April 29, 2022
Hey folks! This week I’m taking a pause from my regular Pacific Northwest informational content to share something more personal. This is my unique experience but I have a feeling a lot of my friends, family, and followers have encountered similar circumstances, so I felt like it would be relevant to share this with y’all. My hope is that you find this blog post encouraging and maybe a little enlightening. Let’s dive in!
A quick note: All of the photos in this post are from the past 2 months and they’re all taken with my iPhone. Please enjoy a little peek into what this time looked like for me!
A Little Background
Before I get into specifics about this experience, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m an almost 30 (yikes that’s wild to type haha) elopement and wedding photographer based in Washington State. I’m married to my high school sweetheart. I’m an avid 4 season adventurer and athlete. Hello, yes sometimes I’m a little too competitive haha! I’m a soft-spoken introvert and deep thinker. I’m an Enneagram 6. I’m laid-back, kind, and thoughtful.
I also have a terrible tendency to compare myself to others. I’m highly emotionally affected by things on the Internet. You can catch me crying at a wholesome TikTok video basically every day of the week. However it’s also not unusual for me to spiral when I see a business competitor’s post about how well they’re booking out their wedding season. I can procrastinate like nobody’s business, I’m easily distracted, and the icing on the cake: I was diagnosed with ADHD this past year.
Not unlike every human in existence, I’m complex and I’m a composite of my many lived experiences.
What I Was Up To The Last 2 Months
So, on to this life-changing experience! For the past 7 weeks, I chose to strictly limit the time I spent on Instagram. Every Saturday I spent about 30 minutes on the app. These weekly 30 minutes were spent on any necessary business updates. I didn’t scroll, I didn’t watch anyone’s stories, and I didn’t post on my feed. I posted a few stories and I replied to messages pertaining to my business.
Backstory on how this break came to be: A friend posted about ditching Instagram for Lent and I thought ‘hey I think I’d like to do that too’. With honestly little forethought on my part and her excited encouragement, I went for it. This was a quick and easy decision. I think in the back of my mind, somewhere tucked away in my subconscious, I knew this change was necessary for my well-being and that this was the perfect opportunity.
Before this Instagram break, I easily spent between 8 and 12 hours per week on Instagram. I justified this huge amount of time as a necessary means for my business to be successful. But let’s be real, most of the time I was scrolling, watching stories, checking out reels, and usually feeling less-than for the majority of those 8 to 12 hours.
My History With Instagram
My relationship with Instagram has always been a bit of a rollercoaster. I experienced high highs when things were going my way. It was a good day when the algorithm was on my side and my posts were performing well. When I gained new followers and received praise for my work you can bet I was impressed with myself and my business. But on the other side of that, I also experienced very low lows. When a post didn’t do well, when I’d lose followers, and even when a colleague or competitor’s post did better than mine; I’d find myself stuck in a spiraling comparison loop.
I don’t believe that everyone experiences Instagram in this way but I sure did and it sucked. The comparison became really unhealthy for me. Despite these feelings, Instagram was the first thing I opened on my phone in the morning and the last thing I scrolled before I went to bed at night. I spent hours agonizing over what to post, when to post it, and what to do if a post didn’t do well. I spent even more time posting my everyday life on my Instagram stories for mostly strangers to watch and respond to. I simultaneously watched and responded to hours of other people’s lives.
It’s hard to type out and even harder to accept but I was 100% addicted to Instagram. The occasional positive interaction kept me stuck in a harmful loop for a long time.
So What Changed When I Ditched Instagram For 2 Months
I got my on-brand, aesthetically pleasing ‘Lent Post’ ready. I hit the post button. And I deleted the Instagram app from my home screen. The first few days felt a little unsettling. I often found myself mindlessly unlocking my phone and tapping where that Instagram icon used to be.
But that unsettling feeling didn’t last long. The friend who encouraged me to pursue this break checked in after week 1 and we both agreed our minds felt so much quieter. And progressively as the weeks went on, I felt happier, more productive, and clearer-minded.
I could go on and on about all of the positive changes I experienced but I’ll stick to my top 5 below:
1. As an individual with ADHD, my brain is a loud and busy place. I have A LOT of thoughts, a lot of the time. I always knew getting off of social media would help my ADHD symptoms. But like I said earlier, I was addicted and the last thing my brain wanted me to do was give up those Instagram dopamine hits. I’m thankful I was finally able to find a way to distance myself from Instagram because my brain is quieter, less distracted, and more productive. My ADHD symptoms are significantly more manageable without the stimulus and distractions of Instagram.
2. Remember how I said that I’m emotionally affected by things on the internet? This occurs in good ways (crying at sweet TikTok videos) and bad ways (comparison spiraling because of a competitor’s post or a controversial social-justice post). It’s not my finest quality, but hey it’s who I am! Less time on Instagram meant fewer things I was affected by. I found myself feeling significantly more content. I experienced less comparison. My mood felt more consistent and stable. And most importantly, I felt in control of my emotions.
3. I noticed I was more present in my day-to-day life. Strangers weren’t watching my daily life on my Instagram stories. I didn’t feel the need to record every little thing I did (this one made my husband quite happy haha). I went skiing without feeling the need to take 50 iPhone photos and 15 Instagram story videos. I went on a girl’s trip to Tahoe and didn’t have my face buried in my phone the entire time. I attended my mom’s wedding and literally forgot to take a selfie with my sister! It’s incredibly liberating to live your daily life without feeling the false obligation to post every experience on Instagram.
4. Okay this next one is uncomfortable and not as exciting, but I felt forced to think about my ego. I sat and REALLY reflected on the reasons I post the things I do. Do I post hiking videos so people think my life is cool and that I’m awesome? Do I post certain photos of my clients because I know they’ll do well, even though they may not align with my desire to be authentic? Do I post videos of my husband to show him off and make my life seem idyllic? These types of questions were on my mind a lot the last 7 weeks. And to be honest, I didn’t love most of the answers. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to analyze my behavior and make changes.
5. Last but certainly not least, my photography business was FINE. One of my biggest concerns about this Instagram hiatus was that my business would take a hit because I heavily rely on Instagram for marketing and for bookings. This hiatus forced me to focus on other marketing techniques and to get creative. Much to my surprise, my business has been completely unscathed. No less bookings and no less income. This one really surprised me as my biggest excuse for the amount of time I spend on Instagram has always been my business.
As I said, I could go on and on about the positive changes I’ve observed but these were the biggest ones I noticed. I’m certain there are even longer-term benefits to spending less time on social media and I’m looking forward to experiencing those moving forward.
What Instagram will look like in the future for me
I’ve spent time the last few weeks contemplating when and how I’ll come back to Instagram. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to continue to post Saturday business updates and to add in personal updates on those days. I’ll also be posting 1 regular grid post per week, most likely on Tuesdays. Outside of that, I don’t plan to spend any additional time on Instagram.
It makes me a little sad to be totally honest with y’all. Over the past 10 years, I’ve spent a ton of time connecting with folks, finding inspiration, and enjoying curating my online space. Unfortunately, and maybe also fortunately, Instagram has changed and so have I.
Since starting this Instagram hiatus 2 months ago, I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. I know that being off of the app is a big reason for this change. So, I’m planning to stick with this change long-term.
As always, thanks for following along. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about taking a break from Instagram or if you want to chat more!