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My decision to leave Instagram wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment one. For a long while, I’ve been acutely aware of the research into what it does to our mental health, our self-esteem and the strategies they employ to keep us addicted. Since reading Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks, I’ve been trying really hard to be more mindful of where my time goes.
My ‘word‘ for 2023 was JOY. Golly, has it taken me around the houses, this way, that way, forwards, and backwards. When we’re committed to our word of the year, we take stock and use it as a barometer, a north star, a guide.
Truthfully, Instagram hasn’t been an enjoyable place for a long while. There’s something about the noise of it that fills my head quickly. After a scrolling session, I feel flat and less motivated. More unsure of my decisions and self. I’d find myself picking up my phone for no intentional reason other than out of habit, and, lo and behold, I’d find myself falling down scroll-holes. Even when I’d created boundaries and been more disciplined, there was always a pull which took considerable energy and effort to ignore.
It’s been a long-drawn-out separation, that’s for sure. Anyhow, let’s dive into what it’s been like living Instagram-free for the past 12 days, shall we?!
Obviously, one of the most noticeable changes has been the sheer amount of time I’ve reclaimed. I was previously spending anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half each day on Instagram, according to my phone. What’s so frightening about it is that it never felt as though I was on there for anywhere near that amount of time.
Whilst I’m still picking up my phone needlessly, out of habit, I do notice the time I’ve won back. Not only did I remove Instagram, but I also removed almost every app leaving my phone, well, a phone! I pick it up and there’s literally nothing to see there unless someone has sent me a Whatsapp message.
It’s been lovely not to feel so hurried each day and to have more day to play with.
Clearer Headspace and Less Overwhelm
Oh boy. This has been blinkin’ wonderful. Without the constant influx of information, ideas, and opinions from Instagram, I’ve found that my headspace is much clearer. There’s no longer the mental clutter and fog that comes with the barrage of images and videos.
What’s been interesting is that I acknowledge the normal fluctuations of my mood throughout the day. I recognise when I’m thirsty, fatigued, and hungry (and all else) and adjust. It makes me realise how much social media numbed.Leaving Instagram: How It's Been 12 Days In Click To Tweet
Feels Like Freedom
We’re sold these ideals where social media is concerned and there’s definitely an element of FOMO (fear of missing out) that comes into play. My biggest realisation is that I’ve been missing out by being on social media. This morning, I had a lovely long cuddle with our dog because I noticed he was vying for my attention – I wonder how many times I’ve missed that. I wonder how often I’ve missed subtle cues and hints because I’ve been head down.
Instagram can make me feel lacking that I’m not white water rafting, hitting those bestseller lists, upcycling our kitchen, or styling outfits for #OOTD. The advent of reels and video just made me feel completely ambushed. Words are my jam. Reading. I absorb information slowly so I can process it. I’m a wordy writer too – writing long-form is something I revel in. I don’t want to ‘continue in the comments’ or write punchy pithy stuff.
What do we do when we don’t want to play by the rules of the game? We don’t play the game.
The professional conundrum
Leaving social media from a personal perspective is one of those easy decisions. A no-brainer. Easy. Done. Bye.
From a professional perspective, it feels like it could be a massive mistake. So, I looked for case studies. Who are the authors, the thises and that’s, who have flourished without social media? There are lots of examples: Maggie O’Farrell. Cal Newport. Diego Jourdan Pereira. Zadie Smith. Leïla Slimani. Alexandra Franzen.
What’s saddened me are the many messages I’ve received from people who feel trapped on social media because they feel their business would not survive without it.
It’s really difficult to quantify the benefits to a business of social media. You can have a look at Google Analytics to see what your website traffic sources are. You can even look at the conversion analytics to see how much of your income can be attributed there. Similarly, for a blog, a mailing list, and networking opportunities, or another metric you value. With that data in hand, you can then weigh up the cost of your resources. How much time are you spending on social media or social media-related activities? Do you hire someone or an agency to help you with social media? What’s your ad spend? Gather this information and weigh it up.
I think you could be surprised.
Also, there’s this cartoon which Leonie Dawson shared in her Marketing Without Social Media Workshop which really hit home. It’s by The Oatmeal ‘Reaching people on the internet’ (please excuse the swear). It’s a visual representation of what happens for so many. We build a website to showcase our offerings. People come. They click the ‘follow us on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter’ buttons or icons. We then expend a whole heap of effort trying to get them to go back to our websites. To little avail because social media platforms want to keep people where they are. Unless you’re willing to pay, of course – that’s how they make their money.
I’m optimistic and, dare I say, excited to learn of different ways I can connect and share my work. There’s a certain exhilaration in not having all of the answers, in having the space to redefine my relationship with technology and the digital world. There’s still so much to figure out but I’m encouraged by the people who are already doing it and doing it well.
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