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WOODSTOCK, Vt. — A mom and social media influencer says that deleting Instagram from her phone has been “life-changing,” making her an even better role model for her daughter. Jess Kirby removed the app after growing tired of constantly scrolling. She felt the need to “detox” and now feels better than ever.

Jess, a lifestyle blogger from Vermont, maintains an account for her business, which she monitors. However, someone else manages it on her behalf, allowing the 38-year-old to maintain control over her mental health.

Instagram consumed my entire existence. I’d constantly be scrolling. Creating content came at the expense of my own life. When you have a business with Instagram, you look and think from the lens of content creation. It really forced me to realize how much I was doing that and how unhealthy it was. I want to model good behavior for my daughter. It’s been life-changing,” Kirby says in an online video.

Jess originally started blogging in 2013 as a stress-relief outlet while working as an HR consultant. She quit her job in 2014 to focus on her blog full-time, posting about fashion and lifestyle. She created an Instagram account, not anticipating it would become such an integral part of her business.

“It turned into something so valuable. Instagram became a huge part of my business,” the influencer explains.

At her peak, Jess had 150,800 followers and began earning a “comfortable living” from the platform in 2016. She had regular brand deals and partnerships, but this meant she was on the app “all the time.”

“You’re on it all the time. It’s an overwhelming amount of information. One minute you’re watching a baby running around a field, and the next minute it’s something graphic and terrible. It took a mental and emotional toll.”

Photo of Jess Kirby, taken by husband Craig.
Photo of Jess Kirby, taken by husband Craig. (Credit: SWNS)

Jess also dealt with abuse on the platform

“Instagram doesn’t have a robust system in place to protect people from bullying and harassment. I thought, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’ Instagram thrives off people fighting and arguing,” Kirby says.

The mom used to post pictures of her daughter, now three years-old, until a stranger approached her and her babysitter. Jess described it as an “unsettling experience.” She also realized how “unreliable” Instagram was for financial income after losing her profile for a few days when her linked Facebook account was hacked. She decided to take a break from the platform at the end of 2021 to “clear” her head before making the decision permanent.

“It was illuminating. I noticed myself reaching for my phone. I felt like a new person – I had been so tied to my phone. It’s like I had brain fog from being in the app all the time. It was an energy zap,” Jess recalls.

After a two-week break, Jess returned to the app for work but now manages to distance herself from it. She hired someone to manage her account and hopes that, in the long term, she won’t have to use Instagram for business at all. Jess no longer posts or names her daughter online and doesn’t use TikTok or Twitter.

She admits that leaving social media was challenging, saying, “it’s easy to get sucked into endlessly scrolling. That’s frightening. In getting off it, I had to detox and reprogram my brain. I was no longer getting hits of dopamine from likes and comments. It’s really sad to admit.”

Instagram responded to the influencer’s story

“Women should feel safe no matter what space they’re in. We have clear policies against bullying and harassment on our platforms and remove this content when we become aware of it. We don’t allow gender-based hate speech, threats of sexual violence and exploitation, or unwanted harassment on our apps. We use a combination of proactive detection technology and reports from our community to find and remove content that violates our policies,” Instagram says, according to a statement from SWNS.

“Between October and December last year, we took action on 5 million pieces of content for bullying and harassment on Instagram, over 85% of which we found ourselves before it was reported. We continue to invest heavily in new technologies and spent approximately $5 billion last year alone on safety and security. We strongly encourage everyone to use our safety features, which we’ve developed in direct consultation with safety experts and our community, including public figures who have experienced abuse.”

Studies show avoiding social media eases depression

In 2022, a team from the University of Bath found that social media users can sometimes spend up to nine hours on their favorite platforms in a single week. This includes endlessly scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

Their study also revealed that avoiding social media platforms for just one week significantly improved a person’s well-being and also lowered levels of both anxiety and depression.

Previous studies have found conflicting data when it comes to the benefits and harms of social media. While some reports have disputed claims that social media is addictive (especially for children), others have noted up to 50 harmful effects of constantly browsing these platforms.

“We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits,” says Dr. Jeff Lambert in a university release. “Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.”

Social media linked to dozens of harmful effects

In 2021, researchers with the University of Technology Sydney discovered 46 specific harmful effects of using social networks. These include physical detriments, mental health problems, impacts on work or school productivity, and security or privacy issues.

Study authors broke the social media dangers down into six specific fields:

  • Cost of social exchange: This includes both psychological harms, such as depression, anxiety, or jealousy, and other costs to users like wasting time, energy, and even money.
  • Annoying content: These harms appear when users view content that annoys, upsets, or irritates them. This typically includes disturbing, violent, sexual, or obscene content.
  • Privacy concerns: These are threats to personal privacy related to storing, repurposing, or sharing personal information with third parties.
  • Security threats: These are harms from fraud or deception which can emerge from phishing or social engineering scams.
  • Cyberbullying: This includes any abuse or harassment by groups or individuals who send abusive messages, lie about others, stalk individuals, or spread rumors.
  • Low performance: This refers to the negative impact social media use can have on job or academic performance.

South West News Service writer Emma Dunn contributed to this report.

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