Two weeks ago, I stopped using Instagram. To be honest, I didn’t stop using Instagram because of a latent New Year’s Resolution or a personal goal to myself. Instead, I stopped using Instagram simply because I forgot my password and was too lazy to change it. I kept telling myself that I would — finally — change my password the next day, but then the next day would get here and I would tell myself the same thing. I kept telling this to myself day after day.
As I did so, I noticed that the stiffening pressure that surrounded me like an invisible bubble would slowly start to thin until it was no longer there. I no longer felt that constricting need to have to post day by day just so I can maintain my ranking in the mysterious Instagram algorithm. I no longer had to post a new story every hour just to let people know what I was doing. And best of all, I no longer had to obsess over how many followers I had, and then worry pointlessly as I watch that number fluctuate by the hour.
As I write this now, I am about two weeks free of Instagram and I couldn’t be happier. I rebranded my Instagram page about eight months ago with the intention of learning how to use Instagram effectively, while growing my own following, but what resulted was more than I could have ever gambled. I realized in the end that I learned more from Instagram during my two week (and counting!) hiatus than I have ever learned during those eight months. This is what I learned when I took a break from Instagram.
Instagram is a visual platform
Anyone who sees or visits the Instagram app for the first time is aware of this fact: Instagram is a visual platform, plain and simple. Instagram users visit Instagram to be entertained. They visit Instagram for the pretty pictures and the fun reels. They visit Instagram so they can smile, laugh, and be amused. I know this because it is what I do too. I find myself scrolling down the feed, endlessly entertained by the music, dancing, and pictures as the time slips on by.
Because Instagram is such a visual platform, people aren’t there to read a long, wordy article. They aren’t there to click away from the Instagram app to another page, one which they might quite possibly not even be familiar with. They are there just to have fun. Of course, there are people who will visit the blog and read the article, if they are interested in the content. In particular, I find that blog posts about Instagram tips and tricks, Instagram hacks, and even social media tips are most effective in gaining traction on Instagram. But in general, considering that most people spend no more than five seconds per Instagram post as their fingers quickly scroll past to the next content, it is no surprise that Instagram is the hardest platform for bloggers to use to promote their work.
[See also: How to Create the Perfect Instagram Post]
You owe the world nothing
When I was on Instagram, I felt as if I had to share every minute of my day. When I didn’t, I felt guilty. But then during my two week hiatus, I realized that I didn’t owe the world anything. I didn’t need to share and tell the world what I was doing, what project I was working on, and my goals for the future. I could just write, work, and do what I need to do without having to schedule in Instagram posts and stories in between. I could finally just be free.
The thing about Instagram, and even social media, is that you start feeling as if you should share everything. But you owe the world nothing. You don’t have to share anything. You don’t have to be on Instagram, or any social media platform. You can live a full life without that instant gratification and virtual community that social media brings. Instagram is great but at the end of the day you need to set boundaries so that you can separate your real, physical life from the life that you share on screen. Not doing so can cause the two lives to merge so much in a way that in the end you can’t tell where one life begins and one life ends.
The social media world will keep on turning
Whether you take an hour long break or a six month break, the social media world will keep on turning. In the grand scheme of things, you are just one user amongst millions — billions! — of users. When you take a break from Instagram, people will keep on posting pictures, posting stories, and creating reels. Just because you aren’t there any longer doesn’t mean people will pause. Of course, there will be some people who might stop and wonder what happened, but over time, they too will just move on. Similar to Earth, the social media world will keep on turning with or without you.
The follower count is just a number
One of the things that I was constantly fixated upon was how many followers I had. I would track that number often very obsessively, celebrating each time I reached a new milestone. But then I noticed that sometimes that number would also dip down, making the process of growing my account even more frustrating. I’ve mentioned that Instagram is a hard social media platform for bloggers, and it is also a hard platform to grow your following. On Instagram, it is easy to gain followers who are inauthentic, even spammy, or people who are simply following for the sake of following. There are people who will unfollow you at the very next opportunity without first seeking an authentic connection.
All of this constant tracking of the number of followers only to be disheartened by losing a few of them almost daily is enough to make anyone feel disheartened and disappointed. Unlike the other social media platforms, this number changes constantly on Instagram. Unless you have pictures that are extremely beautiful, or you yourself are a celebrity, it is hard to grow.
During the past two weeks, I worried endlessly about how my Instagram page would do in my absence. I knew that I should be posting and engaging with the community to grow my brand and rank higher on the Instagram algorithm. But as time went by, I started to feel better as I was relived from the pressure and stress at having to create the perfect Instagram post or creating a new reel to attract new followers. I also fretted about the possiblity that I would lose even more followers.
But now, I am at a point that I am okay with that. When it comes to social media, what is important is not what content that you create. What is important is that you are able to stay healthy, mentally and emotionally, while juggling your “real” and virtual lives. What is important is that you are able to set appropriate boundaries so that both of these lives aren’t being merged in a way that is unhealthy and detrimental to your health.
I’m sure that I will eventually get back onto Instagram. I’m not sure, however, when I will. Whether it happens tomorrow, next week, next month, or even a year from now, I will get back onto Instagram when I feel ready. And when I do, I will log onto Instagram with the intention of creating content for me that is authentic, while also maintaining a distance between my two worlds. I will also strive to not worry about how many followers I have, or how many conversions I manage to get on a particular day, but rather how even just one individual person felt about my Instagram or blog post. If I can use Instagram to affect just one person positively, then that should be enough.