How to stop using instagram

How to Stop Instagram Addiction

Table of Contents

  • Who uses Instagram?
  • What makes Instagram so addictive?
  • How Instagram impacts mental health
  • Signs of Instagram addiction
  • How to stop Instagram addiction
  • Get expert help

For most people, Instagram is a fun way to share and comment on photos and videos. However, some users – particularly teenage girls – are spending too much time compulsively scrolling while neglecting other interests, schoolwork, relationships, and their mental health and well-being.

In this article, we take a closer look at the social media app to help you understand more about the risks involved and why Instagram is so addictive.

Get immediate help for you or a loved one’s social media addiction. Book a free Gameplan call now to learn if our program is the right fit for you.

Who uses Instagram?

Instagram is a free photo and video-sharing platform. Since its launch by Apple in 2010, and subsequent sale to Facebook in 2012, it has become the world’s fourth most-used social media network after Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp.

There are currently over 1.1 billion monthly users worldwide and this figure is projected to increase to nearly 1.2 billion monthly users in 2023.

According to a Global State of Digital 2022 report, the majority of Instagram users are Millennials and Gen Z:

  • 13-17 years old – 8.5%
  • 18-24 years old – 30.1%
  • 25-34 years old – 31.5%
  • 35-44 years old – 16.1%
  • 45-54 years old – 8%
  • 55-64 years old – 3.6%
  • Over 65 years old – 2.1%.

Across all age groups, the gender split is fairly even: male users – 50.7% versus female users – 49.3%. However, this is not the case in every age category, for Instagram users aged 35+, women outnumber men.

The average user scrolls through the platform for 53 minutes every day which equates to eight months of their life spent on Instagram. 63% of Instagram users check the app at least once a day and 42% open the app multiple times.

Although there are no specific Instagram addiction statistics available, it is estimated that 330 million people worldwide will potentially suffer from problematic internet use in 2022 and up to 10% of people in the US could have social media addiction.

What makes Instagram so addictive?

Several ex-employees of Apple, Facebook and Google have revealed that Instagram is designed to be addictive. It uses sophisticated and data-driven methods to entice users to spend as much time as possible on the platform because this generates more advertising revenue. One former Instagram addict explains how “fighting a habit can be very hard, especially if there is an army of programmers, behavior scientists as well as data analysts working against you.”

App developer Peter Mezyk explains that “the success of an app is often measured by the extent to which it introduces a new habit.” He reveals that developers use a three-pronged approach when designing an app: sufficient motivation, an action and a trigger. Instagram ticks all three boxes. The motivation comes from the reward system triggered by scrolling through photos and videos – it releases the feel-good neurochemical dopamine that can leave us craving more,. The action comes from being able to open the app and interact with it straight away. And the trigger comes in the form of smartphone notifications and the fear of missing out (FOMO).

Dive Deeper: The Dopamine Theory of Addiction

For some people, like bestselling author Laura McKowen, Instagram can become as addictive as drugs or alcohol. McKowen published an article in The New York Times about how she was addicted to Instagram. Her life became increasingly consumed by the app to the point that it started to harm the relationship with her daughter and boyfriend, so she decided to quit the platform. She describes “the buzz of fear in my stomach, the clutch of anxiety around my throat, the endless procession of negative thoughts, the fractured texture of my attention.”

How Instagram impacts mental health

Research has shown that Instagram is associated with positive and negative effects, depending on how it’s used.

According to the Pew Research Center, most teenagers report that social media helps them feel more connected to friends and provides emotional support.

However, Facebook’s internal studies, published by The Wall Street Journal, reveal that Instagram has made body image issues worse for one in three 3 teenage girls.

The American Psychological Association says that “studies have linked Instagram to depression, body image concerns, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other problems. By design, the app capitalizes on users’ biological drive for social belonging—and nudges them to keep on scrolling.”

Signs of Instagram addiction

What are the signs that you are addicted to Instagram, or your son or daughter is addicted to Instagram? Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  • Feeling an uncontrollable urge to check and scroll through Instagram.
  • Needing to spend more and more time on Instagram to find the same level of pleasure.
  • Attempting to control, cut down or stop using the app without success.
  • Feeling irritable, restless or anxious when not using Instagram.
  • Turning to Instagram to escape from personal problems.
  • Devoting so much time to Instagram that it has a negative impact on other important life areas.
  • Unable to stop scrolling through Instagram during other activities.
  • Losing interest in all other hobbies and pastimes.
  • Quickly reverting to excessive Instagram use after a period of abstinence.

Get immediate help for you or a loved one’s social media addiction. Book a free Gameplan call now to learn if our program is the right fit for you.

How to stop Instagram addiction

If you, or someone you care about, is showing signs of Instagram addiction here are some tips to help break the scrolling cycle:

Stop sharing photos and videos

Although Instagram is not just about sharing content (it’s also about seeing what other people have posted), cutting out one of these reasons for scrolling will reduce your time spent on the platform. That’s because if you haven’t shared any photos or videos, you won’t be tempted to keep checking for likes and comments.

Turn off your phone

You may start the day with good intentions not to check Instagram but it’s very tempting to reach for your phone when you receive notifications. However, if you switch off your phone for the day, it’s much easier to ignore it. Choose a non-workday and let close friends and family know an alternative way to contact you in an emergency. You will be surprised how liberating it is to be able to focus on other activities without any distraction.

Delete the Instagram app

If it’s not possible to switch off your phone for a whole day, try deleting the Instagram app on your smartphone. Restricting access to your desktop or laptop will help you be more intentional in your usage and reduce the amount of time you spend mindlessly scrolling and commenting.

Use the ‘Take A Break’ feature

Instagram has recently launched a new ‘Take a Break’ feature to help users spend less time on the app. It gives you the option of receiving notifications to take a break from Instagram after a certain amount of time. Here are instructions for setting it up.

Set a daily Instagram limit

Check out our recommended screen time guidelines to help you decide on a reasonable amount of time to spend on Instagram each day. Then, set a daily limit so you stop using the app when you reach that threshold. Find out how to set a daily Instagram limit.

Find new hobbies

Find other hobbies or activities to fill your time so that Instagram isn’t the default whenever you are bored. Our hobby tool has over 70 ideas to inspire you.

Get expert help

If you, or a loved one, are suffering from Instagram addiction, help is available. Our coaching program is designed to help individuals and families regain balance with technology.

Get in touch today to book your gameplan strategy call.

Read More: How to Stop TikTok Addiction

I Quit Instagram for a Week — Here Are My 5 Biggest Takeaways

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The author. Christine Kopaczewski
  • I decided to quit Instagram for one week to see how I would cope without my favorite social media platform.
  • I noticed my anxiety and stress increased on the first day without Instagram.
  • But by the end of the week, I had saved money, read more, and learned to relax better.
  • Here are my biggest takeaways from my Instagram experiment.
  • Visit's homepage for more stories.

Hi, my name's Christine, and I'm an Instagram addict.

Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. While I'm no influencer, I really love to Instagram my travels, great food, and memorable times with my friends.

Let's not forget the separate account I run for my puppy (yes, I'm that girl). I also use the platform as a way of staying in touch with my nearest and dearest. I deleted my Facebook account a few years ago and haven't looked back since. Insta DMs and comments suit my connectivity needs just fine.

However, I began to realize just how intense my "hobby" was a few months back when Apple added those lovely recaps of my screen time. Every Sunday I felt my face flush as my report showed that most of my time on my phone was spent on Instagram, rather than something Apple deems "productive. "

Feeling judged (you don't know my life, Tim Cook and co.!) and also slightly embarrassed, I decided to challenge myself to a week free from all things Instagram.

Related: I completely gave up using the internet for 5 days — and it was way harder than I could have ever imagined

Aside from the not-so-gentle reminders from Apple, I was reminded time and time again IRL that my habits had gotten slightly out of control. On vacations, my husband would cringe every time I made him take a photo of me next to a notable landmark. My parents would complain about my attention span or lack thereof, during family dinners and I could hardly sit through a 30-minute TV show (not even "Game of Thrones," mon Dieu!) without checking my phone six times.

Time for a change.

So, for a full week, I deleted Instagram. No more stories, no more puppy pics, no more scrolling for hours on end.

And I noticed a few key things over the course of the week. Here's what happened.

My anxiety and stress levels increased at first

Gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

On Day One, I felt kind of lost without the opportunity to scroll through my Instagram feed.

My normally short 20-minute commute dragged on and on as I stared out the windows of the train and refreshed my inbox.

An even weirder side effect — I felt anxious. Nervous to start my work week, panicked about my packed schedule, and convinced I left my curling iron on (don't worry, I didn't).

Was Instagram really numbing out my worry that much? It was. The mindless scrolling actually soothed my usually stress-ridden self. This was going to be a long week.

I read a book instead

Flickr/Loren Kerns

By Day Three, I had thankfully calmed down and ran to Amazon Prime to solve my "what to do" woes.

After putting it off for a solid year, I bought "Rich People Problems," the third and final installment in Kevin Kwan's famed "Crazy Rich Asians" trilogy. Book in hand, my commute flew by, and I quickly realized that I'd been neglected a hobby I find not only relaxing but also rewarding, thanks to my overzealous social media consumption.

Note to self: Focus more on acquiring a library membership and less on building up my following.

I didn't spend as much money

Get your money, people. Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

On top of my social media addiction, I also have an online shopping problem. And Instagram's algorithm knows just how to sucker me into spending money.

Week after week, I'm urged into buying beautiful but unnecessary shoes, makeup, and clothing because they pop up on my feed through sponsored posts. Brands I've never even heard of quickly become must-haves for my shopaholic self. In all honesty, I probably purchase two to three items per month just from things I find on Insta.

But during my Instagram-less week, my hardcore shopping habit vanished. My husband and my wallet were happy, and I didn't acquire yet another miracle-working moisturizer that I use once before pawning it off to a friend.

I chilled out


Once the cord was cut and I wasn't constantly clicking on that cute and colorful camera icon, I felt calm. Oddly calm.

Maybe seeing my friends, colleagues, and former classmates looking their best, doing their best, being their best, at all hours of the day, was actually making me feel a little bit blue. Sure, I was happy they were vacationing in the Maldives, but why wasn't I vacationing in the Maldives?

My time spent reading or talking IRL worked wonders on my sanity and stress.

Life goes on, Instagrammed or not

The author. Christine Kopaczewski

My biggest and more important takeaway was that life lives on whether you capture it in a photo or not.

Who cares how many likes I get on my picture of the Northern Lights if taking that pic meant I spent less time experiencing them first hand?

Food for thought — in a week from now will you remember or care about how many likes your picture got or how many swoon-worthy photos you saw on your feed? No. Put the phone away for a short seven days and see just how much you missed it. I'll bet it's less than you think.

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Quitting Instagram Addiction

I took off Instagram for a month to focus on writing my first book, but ended up getting a lot more.

It took me a while to remove it. Several months, to be exact. I knew a break was needed. I spent too much time looking at other people's lives instead of taking care of my own.

But I was looking for excuses.

It was my digital album. Would anyone want to contact me? What if my followers leave? And the worst thing: what if I miss something?

I have tried many ways to spend less time on the phone. Something helped, but I still felt an irrepressible craving for him. I picked it up whenever I had a free moment, or when I wanted to get away from problems.

When I finally clicked on the little "x" and uninstalled the app, I had an instant sense of relief. Here are a few observations I've made while offline:

Heightened perception

At first, I still perceived some life moments through the prism of a social network. When we were doing something fun as a family, the kids said something funny, I listened to a good podcast or I got inspired, I thought about putting it on Instagram. But the desire quickly faded, and something better came in its place.

I started to take more interest in these moments. I saw them for who they really were, not what they would look like on Instagram. I enjoyed them not because they would make a good photo or "it's worth sharing", but because they were living history. I lived those moments more deeply, perceived them more acutely. I entered them into my memory, not into my phone.

over creation , under consumption

could hone my craft if I didn’t get distracted by Instagram, which took up my time and cluttered my head?

I looked for rare moments of inspiration that seemed to be overshadowed by various things that took up space in my head, including Instagram.

These four weeks without a social network, I was much more productive than the last three years. When Instagram stopped looming on the horizon, moments of inspiration began to come much more often. And this inspiration was connected not only with the book, but also with children, friends and my other creative projects.

When we are on Instagram (and other social networks), we think we are doing something, but an hour later we remain in the same place. It's so easy to get stuck in consumerism and forget about creation.


Shortly after I deleted Instagram, I was overtaken by a strong sense of insecurity, to the point of having an emotional breakdown. It was strange, because it seemed to me that the rejection of the social network should have a positive effect. Then I realized two things:

First, I did not share photos and thoughts with the world and, accordingly, did not receive a return: almost instantaneous recognition in the form of likes, comments and new subscribers.

Secondly, I didn't use social media to distract myself or escape my feelings and reality. I had to experience and live impressions more deeply. It was a kind of alarm clock that seemed to hint to me how strong the need for this escape was in me.

I learned a valuable lesson by remembering again what it is like to experience the full range of emotions and maintain self-esteem on my own, instead of relying on external sources.

Feeling of wholeness

Modern women sometimes feel like they are being pulled in different directions. The social network only stirs up passions, because we see what others are doing and compare (albeit subconsciously) our situations and decisions. It's overwhelming. I think our brain is about to go into hysterics at the sight of such an abundance of information.

Life is not about spying on what other people are doing, what their house looks like, what their hair looks like, where they go on vacation, and what their children are into. Also, we do not need to listen to other people's advice (even good ones) about everything that happens under the sun. It clouds our intuition and sanity. This distorts our own point of view on how to live and raise children, how to become a successful beautiful woman, wife and mother.

Motherhood without regrets

Since I recovered from my Instagram addiction, I have been spending more time with my children. This is how I want to spend all the years, while they are still small and dependent on me. However, this will not happen until I learn how to consciously use the social network. I want to be a clear example for them that life and communication should always be put above technology and social networks.

Look for balance

I'm back on Instagram. Only this time I'm acting differently because I know how much more peaceful, free and happy life becomes when I'm not on my phone. Now I cherish the moments I spend with my family. If I go to Instagram, then for a short time, and on the weekend I delete the application altogether.

I don't think the social network is evil or something we should all give up. It has a lot of good things, and I like to communicate there. I admire my friends who were able to develop their hobby and now support their families on the income from it. But for me personally, gatherings on a social network are not worth the time and effort spent.

While social media can be a useful tool, it will never provide the variety, happiness, and emotionality of real life. All this can only be given by relationships. Real impressions. In simple everyday moments, in thoughts and inspiration. There is no need to be afraid that we will miss something in the world of social networks. It is much scarier if we miss something in the real world if we spend too much time on the phone.

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How to stop wasting time in social networks?

I have been developing my project for more than a year, a good half of the tasks are related to social networks. Here I communicate with like-minded people, podcast listeners and participants of my courses. Social networks are a special space where it is difficult to maintain concentration and observe the boundary between work and leisure.

I decided to do an experiment to better understand the problem. In this article, I will talk about the conclusions and impressions, about why I had to do 2000 squats and what side effects I encountered.


Rules of the experiment | Day 1-10 | Blockers | Day 11-20 | Ideas from podcast guests | Day 21-30 | Messenger Franz | Day 31-40 | Social networks and hormones | Day 41-50 | How to replace social media? | Summary

Rules of the Experiment

I decided that I would conduct the experiment for 50 days and divide it into 5 stages of 10 days. Here are the rules that I followed during this period:

1) record and count the number of visits to the social network every day
2) indicate the reasons for entry: work, rest (break) or violation (distracted or procrastinated)
3) do not interrupt the experiment on weekends and holidays

In addition, starting from the second stage, for each entry, except for workers, I performed 20 squats. Starting from the fourth stage, I kept track of the time spent on social networks using the RescueTime program. I will talk about it and other useful tools further.

Day 1-10

The start of the experiment was smooth. At the first stage, I simply recorded visits, put a tick in the notebook every time I opened the social network. I didn’t scold or stop myself, but just wanted to get an objective picture and determine the starting point. In the evening, I counted the ticks: the starting point - 17 times.

After a couple of days, the “observer effect” appeared. It lies in the fact that the very fact of accounting changes the attitude to the situation, the measured indicators improve. I wanted to surpass the results of the previous day, so the question more and more often sounded in my head: “ Do I need to go to the social network now? And for what? »

It's amazing how quickly social media grabs and holds attention. I went to the feed, saw a new post, and after 15 minutes you won’t remember what you were going to do. In addition, there are so many social networks that it is difficult to understand which ones to put on the banned list. Mine had only Vkontakte and Facebook.

At the end of the first stage, I realized that in social networks I often act automatically: I open it, I see that nothing important and interesting has happened, I immediately close it and continue to do my own thing.


On the first day, I completely cleared my feeds. To do this, on VKontakte, go to the feed, click the "List of sources" button, go to the "Displayed" tab, select the "Hide all" option and save the changes.

To disable Facebook news, you can use the KillNewsFeed plugin for Google Chrome. The desire to enter the social network “just like that” will immediately decrease. There is nothing to read!

In addition, I decided to test blockers - programs that block access to selected sites. First, I installed a widget for Chrome with the eloquent name GoFuckingWork. The thing works well, but not for long. After a couple of weeks, the “eye is blurred”, the hand automatically turns off the program.

Perhaps I would not refuse a blocker that cannot be turned off immediately. If you have to wait at least 5 minutes, then there will be a chance to change your mind and continue working. I think it's brilliant. Or maybe they already exist? UPD: as it turned out, RescueTime has a similar function, it's called GetFocused.

Day 11-20

In the second stage, I started squatting 20 times for every visit to the social network for no good reason. The threat of physical retribution worked: the impulsive desire to dive into social networks at any opportunity weakened.

Now, even while resting, I mentally asked myself: “ Do I really want to open a social network so much that I am ready to squat after this? » And yet, during the first 10 days, I did 780 squats.

However, the monolith of habit is shaken. The social network was no longer drawn as it used to be. The first call now happened after lunch, and not in the morning, and even then without much desire.

Even if he remembered the old and "stuck" on someone's page, he did not get pleasure from it. Until now, in the depths of my soul, there was a hope that in the evening I would find something interesting on social networks. And each time the hope was not justified.

Ideas from podcast guests

Gamification specialist Ivan Nefediev said that he solves the problem with the help of two mugs with coins. One mug is a personal wallet, and the other is a bank. For each completed task, the bank pays you coins, and for the time spent on social networks, you pay it.

Is your wallet empty? So, there is nothing to sit on social networks, you have to work. And if there are a lot of coins, then you can safely flip through the tape without any remorse.

Another podcast guest, Dmitry Bogdanov, uses the “liberating constraints” method. He allows himself to read the news feed as much as he wants, but only at home, only standing in the middle of the room, and only through the iPad. It's inconvenient, and it's too lazy to stand for a long time - that's what the calculation is for.

Day 21-30

At the third stage, I complicated the accounting system a bit. I continued to check the boxes, and the RescueTime time tracker analyzed all my activities on the computer in the background. The service not only monitors activity, but also processes information and then issues reports. It turned out that I spend less than 30 minutes on social networks per day. Not bad!

The week was busy, and I went to social networks only in the evening and then on business. I used to like to follow the reaction of readers to my new posts. How many likes, reposts? I used to check them every 5 minutes, but now I "let go". Moreover, the opposite effect began to develop: I didn’t want to open social networks at all. Even at work.

Franz messenger

With the help of an experiment, I wanted to figure out how to draw a line between work and leisure in social networks. It happens that business correspondence flows into a simple friendly conversation. Or you see a link in a message, follow it... and off you go.

The objectivity of statistics suffers, work is mixed with leisure, what should I do? The solution to the problem was suggested by the RescueTime service. When I used the Franz app, it counted as a communication tool, not as a social network. It is very convenient to separate flies from cutlets: work through Franz, rest through the browser.

Franz allows you to keep chats of all the most popular social networks and instant messengers in one window. It is intended only for communication, and not for reading news, so there is nothing else besides messages.

Day 31-40

At the fourth stage, the side effect of the experiment did not disappear. At some point, it even seemed to me that I go to social networks too rarely. Meanwhile, you can’t go to extremes, because clients and podcast listeners were still waiting for my messages on social networks.

If you do not respond to a potential buyer in time, you can disrupt the deal. If you do not parse messages for several days, then it is scary to enter the social network: you will have to spend a lot of time on correspondence. I concluded that social networks should be treated like mail, that is, always end the day with InboxZero.

Social networks and hormones

Our well-being and psychological state depend on the concentration of certain types of hormones. In particular, dopamine is responsible for the search for novelty, and serotonin is responsible for high spirits and good spirits.

Why are social networks addictive? Yes, because they are a simple and affordable way to increase the production of hormones. Dopamine spurs us on with questions: “ Are there any new messages? Is there a new post in my favorite community? »

The "status hormone" serotonin makes people earn likes and get approval. Until we find another bottomless source of these hormones, social media will be hard to give up.

Yes, and is it necessary? In my opinion, it is better to simply limit the time of stay and the number of visits, as well as influence the production of serotonin in other ways. For example, instead of reading other people's posts, write your own and get the desired likes.

Day 41-50

At the last stage, the experiment turned into a routine. RescueTime showed that I devote 10-20 minutes a day to social networks. Sometimes the program didn’t even have time to register the visit — so quickly I checked the necessary information and closed the site. I quickly cut off distractions, and they happened very rarely.

Frankly, the desire to check the likes and comments of your posts has not completely disappeared. The anchor was still strong, but it transformed and moved to another location. Now I was checking to see if there were any new messages in Skype or new letters in the mail. It looks like the next experiment will be devoted to this.

How to replace social networks?

Getting off the hook gives you a better understanding of how the dopamine system works. You go to social networks with the hope that you will find something interesting. But after a few minutes you admit that you were wrong. One has only to get rid of automaticity, and it becomes possible to adequately assess the situation.

I see a subscription to a useful newsletter as an alternative to social networks. Why waste time looking for information when you can entrust it to someone else? In addition, you should think of something useful to do in those moments when you usually open social networks.

Based on my experience, at such moments there is no energy for physical exercises, and there is also not enough energy for mental exercises. It is then that you want to flip through the news feed without thinking about its content.


50 days of monitoring my activity in social networks led me to the following conclusions.

The observer effect works

The mere fact of monitoring indicators contributes to their improvement.

Punishment increases awareness

If you have to pay, the temptation loses some of its power.

Learn more