Lack of Self-Control

Last night was the first decent night of sleep I’ve had in a while, in terms of sleep quality, not the number of hours. On weeknights I usually fall asleep sometime between 11pm and 1am and wake up at 7am to go to work, but regardless of the number of hours of sleep I get, I always wake up still feeling exhausted in the morning and having low energy throughout the day. On weekends I wake up naturally at the same time as I do during the week, but I force myself to go back to sleep until maybe 9-10am thinking I could use more sleep given my constant state of exhaustion. The thing I did differently yesterday was that after 6pm I happened to not use my phone at all due to me attending a class from 6:30 to 10:30pm, and after getting home I immediately got ready for bed.

Lately I have become a slave to my smartphone.

This feels a bit funny to me because in the past I used to pride myself on not using any social media and rarely using my phone. I thought of myself as some kind of master of self-control and concentration because I was able to spend the whole day without listening to music, checking text messages, playing games, or looking at social media. When I was in the army, I even taught a class on the pitfalls and downsides to using social media and technology. Look at me now – unable to sit in silence for 20 minutes without feeling a compulsive need to look at my phone, feeling the need to track my bicycle rides (despite having no clear reason to), posting photos to and checking Instagram even though 99% of the interactions on there are meaningless, the list goes on.

The funny thing about all this is that 90% of my screen-time is spent text-messaging. I’m not over here getting distracted by Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, or whatever other super addictive apps are out there that people get hooked on. I just got addicted to chatting with people. Even on IG, most of my time is spent replying to DMs, not actually scrolling through my feed. Of course, this is due to me exchanging messages with many people, not always because I’m constantly going back and forth with the people I message.

I’ve been conflicted about using IG for a long time, as I’m sure all of you know if you’ve read my previous posts. When I used to use IG for personal reasons, I found myself getting annoyed by things people were sharing or feeling bad when I saw people socializing with friends while I was sitting at home alone. I realized this was something I couldn’t control and subsequently deleted my personal IG account, but continued using my photography IG accounts. I would say my use of those accounts was even more problematic due to me being acutely aware that IG for photography is basically a huge circle-jerk and still using it; the only reason 90% of photographers follow others on IG is because they hope to receive a reciprocal follow to validate their own photography/ego. Most likely no one gives a shit about my photos or your photos. Honestly speaking, most of the time I scroll through my IG feed, I couldn’t care less about what I see – I just want attention/validation. Gimme some likes or follows plz.

Being the all-or-nothing type of person that I am, I decided to not say anything to anyone and just randomly delete both of my photography IG accounts today. This decision came after I posted a photo on my street photography IG account and decided I would put some hashtags on that post, even though I didn’t use any hashtags on the past 15-20 posts. When I don’t cry for attention using hashtags, I find that I don’t care much about IG at all and I don’t even bother to check who likes or comments on my posts most of the time. But today when I included some hashtags, I felt myself somehow caring and wanting to check how many people liked the post compared to when I didn’t use hashtags, etc. In that moment, I just thought “fuck this shit, this app is not worth it” and immediately deactivated my accounts.

I’ve met several really cool and nice people using IG for photography purposes, but I’ve determined that the potential for meeting new people is simply not worth the mental effects of even casually using the app. Although, I will say that the problems I have experienced are not only from Instagram, it’s just that Instagram keeps drawing my attention to my phone, and then I end up cycling through several apps and causing myself to feel scatterbrained and unable to focus.

I will update you later to let you know if I relapse and/or if I noticed anything as a result of not using IG anymore.

While this may seem like a big change already, I feel the need to take further, more drastic action. The biggest culprit behind me getting distracted on my phone is Line (a Taiwan texting app). The problem with Line is that I receive many texts per day on it, and every time I open the app to reply to a message, I’m confronted with all the other messages I still haven’t replied to. A lot of times it feels like a burden to reply to people, and many times when I finally relieve that burden by replying to many people all at once, some of them reply again before I’m even done replying to everyone else, creating even more unread messages. It’s like a never-ending cycle, and I really don’t like to see unread messages in my inbox.

The only way I can think to resolve this issue, besides magically developing the ability to do things in moderation, is to categorically stop using Line throughout the day (turning off all notifications, not using it on my computer, etc). Alternately, I could stop bringing my phone with me when I leave the house, which I used to do. I’ll update later with what I decide to do!

I am curious to see how this works out. In the past when I didn’t use social media and rarely used my phone, I at least had roommates, a very active social life, and wide circle of friends. Now I live alone in Taiwan and most of my friends don’t live particularly close, so I only see friends maybe 2-3 times per week. Perhaps my addiction to my phone has been sort of a replacement for having an active social life; when I can’t be with friends in person, I try to be with them online. We will see what happens when I take that away!

3 replies to “Lack of Self-Control

  1. There is something to be said for putting your work out in the public sphere to be critiqued. I always thought instagram was a good place for that when it comes to photography (as a non-photographer, just based on hearsay) but it seems like its not from your perspective. Is it possible you haven’t found the right groups to be a part of to get that constructive criticism or do you think IG as a whole is just too focused on surface level attention rather that quality engagement that it doesn’t allow for those kinds of conversations to happen? Or maybe you do get some of those but the negatives of IG (its addictiveness and endless scrolling) outweigh the benefits you get? Have you found other digital spaces to post your photos and get feedback from peer photographers?

    1. When I first started using Instagram for photography, my motivation was to learn and improve my photography. However, most of the learning I did was simply through seeing and analyzing photos, not through interaction with the people. At a certain point I sort of fell into my own style of taking photos and found myself less able to learn from what I was seeing on IG – that was the point when it really just turned into a game and popularity contest for me, since I had found my style and preferences. I feel that you can only learn a certain amount from looking at other people’s stuff, and at that point you need to focus on and lean into on your own work to make it more deeply personal. In terms of feedback, I would say basically the only feedback I got from anyone on IG were compliments, which feel nice, but are ultimately not helpful. It’s just the nature of the platform – most of the people who I interact with are not close friends, and if they comment or give me feedback, it would only be something shallow and perfunctory. A lot of the time these comments are made in order to increase ‘engagement’ or encourage me to return-comment or look at their profile, so I am always a bit suspicious of people’s motives on IG when they comment, message me, or engage with me in some way. If I wanted real feedback, I think it would do just fine to have one friend or a handful of friends whose taste I trust to give me feedback, which doesn’t require IG at all. In terms of the groups you mentioned, I guess the only ‘groups’ I know of on IG would be hashtags? I guess it’s possible to create group chats or something like that, but it would be just as easy to use a different app or discord server for that, and that kind of thing would probably benefit from having fewer people, not more, so it really doesn’t require IG.

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