While 'Instagram Addict' is not an official medical diagnosis (although it does make a cool superhero name), there are increasing studies showing that Instagram can be addictive and carries several potentially long-term harmful effects.
Of course, no one knows for sure whether they have become addicted. Millions of people log onto Instagram every day with no harmful consequences, but here's a checklist of 4 ways to tell if that 'tap to like' has developed into a full blown problem for yourself or someone you care about.
Note: these suggestions are NOT medical advice, and you should consult a doctor if you think you (or someone you know) may have a genuine physical or psychological addiction.
#1: You constantly check your Instagram Feed throughout the day
How many times do you refresh the app each day, hoping to see more hearts on your recently uploaded photos? And how many times do you scroll through your feed each hour, giving yourself FOMO over what everyone else on this planet is digitally up to?
There's nothing wrong with looking at Instagram every day. But if you're using it excessively, that's where the cause for concern lies. A good tip to follow if you're still studying is: After excluding study-related computer usage like typing a Word doc or preparing a Powerpoint presentation, your total screen time should not exceed three hours per day. This includes watching Youtube videos and texting.
You can also choose an allocated time of day you will log onto Instagram. For instance, allow yourself half an hour in the morning browsing while you're travelling to school, and another half an hour in the evening. Set a timer on your phone and stop when the alarm buzzes you that it's times up.
If you're finding yourself scrolling through Instagram for hours on end and snoozing the alarm ten times, it may be time to go cold turkey.
#2: Instagram is causing you some emotional issues
You take a photo in a picturesque overseas location, in your outfit of the day, complete with dreamy look and wind-tossed hair. Then you post the picture on Instagram, complete with humblebrag caption of: "Bali’s wind is seriously too strong. Now my hair is all messed up”.
Then you wait. And wait. And wait.
Only 22 likes?! *DELETES PHOTO*
Instagram can start out nice, then quickly spiral into something nasty. It’s like a little window to the world that you can hold in the palm of your hand. You can sit by it after a long day at school and watch all the interesting people pass by — scrolling through your feed, liking photos, exploring hashtags, following new people, and generally taking it all in.
Then before you know it, you start feeling jaded about your own life because of all the exciting photos you see on Instagram. It starts off small, like a wistful sigh looking at all the exotic locations or food, and then it slowly builds up into "her makeup skills are so on point, why can't I be as pretty", or "I wish I had a body like that. I bet all the girls will flock to me if I looked that ripped with that 6 pack" and you feel like you cannot measure up.
Have you felt any of that happening to you? If you do, perhaps it's time to set your phone to airplane mode and distract yourself in healthier ways like reading a book or watching a movie with friends who love you for who you are right at this moment. not for who you might become.
#3: Instagram has become your daily priority
Here’s when I knew my love for Instagram had morphed into an addiction: Instead of paying attention to my boyfriend over dinner, I would immediately reach for my phone once the food is served and tap my Instagram icon. My boyfriend is a techie too, and I started to notice that we would often end up spending our date nights together with our phones instead of actually interacting with one another! I found this to be really sad, and knew something had to be done.
Now I have a 'zero checking Instagram' policy when I'm with other people. The ideal thing to do when you’re in any social situation is to not be on your phone at all, but nowadays it's unavoidable. The max I will go is to quickly snap a photo to be posted later on. That's fair game, right?
I just try hard not to sit there and scroll through my feed when I’m hanging out with other people. Most of all when I'm with someone taking me out on a date!
#4: Instagram is bringing out your dark side
Sometimes I become bothered by the way Instagram can bring out my uglier side. I often have knee-jerk reactions of judging another person's photo, and if my fingers type a little faster than my brain can think through, I end up typing a comment that can actually be hurtful before I catch myself and frantically delete while cursing myself for being such a troll.
Whether it is posting comments that hurt others’ feelings, posting up pictures that paint a false lifestyle, or even getting a little too nosy with other people’s lives, if you feel that Instagram is causing you to become someone even you won't want to be friends with... it might be time for an insta-hiatus. Quit Instagram for a week to detox, and then try again after setting some boundaries for yourself about what you won't do on the app.