Last night my phone lay dead – and instead of charge it, I left it. This morning it was my husband who put it on charge thinking I’d forgotten. I hadn’t. I’ve just realised HOW much control I really have. I am fucking with the rules. My phone does not own me.
Have you ever googled what algorithm actually means?
A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.
I am trying to determine when it was that I put that much pressure on myself to do the work of a computer. A computer with no emotional needs. When did algorithms become more of a priority than trusting that my emotional connection with my audience was enough? That actually the most real, human characteristics of Instagram were far stronger than the computer system itself. What if I just said, to the real humans who were following me – I need time. Hang in there.
I’m calling it. There IS going to be a big change on Instagram and it’s up to us to ensure that this positive change happens. How do we make it happen? Well, like everything. WE be the change that we wish to see. If you are like me on your platform – if you open up the way I do, if you share an exceptionally large proportion of your personal life on here. Then you need to read on.
If you haven’t felt the strange and uncomfortable tone on Instagram in the last few months I’m going to assume that you maybe aren’t ‘in IT’ like I was. It’s like this uncertainty, this ‘unease’ of what the fuck now. People are scared to speak freely because of trolling, to share too much or waste time on inspiring content only for it not to be seen. Our confidence is shaken by comparison, self-doubt seeps in and we’re counting every human who unfollows us and measuring that against our worth. The more time we worry about what’s going on in instagram and the less time we do more outside of it – the bigger the these unhealthy feelings appear, the harder it hits our mental health, which inevitably effects our physical health too. We ask questions like, ‘How do I fit into algorithms?’ instead of – ‘Why do I need to sit so uncomfortably, to fit?’
The answer is you don’t need to. All you really need to do is be aware of those feelings and take healthy action. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it! There’s a reason you’re questioning why you need to conform to be seen and be validated. The reason is purely that we’ve forgotten the power of the living breathing humans behind the screen.
This new way of life is NEW. It’s going to have flaws and it’s up to us to identify these and eradicate them, not slot into them.
I know that me taking 10 days off @TheImperfectlyPerfectParent was a bold move. The decision itself was made quickly purely down to our life changing news of our new additon and the unexpected symptoms but the thoughts of doing this previously have been plentiful. Slowly but surely I have been making changes that led to this BIG chunk of time off. My gut has been telling me for at least 6 months that the routine I was in online, needed to change REGARDLESS of how my statistics were positively changing and urging me to feed them.
So I listened. To me, not the stats.
Actually, I’d subconciously been making these changes way before the big wake up call recently. Just before the New Year, I’d set aside every Sunday where I would delete my Instagram app entirely. Like with most positive discoveries I make, I created the hashtag #SwitchOffSocialSunday to encourage others to follow suit. It was so eye opening. From then, I chose every Wednesday too. I went with how I felt. Those days fed my creativity and let me embrace the whole reason I’d found a little space for myself. For being ME and giving quality content and words to universe. I studied my usage and what may be shocking to some – I was on average spending 8 hours a day on Instagram. 8 hours. That didn’t include the hours I spent in ‘notes’ writing thought provoking captions or capturing and editing imagery. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to ‘grow’ online and get your message out there – those hours often extend further than that. It does take HARD WORK and I do believe this in itself is a misunderstood perception. I think many do assume that it comes easy to these ‘big’ influencers but from my experience, I’ve learned it definitely does not. Anyway, whilst we chase our goals – we must ensure we’re living happily in-between. We have to feed our curiosity further than apps and screen time. There has to be boundaries and standards in place.
There are some elements which I recognized as causing me intense anxiety and worry when my audience grew. From how much I was able to give – to how others perceived me. The more time I spent online analysing my presence – the lower my confidence got.
How do you begin to combat this?
I listened to my gut. It was screaming to me to look at the bigger picture. I began to refuse to have my phone in my hand whilst I ate dinner with the other. I wanted two arms to cuddle both my daughters at the same time. I wanted to be the person dancing with them, not just filming them and their dad. I wanted peace at night to read my book and be the one taking information in, instead of purely firing it out. It began to feel strange bringing people into my bed with me and my husband at night – a place I wouldn’t even bring my best friend. So I stopped. I realised, the rules – algorithms, was not a good rule for me or my family. I also knew, I was damned if it was ruining what I’d already achieved and leaving those who I cared about profusely online. So I looked at the situation from up high and out of it’s restraints and I could see what was needed.
I began looking forward to my #SwitchOffSocialSunday’s, I got excited about the day that I needn’t worry about letting everyone know where or how I was that day. It was a day purely for me to enjoy and feel the present feels entirely. The scariest part though when I first did this, was realizing how much of my day was owned by me constantly writing that caption in my head. What would be my inspiration today to make my post that night? What part of this beautiful family day can I snap that ideal shot to spread this happiness further? THAT was always on the forefront of my mind. HOW do I share my joy 24/7 with everyone else? Even with the app deleted and the task not needed that day, it was imprinted in my mind. The continuous ‘to do’ list in order to slot into algorithms or fear being reprimanded by it.
Giving is incredible. Inspiring others is great but doing it for yourself is also essential. It is impossible to give so much of your life to others without giving to yourself first and living right in it.
So let’s call my two days off a week ‘top up days.’ Like those pay-as-you-go phone deals. If you keep using up that amount, giving it away and forgetting to check-in every now and again – to keep that balance topped up. You are inevitably fucked. No credit. Nothing left. Not until you decide to take action and TOP UP. Sunday’s and Wednesday’s are those days for me. Have they effected my presence online? Not to my knowledge – have people unfollowed me because of it – well if they have, I don’t want people following me who don’t understand. I don’t trust algorithms but I love and trust my followers that hang around.
If you have an entrepreneurial mind. If you are fired with creativity – like many professional users are on social channels – your natural urge will be to do everything you can to succeed. You will go that extra mile, you will make it your everything and you won’t want to stop in fear of slowing down your progress. It’s like algorithms know this, they know that we will feed it because our passion and our desire to make our dreams a success – force us to. Only at some point, rationality has to give. We have to step back and see the bigger picture. Which, once you look from the outside in – will show just how much control you actually have. Because beyond algorithms, is likability. A human connection that is WAY stronger than the whole flawed computer system that is instilling unhealthy patterns into our lives.
My Instagram has grown more in these last few months taking time off – than it has since I started my account nearly 2 years ago. I am not an algorithm genius nor will I ever spend my time educating myself on the ins and outs of it but what I do know – is I will succeed regardless of it. On my terms. It has to be on my terms.
How do you know if social media is impacting you negatively?
If you are sitting reading this and feeling stressed, anxious, nervous or under unhealthy pressure by your life on social media – even if you ‘make it’ with the numbers and the likes – you are not going to be sitting comfortably in it. What I realised was, there are people spending 8 + hours a day on Instagram. There are people focusing entirely on this platform and leaving no room for anything else – whilst enjoying it. But not me. I was not happy documenting my life 7 days a week with no break, I was trapped by algorithms and comparison. I was giving too much time to a robotic system and not enough time to my other responsibilities. To my children, my husband and the wonderful life I had created for myself. All in a bid to SQUEEZE into a system that won’t accommodate for many of real life’s hurdles.
You hear about this sort of shit all the time. If you are working toward likes, follower counts or outside validation to find happiness – you won’t. If you’re trying to achieve the success of someone else but losing sight of your own basic needs and loves in the process – the stats may grow but happiness will not. You first and foremost have to feel happy and if you are not – work on that, FIRST. I have noticed some of the biggest accounts I follow show very little of their personal lives in comparison to what I do – yet they are confident and content in the stuff they do give and they are successfully happy. I truly think this is the key. Confidence, knowing your worth and finding a healthy balance in what you give.
Is taking time off or changing the goal posts a form of giving up?
There are infinite opportunities in this world and rest assured, you do not need to stick to one purely because it came to you. You can pass that on to the next soul who’ll embrace it and love it AND be happy for them. You can take from your opportunity what you want, learn from it and allow those lessons to help you grow when the next opportunity arises. Do not shut yourself out from all of the opportunities that fly by us daily if you are sitting unhappy in one that no longer makes you feel alive. Try something new and graciously applaud those who were happy enough to embrace that chance at a time that wasn’t quite right for you. One of my biggest eye openers was seeing how many opportunities there was to find success online and offline purely by letting myself see OUT the screen.
I was three days into my 10 days off and I found myself shopping on ASOS and ZARA. Purely to get that interaction with my phone. I noticed this – I noted how I was itching to touch my phone. Just because.
By day 5 however, I was sitting it further away from me. I could feel I had a problem – my phone really was owning me. Sadly, I started to realize that I was doing so little just for me. Not to document or share – not to tell anyone I had done it. Purely just because I enjoyed doing it and that this love, this giving solely to myself felt foreign. The penny dropped – my anxiety stemmed round the fact that my grounding with myself and my life outside of instagram was unstable. If I wanted to give any more to an audience I had grown to love and respect, I would have to strengthen everything out-with it first and set boundaries and reaffirm what I was doing right now under current circumstances, was enough.
Realizing when something isn’t for you right now, is not giving up – its identifying what you need to change in order for you to keep moving forward happily.
How do you switch off and come back empowered?
Remember that people love people. Real People. Not a consistent character who posts ‘because they have to’ in order to maintain a certain presence or image.
This part is easy. If you go away and work on you – work on reaffirming those boundaries and those standards. Really focusing on what you want for your entire life and not just one slice of it? You’ll come back stronger, motivated and in control. You’ll be an inspiration for many, taking physical action to improve your quality of time online and offline.
You’ll be able to see more clearly and appreciate the strong relationships you’ve made online which have contributed to all the positive elements that got you hooked on social media in the first place. You’ll focus on them. It’ll feel more authentic and you can be ruthless with parts you’ve recognized weren’t good. Whether that’s from other people you follow or from the content you’ve created in the past that’s not quite ‘you.’
If you have over 10k followers – make a promise to yourself to never check your audience count. Let your numbers go up and down within that hundred range without your knowledge and it’ll help you to continue being on that refreshing path of being you. It’s that drop in numbers that can so easily take us on a path where we question ourselves and become a more ‘palatable’ version for Instagram. Being 100% you, even if less of – is far more valuable. Once you wrap your head round the fact not everybody is going to like you – you’re half way there.
I’m going to leave you with these – just a number of things that I have been saying to myself to allow me to have the time I need to myself. Right now I am not in control of how my body deals with this stage of my pregnancy journey and it can be draining continuously wishing it away in fear of algorithms – when really, like I said from the beginning, I simply need to accept it and make all the changes to make this easier in the midst of my responsibilities to myself and my family. DO NOT suffer – take action, take control and remember you are NOT a robot. Your followers are real and those you want in your corner will always understand.
- You are doing enough.
- Do not live out your life fearful of what others think, live it empowered by the positive changes you know you can make in others.
- Do not compare yourself to others and feel happy for those growing faster than you are. It feels much better to celebrate another achievements than feel jealousy or bitterness.
- You do not need to respond to every message on the days where your home life needs you more. That does not make you ungrateful, it makes you a human setting healthy priorities.
- You can give more when you are feeling empowered and give less when you are feeling weak. That is OK.
- You are not in control of how others perceive you.
- Your content may not always be ‘unique’ but there is only one of YOU. That is your super power. There are over 800 million users on instagram – there will be people sharing the same stuff but there is room for everyone, don’t sweat it.
- Sharing your life to hundreds, thousands – millions of people IS daunting. Give yourself oodles of compassion and allow yourself to set those boundaries in order to feel safe and content.
- You are not alone. People are struggling every day to stay on top of their accounts and find that balance. Talk to people, do not be alone it it.
- Trolling is inevitable. It is not a reflection of you, it is nothing about you and everything to do with them. Trolls are people suffering with deep regret and sadness – it is NOT a judgement on you.
- You will not regret the chances you took, you will regret the ones you didn’t take purely out of fear of what others would think.
- Focus on loving what you do, with all those boundaries in place and the success will follow.
I truly hope this helps!