I was lying in my Hammock on Haad Tien, a secluded beach on Koh Phangan, Thailand, and was wondering what to post on my Instagram story. A daily anxiety of mine, I was worried my life/work/existence wasn’t compelling enough to warrant a view.
I mentally went through the options available to me: perhaps an artfully curated picture of my morning acai bowl? Or one of the boats moored on the beach? Or maybe my mosquito bite free legs (a miracle in the tropics)? Maybe my laptop beside me, tagged #officefortheday or something equally cliché and utterly privileged?
I was over it. I’d grown tired of keeping tabs on who was viewing my Instagram story, and how many comments I had (or didn’t have) on my individual posts.
And I was over finding a social media manager that was right for me, having been through two people already. Talented as they were, it’s hard to get results when you yourself are lacking clarity and conviction around your Instagram presence.
Instagram was becoming more and more like a clique in high school that I couldn’t sit with because I couldn’t follow Insta-protocol. I felt unfashionable and outcast, like the Daria of the Instagram world navigating the hallways with a surly, bespeckled expression. I felt as though my snark and sarcasm didn’t quite hit the right notes with followers who preferred Elizabeth Gilbert over Hannah Gadsby, and Instagram was flaring up a tonne of insecurities for me.
It wasn’t doing me, or my business, any good.
So I made a decision. Hardly shocking really, as I’d written about quitting Instagram back in 2015, explaining what happens when scrolling infinitely is no longer a thumb press away. I know my decision isn’t original: others have praised a tech throwback to the dumb phone, claiming an increase in creativity, attention, and a fuck load more time.
Not to mention, happier, closer families.
This is one bandwagon I’m happy to jump on: I’m on an extended Instagram Hiatus, with no end in site.
Why I stopped posting to Instagram
I recall a time when creativity shot out of my fingers and I was able to churn out copy at an unbelievable rate. I’m talking 2-hour turn around times here, every word considered, meaningful and original.
When Instagram came along in 2011, I used it for personal photos or my sunglasses and bicycle. A harmless photo app for taking selfies and using fun filters, its threat wasn’t immediate to me. It wasn’t until 2014 that an addiction and propensity for nosiness truly took a hold. Instagram began to steal my time as I scrolled through other’s lives instead of focusing on projects, or actually listening to the person I was having coffee with.
I also started to shop more online, following influencers with impossible bodies and facial symmetry. Instagram was no longer just stealing my attention; it was stealing my savings, and my self-esteem.
I was anxious, unproductive and lacked any self-control.
So, what happened when I stopped checking Instagram?
You know this morning routine: roll over, grab phone, and begin the scroll through Instagram (or Facebook, whichever you procrastination app of choice).
All of a sudden, you’re 20 minutes late for work and you haven’t actually achieved anything, except for acquiring a case of FOMO and maybe a dose of body dysmorphia.
I’m happy to be rid of daily reminders that I’m not a super model, or that I’m yet to visit Sardinia.
Upon waking, I now make myself some coffee, and like the Melbourne millennial that I am, start meditating. It might sound monastic, but I commit to an hour a day, and stop looking at me like that.
Since quitting Instagram, sitting still and breathing is easier than ordering espresso martinis to my door.
In case you’re wondering, I use Insight Timer, which has hundreds of thousands of meditations. I do 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes in the evening.
The results? My attention span and happiness have returned, and I can’t remember the last time I used my credit card to buy a bikini/makeup/useless contraption I don’t need.
Some might point out that I have no self-control. Instead of blaming the technology, I should instead see a psychologist and work on my insecurities.
And to these naysayers I would argue that social media is gamified to keep you scrolling, tapping and clicking. Instagram and all the other attention stealers are designed to turn their users into a commodity, our data to be bought and sold so others can advertise things we don’t need to us. Notice how you can see part of a post when you keep scrolling? It instantly makes you want more, with no end in site.
Others might point out – and rightfully so – that Instagram has the potential to share a powerful message and can be a force for social change. And to them I say yes! Spread your love and positivity like confetti and shine on you crazy diamond.
Or, maybe I should work on curating my feed more. You know, get rid of accounts that make me feel like shit for eating pizza or not scraping my tongue in the morning. Go follow those similar to me so I feel more connected and validated as a middle-class white woman who’s trying to slow the visible signs of ageing.
And you know what Nancy Drew? One day, I probably will do that. That is smart and solid advice that makes sense. But right now, I’m enjoying having my phone kept snugly in my bag, rather than taking it out to snap sunsets and cocktails. I get to experience these things without contemplating their editorial popularity or virality.
One day, I too will commit to mastering Instagram and using it to generate genuine leads, and find clients who want and need my services.
Until then, my phone also doesn’t need to be charged nearly as much, a daily annoyance that we could all minimise.
How quitting Instagram allows me to focus on higher paying clients
Many businesses build their profits off the back of their Instagram efforts.
I am not one who has found Instagram to boost my bottom line for service-based work, although it has helped with selling tickets for workshops and selling my ebooks.
While I’ve been lucky to find a few high quality clients via Instagram, most of my leads are from Google.
This is because I’ve focused on my website’s SEO, and I’m #1 for many keywords related to copywriting in Australia.
Yes, it’s helped me grow my list! Yes, it’s helped me find a community of other professionals in similar verticals! But the detractors outweigh the benefits right now, and I simply can’t turn a blind eye on that.
When I’m not procrastinating, I’m able to deliver projects on time, and to a higher standard. This keeps my clients returning to me.
And you know what they say: retaining clients is a lot easier than acquiring new ones.
Try the experiment yourself
I’m aware there are apps telling us to get off Instagram when we spend too much time scrolling. There are also apps for your desktop.
I’ve tried them, and I can confidently say nothing is better for your sanity and time than deleting the app from your phone.
Even if for a week. Even if it’s just two apps.
Do yourself a favour and see what you’re like without followers.
So when will I be back?
There’s no telling.
I might be back tomorrow.
I might be back next year.
Whatever the case, you’ll find out soon enough if you’re following me.