As most of you know, I just “returned” to Instagram after a 6 week break from the platform. Over my time away, I learned so much about my mind, my relationships, my work, and my tendencies – both good and bad. I’ve received dozens of messages about how inspiring this decision was (and I’m so glad!) and just as many from small business owners who shared that they wish they could do the same but that they’re scared to disconnect from their audience for fear of losing customers. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned, how it didn’t break my business, and how “missing out” was actually good for me.
MINUTES ADD UP
As most new moms know, nap time is sacred. The day I pulled the plug on Instagram, I had just put Zuri to sleep and needed to grab a quick shower. I turned on the water and a good Spotify playlist. Naked, leaning against the bathroom door, I opened Instagram while I let the water heat up. I kid you not, I stood there for TWENTY MINUTES before I actually got in the shower and, of course, Zuri woke up while I was shaving my legs. It really was an “enough is enough” moment for me. I had mindlessly scrolled away the only time I get to myself all day and had nothing to show for it. My mind runs in a million different directions all day: What time did she eat last? Did I put the towels in the dryer? What time do I need to start dinner? Did I actually press “send” on that email? What time is my call tomorrow? Was the dog food delivered?
My mind is a running to-do list and professionally, Instagram was just another box to check. I felt so much pressure to post well and often for the sake of my business. Personally, what I had called quiet “me time” on the app was actually filling my head with unnecessary noise. There is just no more room in my head.
Instagram now has an activity tracker so you can see how much time you spend on the app each day and even set a timer to let you know when you’ve reached your max. I spent TWO HOURS on the app the day I got back on. I consistently swear I don’t have time to paint my nails or make the bed or go to the gym but I can spend two hours looking into other people’s lives? I am not proud of this. I am still learning.
MY PEOPLE SHOULD FEEL CLOSE
I heard a friend say that sometimes social media can make the close people feel far and the far people feel close. CANIGETANAMEN? How have we let this happen? Do not get me wrong, I love the relationships I’ve created on Instagram and believe that those friendships are true. But people online should never feel closer to me than my mom or my sisters. Stepping away from the platform has forced me to be more intentional with my communication in other ways. Again, I am still learning and still often feel guilty when I’ve left text messages unanswered after a crazy day but my mentality has shifted. DMs with strangers can’t take priority over calling the people closest to me.
I REALLY DO HAVE MY OWN IDEAS
Good ones! I’ve used Instagram as a business tool for so long and am really thankful for the connections and clients it has brought my way. But, there is a fine line between connection and comparison; between inspiration and imitation. I’ll admit, I was losing my balance. I needed to put blinders on to create better work – for myself and for my clients. There is absolutely value in researching other artists’ work and allowing myself to be inspired by type or design but it was too easy to consume visual content on the platform.
Since stepping away from social media, I’ve found myself inspired in new ways and am excited to use all my cumulative minutes not spent on the app to execute these ideas. I’ve also gone on an “unfollow spree” of sorts. This is a tough thing because I feel so personally connected to many people I follow. But, I needed to clear my mind and part of that process is filtering what I allow into it. It’s not personal. It’s not that I don’t love this person’s work or that person’s home. I just need to see less so I can think more. So far, I’m loving the brain space.
MY MEMORIES ARE FOR ME
I don’t need beautifully edited photos to remember moments. I’m ashamed to admit this (and I’m not even sure I fully understood the feeling until I got off social media and it went away) but I had a weird perpetual anxiety about my appearance because I might be in a photo. I was constantly aware of my hair and my outfit. I can’t completely explain it but I wasn’t ever really comfortable. Over my time away, I wore makeup maybe twice and it was for me, not for a photo. I still took photos. Dozens of them. My brows are not shaped and I look like the tired, deliriously happy mom that I am.
I was and want to continue to be as diligent about taking photos – but for me instead of for sharing. Again, I’m not proud of this, but if I am honest, I was originally more excited about sharing Zuri’s Halloween costume than I was about celebrating our first holiday as a family. This was so convicting for me. Not having the ability to share on Halloween took the pressure off of creating the perfect family costume and allowed us to be fully present that evening. It was magical. We still took tons of pictures – most of which are blurry because Zuri is kicking her feet with glee – but soaked up sweet time with friends without the need to document each minute.
I HAVE ENOUGH
Somewhere along the way, what started out as following accounts for beautiful “inspiring” content began to spur excessive want. Greed, even. New top, new jeans, new pillow, new cutting board. So. Many. THINGS. I’ve always loved the minimalist mindset and we practice this in our home in most ways but I can easily fall victim to a fashion blogger’s latest post. I realized two things while not exposed to so much visual content.
One: If I don’t see it, I don’t need it. Which means now when I do see it, I remind myself that I really don’t need it.
Two: It’s typically not the actual thing I want. What I really want is to feel good in an outfit or in a space. When I’m tempted to impulse buy, I create joy with what I have. I curl my hair and put on my favorite sweater or light a candle in the living room and take a few moments to enjoy the space.
Since coming back to Instagram, I’ve unfollowed fashion bloggers, clothing boutiques, and home goods shops so I’m not seeing new things that don’t have a place in my home. I have enough. I am enough. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
A STRONG BUSINESS NEEDS MORE THAN ONE TOOL
Everyone’s biggest question and my biggest fear: “How does a business run without Instagram?”
I’m happy to report that my business is still thriving. In a weird way, I believe this is actually because I stepped away from Instagram. It had become a crutch for me. It was where most of my business was coming from so it’s where I focused most of my marketing efforts. In stepping away, I focused more time on other ways to grow my business: strengthening SEO, creating a referral program, generating blog content ideas, local networking, personal projects, and re-designing my website, to name a few. My goal is to ease back into sharing my work on Instagram but not let these other areas fall by the wayside because my business shouldn’t stand on just one leg.
OLD HABITS DIE HARD
For several days after removing the app from my phone, I noticed that I would open my phone and my finger would automatically gravitate towards where Instagram used to be. ?!??! My brain was … craving it even though I wasn’t consciously opening it. It’s a bizarre addiction of sorts. It took over a week for my thumb not to tap the empty space, but by the second week, I never even thought about it. I loved this sense of lightness and want to make sure I’m not going back to consuming as much as I used to, but realize that it’s a slippery slope and there is much work to do to remain in control.
I want to always be in the practice of reevaluating things and striving for growth. These past six weeks have been a huge eye-opener for me so I will be pulling back periodically to make space for new ideas. In the meantime, I’m excited to continue to practice restraint and intention on social media while also enjoying the good parts. More to come, I’m sure.