Turns out Instagram isn’t so addicting after all.
Ever since I bought an iPhone with my very own money, I’ve always been somewhat of a screen enthusiast. Not quite a hardcore addict with more than five hours of Screen Time per day, but enough of one to keep me awake with guilt at night over my scrolling habits. So a few weeks ago, I decided to take matters into my own hands and download a detoxing app called one sec, which ironically was advertised on Instagram itself. I wanted to see how much one sec could cut my Screen Time, and if I felt any mental side effects (or withdrawals) from not spending so much time on social media.
The premise of one sec is basically to deter the user from entering an “addictive” app by forcing the user to stop and perform another action, like breathing. It’s simple to install—all you need is a bit of Shortcuts knowledge to program it with your chosen app, which in my case, was Instagram. The free version of one sec only offers a short breathing session as a deterrent, but I found that it was effective enough to stop me from actually opening Instagram.
During the first 24 hours of my experiment, I ended up clicking on Instagram 68 times, only to be greeted with its chiding prompt: “It’s time to take a deep breath…” for three seconds. Each time this happened, I found myself mentally checking in with myself as I inhaled and exhaled. Why did I click on it? What was I doing at the moment? What was I really craving—a diversion or distraction? My feelings were not of shame, but of curiosity. I was eager to learn more about my intrinsic motivations for using my phone so much.
As I reflected, I realized that the moments where I reached for Instagram shared a common theme—they were all moments in which I felt unfulfilled or frustrated. Instead of attempting another crack at a math problem, I would turn on my phone. Instead of glancing around my surroundings while in line at the grocery store, I had the urge to scroll. Even when I was walking with my mom, I sometimes fought a desire to sneak a peek at the screen in my pocket, which I thankfully didn’t act on.
Thanks to one sec, I’m now proud to say that I only click on Instagram 32 times every 24 hours, which is less than half the amount I started with. Because of the mindful breathing technique, I now confront myself every time I open the app—why am I really opening it? Will it really be helpful for me at this moment? There’s no doubt that we all need a burst of laughter or a break from the monotony of life sometimes, and I would be the last person to encourage you to quit cold-turkey. But before doom scrolling, we should ask ourselves the real question: if social media really provides what we need. Now that I’ve gained more than an hour everyday to spend with real family and friends, I can’t imagine that I’ll ever go back.
Download one sec on the App Store for iOS and macOS (free and paid version available).