I was so surprised at the response I received on my post the other week, and the fact you really resonated and related to feeling the same way in your relationship with Instagram. I've been meaning to write a post on this for awhile, because I actually love talking about it, and seeing as the topic is fresh in my mind, I thought now might be the right time.
We both know why we love Instagram, the good things we gather from using it, so I don't think I need to waste any extra space on the positive points of social media. Instead, I'd really love to talk and explore with you some of the little niggly things that bother us about so much screen time and simple things I have found really help me to take a step back.
Firstly, I'd just like to briefly cover my story with using social media. In 2010, I opened a facebook account with the help of a friend, to help advertise a charity fundraiser I was holding. This led to me using it for my business at the time and while it had many positive effects business wise, I'd have to say, examining it now, personally it wasn't such a success. I have never used a personal profile, I just noticed the positive impact social media had on my business wasn't actually reflected in my state of mind. As a perfectionist, so many things were aggravated by this new way of life.
I am shaking my head that it took me this long to actually pin point it. One of my biggest areas was comparison. Something I know that you might also suffer with. I've started noticing it's effect on other people in my life, who are actually usually more immune to the issue. It's very easy, when on a daily basis - and for a lot of people, before they've even eaten breakfast - to unconsciously compare your life to somebody else's when you are greeted with a selection of beautiful images that depict a glossy reality. If you are constantly looking at everybody else's stuff, you are going to end up comparing yourself. Or at the very least, filling up your own valuable brain space with what so-and-so is doing. It's fine in small doses but it can easily increase anxiety if you aren't watchful of your thoughts. Social media and sourcing inspiration - whether on Pinterest or Instagram - are a bit like cake. Very yummy, and good for the soul but have too much and you won't be feeling so good. Everything needs to be in moderation, and this includes time spent online.
When I first landed on facebook, and later Instagram (now, only Instagram) I realise now that nobody handed me tools for using these platforms. Nobody had any guidelines. According to the hard and fast 'social media experts' and 'gurus' - you should be on there a lot if you want to be 'successful'. According to the companies who own the platforms themselves, well naturally they want you to be on there all the time. It's their business, their product, how they make money. Now all of society is so caught up in it, there a young couple's on dates who spend their whole time sharing it online, instead of with each other. That's a kind of extreme example of what the culture has become and probably the reason why, some of us aren't coping with it quite as well as we think we should. Again comparison. Just because Sally over there can live her life online and seem unaffected, doesn't mean that you will be able to.
So what to do when you have an almost love-hate relationship with Instagram and want to gain back control over it and the time you spend online?
I don't care what you have to do, the first thing you really need is, in order to get YOUR headspace back is take a break. Just pick the weekend. Say from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, you are social media free. If you get bored or find you are so habitual in this, that it's difficult to do, even if you log off the app, then don't feel bad. You are not the only one. I find uninstalling the app is a great cure. It's not so much the 'temptation' you are stopping, but the habit. Believe me, it's surprising how often you will reach for that thing. So have a break to reset your body and mind. After at least 48 hours cold-turkey, you will notice some differences and even have come up with ideas for how you want to use Instagram in your life. The time spent online should be valuable time that you enjoy and is just as productive as anything else in your life. So spend half an hour a day of decent time on there, not minutes grabbed here and there, endlessly scrolling when you could be doing something else.
2. Turn off the notifications
They are distracting and un-necessary. This is coming from the girl who was at the beck and call of her customers facebook messages back in the day. Why do we have to be instantly available? It's mindless! Nobody is going to mind if you take 24 hours to get back to them after all. All those bings and rings interrupt whatever it is you are working on, and it's ten times harder to get back into the flow of things afterwards. Not to mention, I honestly don't think you need the notifications on your phone all day. They only provide a lure to keep checking in. It's like every time you look at that screen, you are getting a reward. This really is crucial if you want to regain control over how much time you spend online.
3. Schedule A Time
Actually set yourself a limit. As children, we have our Mum's looking out for us. As grown ups, we often fail to pick up where Mum left off. We might not drink enough water. Too often we might eat desert without eating our vegetables first. We might not make sure we get into bed at a certain time. And we don't have her there saying 'hey! You have had enough time on that thing today, get out and do something else!' Good old Mum. Well, now you need to be responsible for that and that means your online time too. I've started trying, and I say trying because it's not always easy, to NOT check my emails and Instagram before 10am. I don't want what I intended for the day to be swayed by something online, and if there are comments or message to reply to, it can alter my plans for the day. At least, I think it's important I have breakfast and start the day with my own thoughts and in my own space. Especially when you are in business, it doesn't matter how good you are at customer service or with your product delivery, sometimes you come across people who are just generally not nice, and I have had my entire day dissolve before I've even gotten anything done by checking my emails at 6am once or twice. The same goes for the end of the day. With studies increasingly showing the light from the devices and screens altering our hormones and ability to sleep well, I think shutting off well before bed is a good notion. I don't always achieve this, and when I don't, I do come to regret it the next day when the yawns set in, and I don't have the energy to sew what I want to because I was up until the wee hours the night before.
4. Stop crazy checking!
Picture this. Your neighbour, ten times a day, running in and out of their house, frantically checking the mail box. Well....that's the real life equivalent of what happens when you check your emails one too many times a day (personally, I think morning, lunch and afternoon in business is enough!) and when you keep hopping onto Instagram just to see that little heart, speech bubble or person icon pop up with glorious numbers beside it. It's nutty, and I fall into that trap far more often than I care to admit. The point is.......actually I can't think of a good reason for this. Will it greatly alter my life if I check it a lot? No. Will it have a really awesome impact on my business? No. Will it stop me from getting my stuff achieved in real life, so that later I actually have something to share on Instagram that is valuable? Hell yeah. (sorry that just sounds good right there, so if you find it rude...sorry.)
"You have to live and create in the real world, if you want to continue to visit and be a part of the online world. They are two sides of one coin."
5. Be Mindful
Try and be aware of what you are doing. We are of almost every other task in life. You are driving the car....to work. You are going to the kitchen....to cook. You are cutting the fabric....to sew. You are going onto Instagram to........fill in the blank. Is it mindlessly scroll? Is it to post an update? To respond to comments? To respond to or send a message? To spend 15 minutes catching up with the people you follow and what they have been posting? It doesn't matter what it is, be aware of what you are doing and be honest about it. I set a timer once, a five minute timer. I needed to post and respond to comments. Already having the image on my phone, it was a minute to post. To actually post. A further minute to respond to comments. The remaining minutes, I caught up with the people I was following and left comments. Wow. Five minutes. It actually doesn't take very much time at all to be a daily, active member of the Instagram community and that includes making sure you have given your online friends a look in. So where does all my time go? Down a rabbit hole. Being mindful of your purpose and being honest about it is a great start to reclaiming your online independence!
A part two to being mindful is also in how you react to the things you see online. Is it nice? Is it positive? Is it inspiring? Is it too inspiring? Do you feel bad about your work because you think Jane's is better? (by the way, Jane might spend 10 hours a day doing her craft and nobody is ever going to keep up with Jane, because nobody else wants to do that all day like Jane!) Or do you feel like your photos aren't any good? For one thing, stop comparing, take a deep breath and say "I am ME." Secondly, if you do want to get better at a particular thing, practice does make perfect. Believe me, I use to hate the camera because I couldn't take a decent shot. Now I am much better with a lot of improvement to still be made. I got tired one day of wishing my photos looked a certain way, and started practising more. Simple. And my perfectionist side had to tolerate the less fabulous shots so I could continue to improve. Also when the little life comparison thing steps in, here is a trick I find helps. I look at MY life, with all of the things going on in it. The things that aren't so great, that I don't share. And then I think, well nobody knows that's going on for me right now, so how can I assume that Jane over there is having the time of her life? After most conversations I have had with various people, I've come to the conclusion that we all have our bundle of troubles in this life, nobody is exempt from it. Don't think a bunch of pretty makes and photos is an accurate reflection of somebody's life. It could be the thing that gives them joy each day and that's why they do it. I met a lady at a craft fair once who made the most beautiful, beautiful bags. And they were sold so very cheaply. Upon further discussion, I found out that her husband was very sick with cancer and every night when she had tucked him up in bed, she would make those bags for several hours as her therapy. And because she made them simply for keeping herself sane and to have a bit of time out in a very difficult period in her life, she sold them cheaply at the fair. So you see, despite talents, pretty photos and a seemingly *perfect* life, everyone has a story.
I hope this helps! If you have any tips or questions, please share them below!