An Instagram Star Spills The Secret To Using Social Media Without Going Crazy

Written by Carley Knobloch

Photo by Ivan Gener

There's something a little frustrating about the CEO of Instagram declaring (via Twitter, strangely) that all of the time users spend on the app should be "positive and intentional."

I mean, the platform hijacked all of our social lives by introducing a (beautiful! amazing!) endless scroll of aspirational bedroom decor, smoothie bowls, and impossible travel shots. Now that we all are hooked on double-tapping and dying to make our lives look brighter and obsessing over why that kale salad only got 50 likes...they're telling us to be "positive"?!

Of course, Insta has also made all of our lives a little (a lot?) more fun and interactive, and his statement came alongside an announcement about new "digital well-being" features that will hopefully help us hang on to that side of the experience without falling into time-suck and FOMO-related black holes.

Here's what you need to know about the new Instagram features.

The biggest change is that Instagram (and Facebook, by the way) will include a screen that shows usage insights, including how long you've been spending on the app each day that week and a daily time average.

Below that, you'll be able to set a daily time reminder so that once you've hit the amount of time you think is appropriate for the day, Instagram will remind you you've met your daily limit. It will also give you more nuanced ways to manage notifications so you're not constantly distracted. For example, you can set it so notifications only pop up after an hour, when you'll get them in a group.

I love the idea of all of these features because they're small tweaks that will give all of us the ability to be more focused and productive while still staying engaged in our Insta existences.

But here's the thing: It's also already possible to practice "intentional Instagramming" on your own. In fact, it's even better for you if you take control and always approach using the platform (and any app) in a mindful way. Here are a few tips on how to do that now that will get even easier to apply once you've got the new features. Here's how to use Instagram with intention:

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1. Set time limits and manage notifications.

You don't need a special usage insights screen to set a timer. If you find that you tend to get caught up in the scroll and when you look up an hour has gone by, make a plan. Set times that you're going to use it. For example, for five minutes at a time on the hour—and then set a timer when you open the app.

When it comes to push notifications, honestly, just turn them off! Do you really need to know when someone likes your photo, immediately? If you're checking the platform on the hour, you'll see all of your likes and follows as soon as you open the app. There are very few situations where finding out about them sooner is really necessary.

2. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow.

OK, this one will be a little tricky if your Instagram is work-related and you're trying to build a following (since you need to follow to get people to follow you back!) but especially if you're using Insta just for fun, it's time to start unfollowing. Ask yourself: Who in your feed is making you feel awful? Are you following ego-driven people who constantly post body shots that make you feel bad about yours? Are you following travel accounts that only post photos of destinations you could never afford? Are you following five newly coupled ex-boyfriends? The people you follow should motivate, inspire, and entertain you—not make you feel like your life is less-than. Let go of people who don't contribute to your overall happiness, and your Insta-related stress levels will drop immediately.

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3. Be real.

Part of Instagram's appeal is that it's aspirational...but that easily gets stretched too far, into life-you'll-never-have land. You can't control how much other people curate and edit their lives (but, again, you can unfollow!), so don't bother trying.

You can, however, be intentional about not over-curating your own life. Think about: If you share things that truly make you happy rather than just the most perfectly posed photos, you'll encourage others to do the same, potentially contributing to a more overall "intentional" Instagram world.

At the end of the day, when you're constantly scrolling through boozy brunch photos, it's easy to forget that we live in the real world, not an Instagram fantasyland. So set boundaries and scroll with intention so that you're on planet Earth with the rest of us. Because hey, who knows when the next app will launch, with even shinier features, leaving Insta in its dust?

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