Taking Control of Instagram

As some of you may know, I suspended my Instagram account a week ago. I did this on the spur of the moment; I’d simply had enough.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that by suspending my account I was actually taking control of Instagram and my social media experience.

A firehose of content

Instagram is like a firehose of continuous content. All those images, experiences and stories are constantly demanding my attention. Back in the day, the community was smaller and everyone knew everyone else. Also, before the change in the algorithm, you would always know when you had seen everything new. At some point you would start seeing images that you had already liked. This system gave me a sense of having seen all my friends’ images. I felt a sense of completeness.

These days, I never know what I’m going to see on any given day. Freshly uploaded posts and images that are two days old are often seen side by side. This gives me anxiety; a sense of missing out. I’m always wondering what fabulous images I’m missing? I want to support my community and friends by liking and commenting on their images. But I can’t do this if I don’t see them.

So even though I’m seeing a constant stream of images that often feel like a firehose of continuous content, I cant help but think I’m missing something. This experience is both overwhelming and unrewarding.

The accidental solution

I have a couple of Instagram friends that periodically shut down their accounts for personal reasons. One day their account is there and the next their isn’t; no explanation. I’ve always been a little jealous of their ability to do this. Until recently I didn’t think I could bring myself to do this too. I have obligations; a blog to run and Instagram is part of my personal business plan. One friend’s reaction reveled my worst fears to my decision to unplug:

WHAT??? Have you lost your mind??? u ok?

No, I have not lost my mind, I’ve never been saner. But who knew that simply suspending my account would give me back my life. Up until last week I’ve felt like a slave to Instagram. I have to post. I have to like and comment on photos from friends and community members. It has been a long time since participating on Instagram has given me pleasure.

What I found by temporary deleting my account was a sense of peace and freedom. After the first day of slight disorientation, I felt a lightness. I was in control and it felt good! The solution may have been accidental, but turning off that firehose for a week felt really good! Being in control of my own destiny also felt really good!

Oh hey little mouse, how I’ve missed taking photos of you!

A slower pace

When I read and reviewed Austin Kleon’s latest book: Keep Going it really inspired me to examine the creative choices I’m currently making. His examples of a simpler creative life was inspiring to me. I’ve reached a crossroads in my life: Quality is now more important than quantity. Quality takes time to produce. Being a slave to Instagram does not allow me the opportunity to slow down and get those images out of my head and onto paper.

While I may come and go from Instagram in the foreseeable future, I’m still active on Flickr and MeWe. The communities I belong to on these platforms are small and they don’t feel overwhelming. Just my speed!

On these smaller platforms I’m not exhausted by a firehose of media coming at me. Everything is more managable. I can post an image and check back in a day and know that no one will be disappointed that I didn’t respond instantly. This slower pace fits my current lifestyle perfectly.

I can’t hide forever

I know I can’t hide forever. I’m the LEGO Ambassador for the Women’s Brick Initiative and we have a very heady month ahead of us. Besides collaborating with BrickCentral on a contest featuring images of women minifigures, we have a workshop at the Skærbæk Fan Weekend, (DK) and another in Seattle (USA) the following weekend. Its important to me that I use all my platforms to help get the word out about all the fabulous work we’re doing!

I created this for the Bricks Central #BC_buildingupwomen contest in conjunction with the Women’s Brick Initiative. I was inspired by the amazing Tobias M Schiel while simultaneously giving a nod to the fabulous Balakov, but with a twist.

While I can’t leave Instagram permanently, I can (and will) disappear again. Now that I know that I can turn off Instagram for a day, a week or a month I feel that I have taken back control of my social media life. In the future I will continue to play online, but on my terms.

In conclusion

If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by your Instagram feed or your social media obligations, why not temporarily cut the Instagram cord? Simply close your account for a week or a month and see what happens. If you’re like me, you might be pleasantly surprised by the results. While this might seem like an extreme way to deal with social media addiction, it’s been surprisingly effective.

If this temporary cold turkey method sounds appealing, you can find the “disable button” in your profile under “edit.” From there, you are asked to choose from a drop down menu the reason that most closely resembles why you’re temporarily closing your account. My favorites are “too busy / too distracting” and “just need a break.” These options showed me that I wasn’t alone. Even a self-confessed Instagram junkie like me needs a break now and then.

~ Shelly

Have you ever closed your Instagram account either permanently or temporarily? How did this work out for you? Would you do it again? Would you recommend this course of action to others? Tell me your story in the comments.

Thank you

To all my friends who reached to ask what happened, thank you. I’ve already apologized to my dear friend Brett who took the brunt of those inquiries. In the future, if you’re ever wondering where I’ve disappeared to, you can find me on MeWe (my favorite social media backwater) or Flickr. On Instagram you might also be able to find me working the Women’s Brick Initiative or the Toy Photographers pages. I might be able to hide occasionally, but I don’t think I will ever be able to escape completely.

29 Comments

  1. Good for you for unplugging! At first I thought you got swept into some kind of Instagram crackdown but when you said you were taking a break, no further probing was needed.

    Myself, I haven’t needed to turn off Instagram but I’ve certainly left it for months without checking in once. I’ll probably do that again too.

  2. Great post Shelly…. I agree with everything you said. There are so many nice people on IG but it is so overwhelming and stressful to try to keep up. That’s why I keep sticking with Flickr 🙂 (I joined MeWe but haven’t taken the time to explore it yet). I noticed your IG account was gone but I figured you were okay since I saw you on Flickr 🙂

    We definitely all need time to unplug and taking a break is a great idea!

    By the way, I love that photo 🙂

    Lynn

    • Thanks Lynn for your kind comment about my photo. Ive come to appreciate Flickr and MeWe; I like the slower pace. Like you said, there are many wonderful people on Instagram, but there are wonderful people everywhere. I will see how this new balancing act works out. Are you on Flickr my friend!

  3. I’ve left IG at the end of last year for a different reason than yours, but i’ve experienced the same feelings: control, lightness, freedom.
    In those 2 months i’ve also learned to take my time, do what i like the most, enjoy the journey and having a lot of fun.
    What i was missing the most was the community and all those small interactions that happens everyday.
    I’m glad you’ve found your “escape plan” and i’m so disappointed that i’m not able to meet you in Skærbæk . AGAIN.

    • Matthew Wyjad

      Yep. I left IG a couple weeks ago. I stopped for 3 months a year ago. It was good. And i enjoyed coming back on, but my perspectives have changed a bit. I’ve decided that overall it IG doesn’t make me feel good, and there other things that i would rather be doing . So i made a similar decision… I’m only using IG for business. No more personal use, no more hobbies… just as a space to advertise what i do for hobbies that become businesses… a portfolio. Right now i have none of those operational, so the accounts will sit fallow until i have use for them.

      • Matthew – But what happens when your hobbies become business? I appreciate now, more than ever, your decision to leave IG. I know I would if I could but it is business that keeps me here. Im glad that you have kept your MeWe account going. We appreciate the addition of your energy to our little group. 🙂

    • Marco – don’t be disappointed about Skaerbaek; I wont be there either! While the WBI has a workshop and a large presentation to make just after, Im relegated to supporting role. I couldn’t justify the expense or the time away from my own projects with BrickCon and Melbourne right around the corner. Hopefully I will meet you in Cremona in the near future.

      I remember when you took time away earlier this year. You were missed. I also enjoy the small interactions, but what you have to go through to get to them, seems to be getting larger and more arduous with every ‘upgrade’. But Im glad we each found out that the world wouldn’t end if we took a break. Cheers my friend!

  4. Astrid

    Great Post Shelly!
    I first looked for this button to shut down the account for a while … and then finally found it on my notebook (online, not in the App). GREAT. That will open new ways for me.

    I agree with you on so many points. I know this feeling of always missing pictures, just because IG selects for me what I see. The next time you take a little break, I will be happy for you and not worried anymore.
    😘🙋🏼

    • Thank you Astrid for your kind concern. Im glad you figured out where I was still lurking!! And yes, they hide the button!! What would happen if more people found out the power of simply turning the damn thing off!!!! The next time I take a break I will let you know in advance! <3

  5. Natasja

    Shelly,
    Thank you for Sharing this with us…and What you feel and think i can agree!
    I will write later more….i want to write it in good words so it will take a little time for me!

    And sorry to Brett ☺️

    • Natasja, if you want to put your own thoughts into a full fledged blog post, we will be happy to publish it on the blog. I think we all need to hear that IG isnt a very healthy place to hang out. We are all feeling the stress and more than a few are unhappy. We need to talk and share more!!!

      Luckily Brett is a good sport. I will make it up to him in a few weeks when he becomes my photo and drinking buddy 😀

  6. I never have turned off any social media I was invested in. However I *always* turn off notifications.

    There is nothing important enough on any social media sites that I urgently need. If something major comes up I’ll be notified in other ways. However not being constantly bugged by technology and having that constant suction for my attention is invaluable.

    Just as it’s important to have proper work/life balance, it is equally important to have media/life balance. Best way I’ve seen to achieve that on a regular basis is to kill notifications.

    • Dave – I want to clarify that I don’t have notifications on for ANY social media platform that I post to. I learned many years ago that that was an intrusion I did not want in my life. But even with them turned off there is a certain subtly pressure to check in, see what friend are doing, be a part of the community etc. Maybe you are a stronger individual than I? Maybe your work life balancing skills are more advanced than mine? But whatever the reason, I still struggle to find the balance when it comes to social media. When have I participated ‘enough’? How long do I need to scroll to sufficiently see what is going on in my stream? I don’t know the answers which brings its own anxiety. Be glad you are strong enough not to resist the subtle pressures.

  7. Dennis

    I too, have found sanity when making a conscious effort to stay away from the platform….along with strictly limiting the time spent (when I do go on). I don’t delete my account, I just step away and not open it. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed that the less time I spend with it, the more anxious the app gets to coheres me back in…I begin getting more frequent “so and so just went live” notifications along with notifications for comments on photos that are not even my own! A small part of me enjoys seeing the ways the app panics when you don’t use it….in a weird, contorted way, it substantiates my decision to use it less.

    • Lol! This made me laugh! I get the same notices from FB. Everyday I receive an email that so and so posted, someone else I know commented on a post etc. Each one a (not so subtle) reminder that there is this platform begging me to come back. Personally I think FB can suck it. Now I just need to get IG to treat me the same way and I know I will have one this battle. Thanks for the inspiration Dennis!

  8. Alan Rappaport

    Powerful thoughts to ponder. Thanks for Sharing. I’m dealing with my own social media Anxiety at the moment, so this was refreshing to read. I need to do something about my own IG. I feel anxious if I don’t post regularly, and the longer I go between posts, the more it weights on my head. Who needs this stress, right?

    I also feel guilty when I can’t keep up with my friend’s feeds, but as you said, I never know if I’m seeing everything or not these days on IG. I don’t know if I have the guts to shut down my IG, but I’m inspired by your post to rethink how I deal with IG. Thanks

    • Thanks for sharing your own doubts and anxiety Alan. I think the only way we can truly connect is when we share when we are feeling vulnerable. One thought I often fall back on is the one that all the followers, likes and comments in the world wont pay the mortgage. When I sell my work in the ‘real’ world I notice that those fans Im making, dont move my follower counts one bit. I honestly think that there is an entire world of interesting people who would like to see our work that is not on line. But FB and IG, et al have us convinced that posting on line is our only option to share work. I think its time for us to show Zuckerberg that he is wrong.

  9. These months we’re really off IG, we enter like every two or three weeks and try to watch everything… person by person! otherwise we feel that we are losing the things that we decided to follow … and in the end is really stressful and it’s something we don’t need in our lives :S

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience, Shelly! Like some other have commented, I don’t usually need to disable my account to take a break, but I totally see that working for other friends of mine. Turning off notifications and reminding myself that it’s supposed to be fun and not a demand on me really helps.

    The more such things have moved onto our smartphones, the more certain things have the potential to be carried around in our pockets: demands to be social, to perform, to produce. But creativity often thrives in the quiet moments, the times alone with our art, and when we’re never alone because our pocket is buzzing and chiming and demanding our attention, creativity suffers.

    I believe we should do whatever it takes to carve out healthy time for being alone, for in-person interactions, and the creation of our art. This article will continue to be a useful reminder of the options we have to “take back control” when we need to. Thank you!

    • Teddi – like I told Dave, comments and notifications are turned off. While my likes and comments tend to be modest, it takes time to respond to 25-30 comments per image. It used to be more than that when I took the time to like other peoples posts and comment on them. When you pride yourself on being a good community member, that ends up being your entire identity. But as you say thats not how you create anything. In the past two years Ive seen my art and creativity steadily decrease, not for the desire or want of ideas, but because of time. As you know Im making changes and turning off IG from time to time will be part of the new game plan. Its good to know where the absolute “yeses” are. See you on the creative side my friend!

  11. Matt

    Great article and you know I can relate. Every time I suspend my account, I find it taking longer and longer to come back to.
    Instagram, or at least, the toyphotography community was a lot different then it is now. It’s all marketing, strategy and competition.
    It’s extremely overwhelming and I agree, exhausting at times.
    But I will say this. I have yet to find an alternative to IG for toyphotography., that works for me the way IG does.
    I still hate the ALGORITHM and I can’t stand the ads.

    • Matt I KNOW you can relate. You and Eva are my inspiration. I miss the old days when you where lucky to get 100 people to participate in a Toy Pops; when you knew 80% of the toy photographers on the platform; when we all took photos of toys because we LOVED it (not to get seen or rich or whatever the latest BS is). You’re right, there is no replacement of any platform for what we had. What is there now is a poor shadow of its former self. All the ads and self dealing is exhausting, stressful and frankly just no fun. And btw, if you don’t scroll through the other photos you don’t see the ads! Bwahahahaha! I miss you my friend, but you know where to find me. xx

  12. Mary Wardell

    Good for you, Shelly! We all have to make a choice when it comes to this crazy online world. I came to IG late and never saw the system the way so many remember it. I frequently wonder why I’m there at all. I just may follow your example one of these days. See you on Flickr & MeWe.

  13. Great article Shelly, I can definitely relate to social media fatigue. Over the last year I’ve really lowered the amount of time I spend on places like Twitter and Instagram, and have seen marked improvements in my depression and anxiety. Someday I’d love to unplug completely and spend all of my time in the real world, but that introduces anxieties of its own…

    I love that this wasn’t just a social experiment but a creative one as well. I often wonder what I’d be like as an artist without social media. I probably wouldn’t have discovered and fallen in love with toy photography without it. But if it were all to go away today how would it affect my work? The creative choices I make? The way I show my work to the world?

    I commend you for taking a step back from these platforms and sharing your reflections with us. I think you’re right that as these other places grow exponentially and get algorithm-ed to death, it’s time to focus in more on the places that are still special, like the MeWe community.

  14. Reiterlied

    I’ve been thinking a lot about social media in the past two years. The more time passes, the more it seems unhealthy in so many ways. People complain about Instagram all the time nowadays, and while I agree with most critiques, the roots of the problem come from how people let social media (not only IG) in their lives.

    Personally, I’ve never been fond of IG, but still, I wouldn’t consider deactivating my account. It seems like trying to fight the effects rather the causes. For me, the remedy is self-control. I don’t put pressure on posting (the adverse effect is that the more time passes, the less it seems I post). I don’t force myself answering comments if I don’t feel like it. In the end, it’s all about deciding how I want to use it and for which purpose, and not let others dictate it to me.

    That said, I really started to struggle with IG lately because it all seemed pointless. What made me find some pleasure back on Instagram during spring, is unfollowing more than half the people I was following. My feed was making me feel really annoyed (if not angry) because I didn’t care about most photos I was shown by the algorithm. Less is more.

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