A 5-Step Guide for Building a Healthy Relationship with Instagram

Photo Credit: Aurie Singletary

The scrolling. The posting. The consumption of clips and videos. In an online world of connection created by tech engineers in Silicon Valley, genuine human connection is traded for manipulated interaction dictated not by our heads and hearts, but by computer algorithms.

Just how persuasive technology has become was recently brought to light on the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma. In the documentary, Jonathan Haidt, Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU Stern School of Business, gives an alarming statistic. He said, “There has been a gigantic increase in depression and anxiety for American teenagers which began right between 2011 and 2013.”

Instagram launched in October of 2010. From that point on, according to Haidt, hospital admissions for non-fatal self-harm in preteen girls went up 189%.

The world created by Instagram and other social media platforms is real and damaging, but we can fight back with genuine human connection, designing a new way of life for ourselves and our family, and setting the example for how to appropriately engage with social media.

Social media isn't going anywhere, so we might as well learn how to implement healthy habits now and set a good example for younger generations.

Step 1: Understand What Is Happening

According to experts from The Social Dilemma, real-world user behavior and emotions can be affected by their consumption of social media without the user being aware at all. The intention is to “exploit the vulnerability in human psychology." We can combat this by creating experiences that aren't centered around our phones. Consider making family game night a weekly event, giving books as gifts before road trips, or implementing a no-phones-at-the-dinner-table rule for starters.

Step 2: Design A Fast

If you’re seeing signs of Instagram addiction in your life, it might be time to design a fast. Plan how long you will go without using the app. Switching off your notifications or deleting the app can help make sure you get the most out of your fast.

When the itch to open the app or reinstall it needs to be scratched, have an intentional activity ready to fill its place. Sudoku puzzles, journaling your way through a podcast, or writing a thank-you card are all habits that can deter Insta-addiction. If you cheat, you owe yourself 50 jumping jacks or another penalty.

Step 3: Buy a Real Camera

When was the last time you brought a camera on a family outing – a real camera, separate from your phone? Using a digital or polaroid camera is a tangible (and nostalgic) way to capture memories with your family without relying on phone usage. Part of the problem with camera phones is that it alters the intention for why we take pictures in the first place. (Are you really wanting to capture the moment or do you just want to try to snag a few hundred likes?) Taking time to digest experiences helps refute instant gratification and allows you to focus on what really matters.

Step 4: Post Intentionally

Between posts, stories, reels, going live, and other features, there are several tools to build engagement on Instagram. Shifting our "why" for posting from seeking validation to posting genuine or helpful posts can make a big difference. The more thought put into a feed that promotes authenticity and connection, the closer we are to beating the system.

Step 5: Be An Advocate

It’s okay to