A Month Without Instagram and Finding the Balance

As someone who is well adapt in the social media world, it almost seems unfathomable to live without it. We connect with friends across the country and the world in seconds. Family we rarely see can be reached by the click of a button. Inspiration, information, and communication are so readily available everywhere we go. Some may argue this is the greatest advancement of our time. Others will say it hinders us. The virtual world is only growing, but are we really growing with it? Does using social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook on a daily basis really help our souls grow? It’s a question we are all beginning to face.

When was the last time you scrolled through Instagram or checked your Facebook feed? Probably not too long ago, right? How about the last time you had a face to face conversation with someone? What about a walk in the woods without your phone to record and share the entire journey?

Just because we aren’t sharing every moment of our lives, does not mean we don’t have one.

Many of us have grown accustomed to photographing our lives and posting on social media on a daily basis. Perhaps we do this because we genuinely want to inspire others. Perhaps we are trying to grow our website or blog or start a business. Or maybe we do this because we are slightly addicted to receiving “likes”. Dopamine is released each time someone likes or positively comments on your post. And this feels good, for a bit. Naturally, this dopamine runs out and without a moments pause we continue scrolling, posting, commenting in hopes to feel that good again.

Sure, sometimes social media is used as inspiration to become a better artist, blogger, writer, yogi, etc. For me though, it felt like I was doing it just to get that dopamine rush. Kind of like a drug, it was beginning to feel like an addiction, and that was not okay. And instead of being productive with my time, I was on social media, specifically Instagram, looking for inspiration on how to be productive. I usually did not emerge from a scrolling session feeling like a better person. In fact, quite the opposite. I’d compare myself to other’s lives and judge myself accordingly. This was hurting my self-worth and ultimately limiting my growth.

So, I decided it was time to take a break just to see what happened. I knew I would never know if it was really benefiting me unless I eliminated it completely for a while. The guidelines were simple: I would only use it for posting pictures related to work (because part of my job required this). But I would not scroll through the feed and I would not post anything on my personal page for about a month, and then reevaluate at that point how I felt. Seems easy enough right?

To be honest, I was kind of scared at first. I was scared I’d lose followers and supporters. I spent so many years of building my page and brand, and couldn’t help but wonder, would this just completely negate my efforts? I didn’t know, but in the end, I knew I needed to at least try.

In the beginning, it felt great. Like I just eliminated some negative entity that was sucking me dry. In essence, this is kind of what it was. I felt free and unlimited. Several times over the first couple weeks I found myself mindlessly reach for my phone to go to Instagram just because I was bored. This made me feel out of control of myself and validated this experiment even more.

Over the weeks I found I spent my time more wisely.

I read more books and articles, and spent my down time writing in my journal or blogging. Often times I’d just go take a walk or spend my time in nature instead. All of these things contributed to things that I value. They contributed to supporting myself and nurturing my soul because they were things I truly enjoyed.

I connected to the people in front of me.

I have a pet peeve. That is when you are trying to have a conversation with someone and they are on their phone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on social media, but often it probably is. Or playing a game. Or texting someone else. Or searching the web. Whatever it is, get off your phone and look at me while we are talking. Listen to what I have to say. Because if you don’t, it makes me think you don’t actually care. Now, I don’t believe I do this. But during this month, it became obvious when others did. Seeing this made me appreciate and connect with the people who were fully present with me.

I had time to just sit and be bored.

Why is it we hate being bored? We have grown accustomed to being busy all of the time. When we are not busy, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. This is when we reach for our phones or something to distract us because it is so hard for us to just slow down. This month allowed me to do just that. If I had a moment of quiet, I would just sit with it. Notice what is happening around me, and pay attention to my body and what I was feeling. This ultimately made feel calmer and more settled rather than feeling the need to go, go, go.

Towards the end of the month, it became obvious what about Instagram I enjoyed so much.

It wasn’t the mindless scrolling, or the surge of dopamine I felt when I got a like or comment. I missed the connection with other like-minded people. I missed my drive to photograph meals, something I had really enjoyed doing. Without an outlet for posting these things, I found I did it way less.

There were many times when I had a truly beautiful plate of food or very special moment I wanted to capture and share, but instead I held back for the purpose of this experiment. In a way this hindered my creative side as I wasn’t as inspired to make things. On the other hand, I came to realize all I needed was right there. This taught me to be grateful for the moment and whatever it was in front of me. This was a very valuable lesson.

After I reintroduced it though, it wasn’t all that special anymore.

This was maybe the biggest lesson that we all tend to forget. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That is so very true. We always think things will be better if _____. When we realize it isn’t, we can appreciate what we have even more. And once again I am humbled by this lesson.

What was very interesting, was how little attention my blog received.

I knew it would suffer some this month. But this month showed me how much my blog depends on social media (Instagram specifically) to promote it. People don’t find your stuff organically anymore. If you are not publishing on Instagram or Facebook, chances are people will not just stumble upon your site. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, just interesting.

In the end…

What I have realized is there are times for both. Times to put down your phone and read a book instead. I have learned it is very important for us to connect with nature and each other more often than with our phones. We can spend our time journaling and writing down our thoughts on a piece of paper to ease our minds. And when the time is right, it can be just as valuable to connect and share with this online community we have all come to know and love.

This month has shown me how addicting this platform can be and how important it is to take a break from it. It has also shown me how vital it can be in expressing our thoughts, ideas, and passions. So of course, we must find the balance between the two. For me this meant taking time away from the online world to tune in to my intuition and inner knowing. If we can quiet the buzz and just listen once in a while, we may just hear what our souls are asking for. Take a deep breath; let it out. Ahh, that’s better.

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