Shailene Woodley says Instagram was fun — until she dated someone 'very, very famous'

A young woman in a black-and-silver turtleneck stands amid a crowd at an awards show
Actress Shailene Woodley at the 76th Golden Globe Awards in 2019. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Actress Shailene Woodley has always had a love-hate relationship with Instagram.

But her discomfort toward the social media app reached a high point as the spotlight intensified during her relationship with her ex-fiancé, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"It honestly never really hit me that millions of people around the world were actually watching these things and paid attention to them. Then, I dated somebody in America who was very, very famous,” Woodley told Net-a-Porter, referring to the Green Bay Packers star, in an interview published Sunday. Her Instagram account boasts a following of nearly 5 million users.

The "Big Little Lies" actor said her relationship with Rodgers was her first "famous relationship," which she said brought more attention and scrutiny to her personal life. Instagram went from being "fun," Woodley said, to feeling "violating."

"I’m a very private person, and so I found that any time I posted anything, I instantly felt like I was sharing too much of who I am with people I didn’t necessarily trust," Woodley said.

After dating throughout 2020, Woodley and Rodgers announced they were engaged in February 2021. When Woodley confirmed the engagement on “The Tonight Show,” she told host Jimmy Fallon, "For us, it’s not new news. So it’s kind of funny everybody right now is freaking out over it, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ve been engaged for a while.'"

A year later, the couple broke off their engagement.

Woodley called the period after her breakup with Rodgers "the darkest, hardest time in my life."

"It was winter in New York, and my personal life was s—, so it felt like a big pain bubble for eight months,” she told Net-a-Porter.

Woodley said she had already been considering a retreat from Instagram as she became "allergic to people talking about things that they know nothing about." She complained that most celebrities don't actually "read books and educate themselves" on the issues they post about.

Woodley's disdain for social media stretches back to 2014, when she told Marie Claire that she had deleted her Instagram account in the lead-up to the release that year of her films "Divergent" and "The Fault in Our Stars."

"Everything I was posting was for a story — like, 'Look how interesting I am.' It felt disgusting to me," she said, adding that "we're all such narcissists, and that's what social media caters to."

Then, in a 2016 interview with The Times, Woodley echoed her sentiments, commenting that social media "would breed a narcissistic nature within myself of [needing] validation."

She went on to question the role of social media in Hollywood and whether directors and studios were looking for actors with popularity on the apps rather than considering their talent or artistry within their craft.

Woodley eventually rebooted her account, where she regularly posted about social and political causes she cared about, including opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Woodley was arrested in North Dakota while protesting at the pipeline construction site in 2016.

Last August, Woodley took to social media and warned her followers that "you can’t give it all away over the internet."

"Instagram should be a place we come to laugh at ourselves + society. not beat ourselves up for it," she wrote in a now-deleted post.

Last September, fans noticed that Woodley had deleted all her posts.

Woodley told Net-a-Porter that since scaling back her social media use, she's able to focus on "the smaller things," which to her now "feel like the most extraordinary little slices of magic on the planet."

Her Instagram page now includes only a handful of posts, including an ad for eco-friendly sunglasses and an Instagram Live about Indigenous People's Day. Her most recent stories mostly show time spent with friends — card games at game night, dinner at a restaurant and smiley FaceTime calls.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.