Do it for the ‘gram.
I can’t post that, it won’t look good on my grid.
Go like the photo I just posted.
These are all phrases that I’ve actually said seriously in conversation. If you regularly post to “the ‘gram,” you may have said these things too.
I’m the type of Instagram user who plans a grid color scheme, has a formula for the types of photos I post, and regularly schedules styled photo shoots. You could say I’m pretty invested in the app.
But just a few months ago, something strange happened. As snow fell in globs outside my window, I rolled over in bed to silence the brain rattling alarm on my phone. I swiped open my Instagram app as I usually do, partially to check in on the Insta-verse and partially to pry open my sleepy eyes. I scrolled for a few seconds and was suddenly overwhelmed with disinterest.
My eyes glazed over photos and captions. In an instant, I was done with being inundated with pouting supermodels, perfectly manicured homes, and people who travel to tropical oases every month. I was weary of the alternative reality that functioned on likes, follows, and peer affirmation. My mind decided it needed a detox. So, detox I did.
For three months, I didn’t post, engage, or scroll through my feed longer than 10 minutes at a time. My iPhone even gave up on judgmentally reporting how many hours I exhausted on Instagram daily.
My social media hiatus was like restoring an iPhone to its factory settings. In the past, my brain constantly alerted me when ideal photo opportunities popped up. Oh, a retro storefront? A delicious meal? A catchy song? Post it to stories. After a couple weeks of detoxing, the posting reflex stopped interrupting my day — even when I was at highly picturesque locations.
The break from social media was actually pretty liberating. With every photo I didn’t post to Instagram, I began feeling like my life was mine again and I re-learned that I could cherish my days, all on my own — free from likes.
But eventually, one of my best friends reached out, jokingly reprimanding me for not being online anymore. Her playful jab and invitation back to the platform reminded me of all the relationships Instagram had facilitated. “How is Susanna doing?” I thought, “I wonder how wardrobe shopping is going for Alexandra’s new job?” “Has Elisabeth moved?” I realized I had let many friendships falter during my time away — friendships I would never have if not for Instagram.
So, I posted a quick “hi!” to my stories and “welcome back!” messages began filling my inbox. Their warm reception made me rethink my approach to Instagram. I had spent so much time mindlessly consuming content that made me feel diminished as I compared myself to models, celebrities, and socialites, instead of engaging in a community of real women who were actually positive, supportive, and relatable.
My entire Instagram experience began changing when I made an effort to be a part of the thriving Catholic community online. Their openness with their faith motivated me to continue pursuing mine, their support empowered me to keep going, and their relatability reminded me that I’m never alone in my struggles. Instead of signing off of Instagram thinking of all the ways I wasn’t measuring up to an ideal, I began to think about it as a way to be real with myself and others.
I’ll never forget when my friend said to me, “Your Instagram followers have no idea who the real Lilly is.” In the moment, I laughed it off, but when I thought about it later, I realized I had created an idealized image of myself that even I couldn’t relate to.
As I encountered more Catholic women on Instagram, I noticed they weren’t afraid to show the un-curated sides of themselves. They posted photos without makeup, they didn’t strategically angle the camera to highlight their best side, and most importantly, they shared incredibly honest captions that expressed their struggles and joys. They knew their true worth rested in the fact that they are loved by God, so their self-esteem had a rock-solid foundation — it didn’t come from emulating “perfect” models, celebrities, or influencers on Instagram. They were in touch with God’s love, which made them real and free — and that is so much more inspiring than any curated, idealized depiction of womanhood. I decided I wanted to be a part of that.
Because of this, I began realizing how important it is to foster a faith community wherever you find it — even if it’s on Instagram. As humans, we thrive when we’re connecting with our community. We are inspired to be the best versions of ourselves while working to achieve the same goal. Instagram can be a safe haven for people looking to connect and to be inspired.
After my three-month break, I learned that it’s up to me to use Instagram in a healthy way. It’s about balancing what we share and consume as well as choosing to expose ourselves to content that is beneficial. Like anything in life, it’s about intentionally seeking out the good and investing in it.
So yes, I’m back on my Instagram game —- of course, still coordinating photo shoots and planning my next grid color scheme (blue and gold, btw.). I try to keep myself in check any time I feel the impulse to post every second of my life. But mostly, I look forward to logging in every day and chatting with the women who were once strangers and are now my friends.