I once found Instagram to be such a joyful place. I joined at a time when “influencer” wasn’t even a term. There were no brand deals, just a bunch of people sharing photos online. It was a creative outlet for me to be able to express myself and I found it fun to check in with the small community of like-minded people I had grown to know over time. I didn’t care about followers, about engagement, about any of the things that are “important” to being a full time content creator today. It felt pure.
But over time, that relationship with Instagram changed. As I became a full time creator, I began to care about the number of likes, the engagement metrics, whether I was growing in followers, if I was getting comments, if the algorithm was surfacing my content, and so many other factors. When you begin working with brands, at least at that time, you begin to care about different things. Brands hold the power over when your next paycheck comes so you want to try to have strong engagement metrics to share. I didn’t mind at first because everything felt so novel and was a fresh and interesting challenge. Having relationships with (insert your favorite brands) has been a dream!
However, around the time I was diagnosed with cancer, my relationship with social media changed. As I was evolving and growing, as one does when experiencing a significant trauma, I realized that my relationship with social media hadn’t been that pure and joyful place it once was. I was distracted with the “noise” of Instagram. At that time, I was healing and questioning a lot about what I wanted out of life – and no where in that internal question I raised to myself was ‘get more followers’.
With the pandemic and all the mental health challenges that have come with that, I finally reached a personal limit where I decided it was time to see what an Instagram break would look like. Could I actually even do it after having spent every single day on the app for the past few years? Below are some of my learnings that maybe you can relate to or are curious about.
Instagram is a bad habit
That’s all that it is. I found my finger going to the social media folder on my phone and wanting to click on the app – but it wasn’t there. It’s a habit that I taught my brain. I consciously knew the app would not be there but as a part of my routine I had subconsciously grown to develop this habit of checking that place on my phone. Now instead, during my break, I was met with a YouTube app which is not nearly as immediately gratifying as an infinite scroll.
I can set my mind to anything
I committed myself to no Instagram and even when friends would text me messages linking me to an Instagram post, I didn’t check it. I had made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t go on Instagram and it felt really good to know that I did what I said I would do. I questioned myself:
Where else can I commit to something important to me and do what I say I will do?
There’s no such thing as not enough time
I’ve always wanted to have the time to learn more fluent Korean, read more books, and cook more yet I always had the same excuse ‘There’s not enough time’. Well when you take out social media or “time drainers” there really is time to connect with what is important to you. I purchased a Korean book and I’ve been practicing grammar and vocabulary each morning with my new found time. It feels good to start my day off with an activity that energizes me and brings me one step closer to my culture.
Connections can be built anywhere
You hear about community and connection in relation to Instagram but it can really be built anywhere. Instagram might have been a channel for me before but it doesn’t mean it has to be the only place I build connection forever. I’ve loved being able to get to know people through my newsletter and surprisingly, even though I’m not too active on YouTube, the comments I get on there feel so special because there’s a bit more intentional time spent together through longer form content.
Evolving is a good thing
As I mentioned previously, Instagram was my special place before. It may end up being that again but it’s also ok to find your joy in other places. Whether that’s a different social media platform or finding creativity and joy in a real life setting, it’s ok to allow yourself to evolve and find other places where you find fulfillment and purpose.