If it wasn’t posted on Instagram, did it ever really happen?
I’ve recently started to notice myself falling towards a tendency to disconnect from social media on the weekends. Call it a summer schedule, or maybe it’s just a need to step away from the overwhelm that is a very real part of my weeks at this point. But it’s a little more than that as well. My relationship with social media has changed, and not necessarily for the better.
This got me thinking about the bigger picture. About this love/hate relationship with social media that’s started to develop in a very real way for me recently. It’s started to feel like this necessary evil, and as it has definitely led to some frustration and anxiety for me over the past little while, I wanted to unpack that a little.
Because there’s also this sense of guilt since social media has not only played a major role in the development of my business, but in many ways, it is my business at this point.
I’ve been struggling with what to write in this post all week, and, if I’m being totally honest here, whether to even write it. Why? Because broaching this topic and admitting these struggles makes me feel like a bit of a fraud, or a hypocrite, and those feelings aren’t particularly attractive for obvious reasons.
But when I sat down to start jotting down my thoughts on this topic (partially for therapeutic reasons, as is often the case when I start writing), here’s what poured out:
I don’t like feeling like my worth (personal or business) is in any way tied to the number of likes or comments I receive. It’s like a popularity contest, and as someone who has never been particularly fond of those social struggles to be one the “cool kids” (whatever that means), I don’t feel like I need to relive those uncomfortable situations, thank you very much.
As I feel the struggle to grow my account and watch my number of likes take a hit, I blame the algorithm of course, like everyone else. But I still can’t help falling into the comparison trap or feeling like I’m failing in some way.
I don’t like feeling like I’m constantly tied to my screen. This is a slightly difficult one for me, as there are certain tasks that require me to spend time on my phone. It’s part of my job.
I don’t like feeling like I live my life through a filter of “how will this show up on Instagram”. Is a new meeting spot Instagram-worthy and photographable? Is my outfit photo-worthy? Did I bother to put on makeup or do something with my hair other than throwing it in a messy topknot? Is my workspace pretty enough to showcase or does it look like the studio exploded (ie. reality)?
I don’t like constantly comparing myself to others. We all know that social media, in many cases, acts as a highlight reel. We know it’s edited and strategized. And though there’s been this movement towards authenticity, I also cringe a little when I hear that word now. It’s overused, and as soon as it becomes a strategy to “just be real”, I think the authenticity is sucked right out of it.
I don’t like feeling like there’s a constant pressure to create content. My days aren’t usually glamourous or exciting or beautifully styled, I’m not attending fancy events or being paid to post. I’m mostly behind my computer or the camera, doing the work. But I feel the pressure to create beautiful posts and craft perfectly worded captions regardless of whether that’s reflective of what I’m actually doing right now, in the moment.
So here’s the thing — I have control over each and every one of these that I don’t like. I know that, and yet it doesn’t make it easy to change them necessarily.
When More isn't Always Better
We live in a world that moves at record speed, where content is created and consumed at a crazy pace, and so all we can do is feed the beast and constantly strive to churn out more, with the intent of receiving more. More likes, more comments, more engagement.
Because there’s also the reality that a decent part of my business revolves around creating content and strategizing for social media. I do it for other brands, I teach the ins and outs of each platform, and the majority of content I’ve put out there has this common tie of styling, storytelling and branding… many times, for social media.
I’m not dissing social media or Instagram. That love still exists. I find it filled with inspiration, I love how it has a tendency to connect (the community I’ve built, friendships I’ve cultivated and collaborations that have grown from it are endless), and I think it is such an amazing tool, allowing you to showcase your style and share stories.
But I think somewhere along the way, the pressure increased, the competition got heated and the joy was sucked right out of it.
Once you learn what photo formula works the best for you and what type of caption people respond the best to, it’s hard to justify going in another direction, to challenge yourself and break the mould.
But I want more, and not in a numbers-oriented way . I want to create more. I want to inspire more. I want to be challenged more. I want to contribute more.
Going back to your "why"
I’m in the midst of building out this fairly large-scale, Instagram focused offering, and one of my biggest struggles is positioning it and working through the “why”. Because for me it’s not about numbers, but it very quickly can start to feel that way, so I’m forcing myself to be really honest with my own relationship with the app, and right now, that means working through the negativity that has come to be associated with it at times.
I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve been having lots of conversations with friends, peers and clients who are experiencing the same sense of frustration right now, so I know this is an issue that needs to be addressed, because running your own business comes with enough overwhelm and stress as is, to not want to add one more thing to stress over.
And here’s what I keep coming back to, something that shows up in many of my workshops and my branding work as well, but that I’m finding myself having to redefine as I think about Instagram specifically right now:
"What purpose does the platform serve for me? What am I trying to do with it?"
Mine is aligned with my values and business goals — I want to inspire, provide insight, inform, and make an impact. I want to continue to connect with other like-minded creatives and business owners and build a community that revolves around collaboration.
And I believe that if I keep those intentions as my guide, that will help me to fall back in love with an app that was once my favourite. To serve as a roadmap for the type of content I create, the way I spend my time on the platform and my mindset around it.
So though this is probably only the start of an ongoing conversation, I urge you to do the same. To ask yourself what you’re trying to use the platform for, and how you can create a more positive relationship that is focused on that instead of being tied to the numbers.
Because if it’s not serving you, chances are it isn’t serving your community either.