So long, Instagram ✌️

2024-01-29

I deleted all my social media accounts sometime around 2008 and was a digital recluse until 2016, when I decided to make an Instagram account. That year, I was dealing with some personal struggles and was drawn to the idea of an online scrapbook that could remind me of the good in my life. At the time, there wasn’t really an “algorithm” on Instagram; it only showed you a feed of posts from the people you followed, and if it had stayed this way, I would still be there.

I started to notice changes in my usage habits when they turned the feed into an endless stream of algorithm-driven content. Suddenly, when you reached the end of your friends’ posts, it would show you “suggested content.” Later, they started mixing these suggested posts in with your normal feed. And these posts were addicting. I’d find myself wasting hours scrolling through them, degrading my attention span as I indulged in quick, endless dopamine hits.

I realized that I was no longer in control of what I saw on the app; the algorithm was in control, and the things it was showing me were nefarious. It was not only figuring out how to keep me in the app as long as possible, but it was also discovering the things I was weak against and serving them to me. I found that I could start with it showing me quotes from theologians and scriptures, and after 5 minutes, it would show me half-naked women. Or it would have me convinced I needed to buy some stupid thing I had never thought about before.

It became clear that this algorithm was my enemy. It was spiritual warfare.

I attempted all kinds of practical half-measures to fight against it. I tried deleting the app and just using the website. I tried putting time limits on it. Nothing worked. It always sucked me back in, and it was consistently a trap for me to fall into sin.

The following verse finally convinced me that half-measures wouldn’t suffice:

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:30

How could I keep this stupid app that was constantly at war with my soul when it would be so easy to cut it off and throw it away? Every excuse I had seemed pathetic in light of this verse, so I got rid of it.

Fortunately, Instagram is good about letting you access your data. I downloaded a backup of all my posts and stories in a format that I could work with programmatically, then wrote a script to transfer it all into this website (I might make the script public if there is any interest).

I had fun building this site and plan to continue posting here occasionally. I hope it will be a throwback to the web of yesteryear when people got on the internet with intentionality and then got off of it when they were done.

The internet isn’t inherently evil. It’s a fantastic tool for communication, creativity, and connection, but only if I’m in control of what I’m seeing. If I relinquish that control, I’m allowing the world to dictate what I see, and it will mold me to itself.

-BB

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