I hit a wall. There was no more room in my brain. It was full. Besides, if the actual burning anger and clenching of my jaw weren’t a sign I’d hit my limit, I don’t know what was. My body was physically hot, and I was angry ALL THE TIME. It wasn’t worth it anymore. 


So without hesitation, I muted everything.


So without hesitation, I took a time out and muted everything. My intention was to make the app a place that wasn’t that interesting. I made it so that it was basically blank when I clicked open IG. A black screen would pop up because it couldn’t find any posts to show me. It reminded me that I didn’t want to be there. This opening and closing of an empty feed went on for a few days until I remembered that if I really wanted to change a habit, I’d have to have a cue, an action and a reward. I had read that somewhere along the way. (Side note: I’ve recently purchased Atomic Habits by James Clear, so I’m excited to dig into that.)

From that point forward, every time I picked up my phone and opened IG, the black screen would prompt me to close the app, and in its place, I’d open Duolingo. I’d always wanted to learn another language but had never put in the time. What if I did? What if I transferred the energy I put into doomscrolling, to learning something. So I did. I still do, and now I’m trying to learn Spanish instead.


I transferred the energy I put into doomscrolling towards learning something


As for the reward aspect, every time I pass to a new level on Duolingo, I notice that I get this jolt of excitement—a sense of accomplishment. 

After about a week of this, I noticed that overall I was calmer. In addition, my anxiety was substantially lower than in the previous months. I used to have weekly bouts of panic, complete with tightening in my chest. Plus, my heart would race multiple times a day. I feel like that has subsided. 

I don’t think I should be surprised, though. Instagram and anxiety are part and parcel. So for now, I’m picking up my phone way less, and I’m excited about the potential of actually speaking another language.


Overall, I feel calmer, and my body feels better too. 


Makes sense. I’m not ingesting endless amounts of other people’s lives. I’ve toned down the watching and scrolling and up’d the living. Doing more things, trying new things, and connecting with people in real life.

I know we all know that this shit isn’t good for us. But for me personally, I fell into this traped line of thinking that because I knew it was terrible, it somehow wouldn’t get to me. I got sucked into the false belief that knowledge was enough. I walked around acting like because I knew social media could cause anxiety and because I helped others manage theirs, I’d somehow be immune. ?‍♀️ 


Obviously, I’m wrong. 


I’m now entering my 5th week of fewer than 10 minutes a day of social media, and I really like how I’m feeling. I’m actively trying to break the connection between Instagram and anxiety.

The difference: This time, I’m doing less of the things that make me feel crappy instead of doing more of the things that usually help me manage the crappiness. I’m finding more control when it comes to Instagram and anxiety. 

I’m gonna roll with it this way for a while. See what happens. I’ll keep ya posted. 

For more information on this subject check out an article from the American Psychological Association: How can we minimize Instagram’s harmful effects?

And, here’s a short blog post with a few additional anxiety tips that might help.

Instagram can be incredibly crappy for people who suffer from anxiety. It can often cause people to compare their lives to the “seemingly perfect” lives of others, which can lead to increased levels of anxiety. It creeps in, over time. and it’s subtle AF.