“Okay let’s just do one final scroll, aaaaaaaand….”
Officially logged out of Instagram.
After last year’s hectic Christmas season (when I found myself burnt-the-fuck-out from creating sponsored content and taking on far too much work in one month), I decided that this year I would take a two-week Instagram break over the holidays starting on December 15th, giving myself time to disconnect, spend time with the fam, and focus solely on getting a head-start on 2019.
It was a bold endeavour for someone who earns a living from sharing content online, especially during the busiest time of the year, but I knew it was doable and that the first step to taking a break was managing the expectations of other people. I set a target for how much I wanted to earn from partnerships during the season, and once I hit that, I was able to say ‘no’ to the last-minute requests that inevitably come through as the end of the year nears. I also ensured all project requirements were wrapped up by the 14th so that I could log off without worrying about it affecting my relationships with brands.
With those plans in place, I quietly logged off on December 15th, excited for the break and the stress-free days that awaited me… but also not really knowing how I’d fare with two weeks away from the ‘Gram.
The first few days off Instagram served as a digital detox of sorts, and it was more difficult than I anticipated to wean off of the habit of checking in every 15 minutes or wanting to grab my phone to capture a moment on Stories. The mindless routine of looking at Instagram every time I checked e-mail or Twitter was a tough one to break. I found myself thinking of a friend or a celebrity (guilty pleasure) and routinely clicking the app button to see their last post or Story. The jarring barrier of the ‘log-in’ screen was a blatant reminder and subtle shaming that “Hey, you’re on a break, REMEMBER??”, but gradually, I stopped reaching for my phone whenever I lacked stimulation, stopped looking for the app whenever I unlocked my phone, and even started leaving my phone at home if I was going out for dinner or meeting up with friends.
Things were actually going great and then….
On Christmas Eve, I logged in quickly to check DMs (just in case there was an urgent message, of course!), and soon enough, found myself having a cheeky scroll at a few posts, and even watched a few Insta Stories. After 5 minutes of sliding onto the couch and right back into my old habits, I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in awhile – a wave of anxiety, stress and self-doubt washing over me. I slipped into the comparison game, one I’d worked hard to overcome over the past few years. The app was stimulation overload, and I noticed my thoughts slowly start to shift towards guilt over taking a two week break when I should be ‘hustling’ and sharing and growing.
I soon realized that exact feeling was one that I had come to feel in waves over the past few years of working as a blogger – that although I’m pretty level-headed and have pulled back significantly on social media use, Instagram could still have too much influence over my mood, my creativity and my belief in myself. That the rabbit hole of consuming other peoples’ lives can actually have a negative effect on how we live our own. And that the subconscious influence of someone else’s ideas and creative output was chipping away at my own.
So I logged back out and went back to living life off the ‘Gram.
Living MY life.
Now that I’m back on Instagram, I find that I can only handle small bits at a time – like a sugar detox, once you’re off of it, introducing it back into your life can be overwhelming at first.
So what did I learn from my two week Instagram break?
Well, I learned a lot, actually – about myself, my relationships and my plans for the future. It was great to get away from the noise and be alone in my thoughts as I spent time writing and working on my brand and exciting projects for the upcoming year. I reconnected with my ‘why’ and was able to really focus on what my goals were and what I wanted my brand and content to represent, instead of being influenced by what other people were doing.
I learned that my mental health was in much better shape when I wasn’t consuming other peoples’ lives and correlating what they had as a direct reflection of what I didn’t have.
I learned that life’s experiences are different when you’re not thinking about them as pieces of content. A funny moment with Damien and Keith can just be a funny moment between us, not everyone else.
I learned that I could be more intentional with my relationships and my conversations and who/what I gave my time to.
I learned that Instagram is, above all, fucking DISTRACTING. That I’m more productive, more focused and get so much more work done when I’m not getting lost in Stories or even thinking of filming them myself.
The mental and emotional impact of social media’s constant hustle and grind and over-stimulation wasn’t a surprise to me – I knew the negative impacts that Instagram could have on someone’s mental health (I even set usage rules for myself starting in the summer because of it). What I was surprised by, however, was how taking just a two week Instagram break could show just how differently we live life with and without the app – how routine it’s all become and how much our consumption seeps into our subconscious without us even realizing it.
Today marks the end of my two week Instagram break, and I logged back in this morning (with a little trepidation, to be honest). Oddly, I found the insatiable interest wasn’t there like it used to be – like a sugar detox, once you’re off of it, introducing it back into your life can be overwhelming at first. I looked at a few pics, watched a couple of stories, but didn’t get pulled into a black hole of consuming it ALL.
Phew. Okay. This is good.
The thing is, as much as it can be toxic, I still enjoy so many aspects of Instagram and appreciate the positive things that is has added to my life – the incredible community I’ve grown, the badass creatives and bosses I’ve been introduced to, the ability to connect people and ideas, and how much it’s pushed me to try new things and grow my business. I’ll obviously continue to use Instagram because I enjoy social media and it’s also a huge part of my biz, but I’ll use it with more intention, more purpose and more breaks along the way if I feel that wave of anxiety washing over me.
Because you know what I realized the most from my two-week break?
There’ s a big, bold world outside of Instagram, and it is sooooo much more fucking interesting.
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