What happens when you stop using Instagram?
You start having nightmares. You dream in filters, which keep changing, driving you insane. There's this recurring nightmare in particular in which a constant crowd is pointing at you, laughing at you, while on their smartphones, using Instagram.
No, not really; in fact, let's back up for some context.
In February 2011, I started using Instagram, making my debut with this exciting picture of snow-covered trees. I proceeded to post 620 photos -- filtered, non-filtered; Lo-fi, Hudson, Walden, Earlybird, Nashville. Whatever suited my mood or happened to look nice.
And then, one day, on Dec. 18, 2012 to be exact, I posted this and I stopped using Instagram.
In the 31 days since, I learned that life without Instagram meant those little hearts that make us so insta-happy for an insta-second are gone. Comments that pop up, especially my favorite - the spam comment - are history. No more hashtags like #instasleep. No more flicking my thumb up and down to browse a stream of my friends' food, sunsets, and other snaps, and hit heart, heart, heart.
Sounds devastating, does it not?
It's not. It's fine. The first few days are like, "WHAT'S GOING ON," "WHERE DID MY DAILY OBSESSION GO?" Then you move on.
Fortunately for me, I found an alternative; that helped. In fact, that's why I stopped using Instagram in the first place. Not because of the new Terms of Service announcement, although it was those new terms that caused me to seek alternatives in the first place.
I just really liked Flickr's new app. I realized that it could do all the things Instagram could do, plus more. Higher quality images, a suite of editing tools, the ability to upload multiple photos at once and more robust search were among the reasons that made me excited about Flickr.
I've now kept away for Instagram for one full month. Why so long? I found a desirable alternative and I wanted to truly immerse myself in that environment, give it a fair and unbiased observation as a main mobile photo-sharing tool. A month seems about right for that.
I can tell you, Flickr indeed offers everything Instagram offers, and more, including filters and the ability to tweet photos as soon as you upload them.
I've posted 155 photos to Flickr, met new people and made new connections.
I've learned in my time away from Instagram that life is about more than little hearts. We live in an instant gratification culture, and we live in moments, but there's a lot more to the world than checking an app obsessively.
I don't check Flickr nearly as much as I used to check Instagram. I'm not positive what to make of that. Certainly there's not as robust a community and not as many of my friends are there. That probably plays a part.
But this time I've freed up, less time on photo-sharing apps, has led to more quality "real-life" time with people I care about. It's also led to more time for Facebook and Twitter. So ironically, Facebook benefitted from my time away from Facebook-owned Instagram.
With one less thing at my plate, no Instagram, I have been able to rethink my priorities, reorganize how I spend my time, and for that I'm grateful.
The big question now: Do I go back to Instagram or not? The answer is I'm not sure. It's been a month, and I don't feel like there's a major void in my life, so that says something. At first it was painful, but life has certainly gone on, and in a lot of ways it's better than it was before.
Instagram itself is doing AMAZING right now with 90 million monthly users, according to the company's internal numbers. Does it need me too? Well, I may just extend my break for a little bit longer.