My Ex-Vice: Instagram 

 minute read

Liz Hammond

My Ex-Vice is a series that explores the things that can challenge us most – the bad habits, temptations, and dependencies – and how we understand them in order to overcome them.  

We just left a holly jolly season of pure gluttony, so chances are you are probably thinking about vices, and which ones you’d like to kick for the year ahead. The word “vice” traditionally means a moral fault or failing, but it has become a term we use to speak to our bad habits. Some of the most common vices throughout history involve drinking alcohol, smoking, doing drugs and gambling. While many of these vices still very much exist today, in the year 2020, there are a whole slew of other vices that one can inadvertently fall victim to.

Modern day vices include, but are not limited to: toxic relationships, online shopping, over (or) undereating, Netflix, procrastination, and of course, social media addiction.

While online shopping is a close second for me, it has come to my attention over the last few years that I am, along with almost all other millennials, addicted to social media. In particular, I have developed some toxic and time-sucking social media habits that I have begun to wean myself off of. These habits involve an investment in the lives of complete strangers. Intrigued? OK, I’ll spill.

My scrolling habits began with exes.

We’ve all been there  curiosity takes over and you find yourself analyzing the Instagram story behaviours of an ex you don’t even care about anymore, or in the 2009 archives of your husband’s past girlfriend.

Just me? Cool. Creeping exes or current partner’s exes is a social media vice that’s almost impossible to avoid. Over time I’ve kicked the habit, because quite frankly, there was much juicier stuff out there. I set my sights on the alluring magic of absolute strangers. 

As an early reader of blogs, I’ve always loved following the lives of people online. I would look forward to hearing updates from women I’d never met, with lives entirely different than me, living across all corners of the globe. So, when Instagram came about with its elusive Discover feed, I was hooked. Over the years, my creeping go-to’s have shifted: for a while it was the insanely dedicated fitness influencer, then the blogger with the perfect wedding, and most recently, any account that delves into motherhood, birth, breastfeeding or getting your “pre-baby body” back.

Regardless of the content, these accounts had a way of pulling me in over and over again, wasting hours of my life and honestly, making me feel like total shit about myself. 

I’ll come clean and say I am by no means “cured” of this all-to-common vice. But, in the last few months I’ve made a conscious effort to take practical steps to cut back on this vice and reclaim some of my precious time. A few things I’ve found that have helped me resist the call to creep:

  • I now don’t keep my phone by my bedside so am not tempted to dive into an Insta hole the minute I wake up, or when insomnia strikes

  • I’ve curated my feed and unfollowed any and all accounts that are triggering or make me feel like garbage 

  • I rely heavily on the mute feature (when you can mute stories or posts from accounts without unfollowing them). Or, better yet, just unfollow altogether  they’re strangers, after all 

  • I schedule uninterrupted self-care time, where the phone is kept out of sight 

  • I consider all of the productive, healthy things I could be focusing my energy on instead of falling back on toxic social media habits

Vices are tricky. We’re humans with all kinds of desires (both good and bad) who are wired to seek pleasure and instant gratification. Whatever your vice may be, think of small, actionable things you can do to help yourself cut back.

Also, go easy on yourself and remember that it takes an average of two months to form a habit, so the same could be said for breaking one.

My next vice to nix? Online shopping. Before writing this piece, I took step one and removed all saved credit card information from my browser settings. Wish me luck and send me strength to “add to cart” a little less frequently this new year. 


Photo courtesy of Georgia de Lotz.

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