Let me tell you a little bit about myself and my relationship with social media before I begin.
I grew up in the society where social media was highly looked down at, and for a long time those who exposed themselves on social media were considered insecure attention seekers. I was one of those people who did not understand the concept of social media at all. Why would one want to share their lives and everything they do on a platform where so many people can see and judge a person’s life? That’s what I thought. I can’t say I wasn’t interested in using it, however, I was afraid to start, as I was scared of the same judgement. So I stayed away from using platforms such as Instagram too often, as I didn’t want to seem like an attention seeker to people who knew me in real life.
I’ve grown, my views changed, my attitude towards social media changed. I learned about online video marketing, and I loved the idea! That’s what I want to do, I thought. And for that, I need to learn and grow my own network. I began posting videos on YouTube, posting photos on Instagram and on Facebook page, where I shared the work I create. However, in this particular post I want to focus mainly on Instagram and its impact on my life since I started posting there.
I had my account since 2012, when I posted my first ever photo of the studio flat me and Vlad rented in Paris. I only had about 20 friends following me at the time, which has grown up to approximately a 100 people who knew me in real life from 2012 to 2016. Then, as I gained interest in online content, I decided to try out posting one photo a day and see where it leads me. I also did that because I gained interest in photography and I took a lot of photos on my phone during the long weekend walks around London. I already had loads of photos piled up, and also wanted to learn how to take better ones. That’s what I started with.
Woah, this was supposed to be a brief intro, but instead, I seem to be telling you the story of my life here. Anyway, bare with me, I’m getting close to the actual point.
So, it was Monday, 22nd of May, when I suddenly decided to go on a social media detox cold turkey. I always wanted to do a digital detox, but I can’t really afford to do it just yet, so social media detox might be a good alternative for starters.
It was a spontaneous decision. I sat there, in my usual coffee shop, blank from any ideas, not willing to complete any work, not feeling excited about anything I did up to this moment. I felt tired and drained. I also felt worthless and uncreative. And one thought was drilling my brain: log out of all social media, log out, log out… And I did.
I decided to stop using social media, and especially Instagram for one week. And this is what I learned.
- It really is an addiction.
I finally admitted it to myself – I am an Instagram addict. I check Instagram without even noticing when I’m at it. I had my phone in my hand and a finger scrolling through Instagram before I looked at the page. This is ridiculous.
2. Always log out of your social media accounts.
This was a revelation to me. We are used to having all of our social accounts opened and logged in to on our laptops and phones. For example, I never even close the tabs with Facebook and Instagram in my browser. And when it’s there, open in front of your eyes, always logged in and ready to use, – you’re gonna use it. Mindlessly. That’s a perfect way to make yourself addicted and you won’t even notice when your eyes end up staring at an open Facebook or Instagram page reading the news you’re not interested in. This is addiction. And it needs to be cured.
Log out. There’s no other better way to cure this addiction and show to yourself the amount of times you mindlessly enter the social media app. How does it work? Basically you step on the same rake over and over again until you create a bump and learn from the experience. Every time you’re holding your phone with the sign-in screen open, you’ll instantly notice that you’re acting on your reflexes and using social media mindlessly over again. It is scary how many times I mindlessly opened Instagram every time I was bored, without being aware of the moment I took the phone in my hand and opened the app. The sign-in screen that met my eyes reminded me to make a choice – shall I log in and scroll through my feed, or shall I actually continue doing what I was doing before the moment I got bored?
3. Get Bored.
Yes, that’s right. Allow yourself to be bored. As Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like An Artist wrote, “Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing”. The best ideas and inspiration come to you when you’re bored. So go ahead, declutter your mind, stop reaching out to your phone every time you’re commuting on the train, stop having Netflix blabbing on the background when you’re doing house chores, stop listening to music in your headphones when you’re walking from point A to point B.
As strange as it sounds, after a certain point it becomes difficult to make yourself bored again. I got so used to reaching out to social media and entertainment at every possible moment, – when I have to wait for a video to render, when I’m waiting for a bus, when I’m walking home from the train station, when I’m showering. I don’t give myself time to be bored, because I fill my time with mindless entertainment. And no, there’s nothing bad in listening to music or browsing social media, however, don’t allow it to overtake every minute of your life. Especially in our present time when media and devices are designed to be as accessible as possible. You have to be mindful of the times when you reach out to them.
Get bored. Don’t fill up your brain with information at every possible moment. Allow your mind to roam free and tackle boredom on its own, without the clutter of social media and brainless entertainment. It will be difficult at first. But then it will become liberating.
4. All of a sudden you will have more free time to spend on creative work.
After I logged out of my social media pages, I noticed that I had more free time. I could fill it with creative work. I would normally spend about 20-30 minutes on a single post, considering that I’ve already edited a photo in advance. I would come up with a thoughtful caption and hashtags. After that I would spend another 30 minutes to an hour on browsing, commenting, liking, discovering. And although I do like to engage with people I follow, sometimes it can go overboard. Lets say I’ve spent time engaging with my internet friends and I’ve run out of content I should engage with. I would then spend time refreshing my feed waiting for new posts, or I would go over the old posts again. I was so addicted to Instagram that it was hard to leave, it was hard to stop.
But once I made a conscious decision to change my own attitude and STOP, I discovered that I had so much more free time that I could spend on work which would actually lead me somewhere. I also had more time to think about my own posts and think about creative ways to present my photography. This sounds more productive, eh?
At the same time I was slightly overwhelmed. Where did this time come from? What should I do? I had to make a decision to DO THE ACTUAL WORK, instead of mindlessly spending hours on Instagram or on Facebook reading the news that I very much dislike reading.
I gained more time from just quitting social media, and I pushed myself to spend it creatively. And I’m very grateful to having made such decision.
5. Are your ready to struggle for the work you love?
Although I decided to go on social media detox, I still couldn’t get it out of my head for a while. So the next day I decided to go out and take photos. This was the main reason for me to even create my account, right? So I had to go and take photos. But you know what was different this time? I HAD FUN.
You know why I lost any enthusiasm in my creative work? Because I felt like I HAD to do it. I felt like I had to just go and deliver whatever I could, even when I didn’t have any ideas. Instead of going out and spending time nurturing my creativity, going for a walk, enjoying the sun and spending time being “bored”, I pushed myself to create work which didn’t bring me any happiness.
This is the whole reason for us, creatives, to do the work. We do the work we love. We create because it gives us pleasure. We deliver work because we love it, not because we want get lost in likes and follows. And if we love our work, it means that there will be someone who will love our work as much as we do. Right?
Of course, we still have to push ourselves to deliver. Even when you do the work you love, there will be moments when laziness overtakes, when inspiration vanishes, when doubts devour your mind. But we still have to push ourself to deliver work, because we love it. And because we love it, we are ready to struggle, to face laziness, difficulties, lack of inspiration. But I didn’t love it at the time. I hated my photography, videos and writing. Why? Because I didn’t create for love, I created for numbers. And of course that’s when the numbers stopped growing. And they were right to stop. Because I had to stop too.
5.1. Do the work you love and you will never work a day in your life = BULLSHIT.
We all heard this phrase, do the work you love and you will never work a day in your life. You know what I think? This saying is a total scam which makes us and everybody else believe that if we love what we do, it will be easy.
If you’re doing the work you love, you will have to work like a horse. Because when you do the work you love, a lot of unexpected struggles will occur. You will doubt, you will feel worthless, you will have an urge to compare, to count the numbers, to procrastinate. You will have to learn about management, logistics, marketing and whatnot. Even if you are a graphic designer, or an artist, or a filmmaker. There won’t be an opportunity to say “that’s not my job”.
And you will work for it, because the work you do is what you are prepared to struggle for. When you love something or someone, you will move mountains for it.
How does this relate to social media detox? Most of us, creative people, publish our work on social media. And this is a big part our work. We have to love what we show to the world.
These were the thoughts I had during the social media detox, and I am looking forward to doing this again. It really allowed me to spend more time appreciating my surroundings and listening to my own thoughts. This was a first step towards decluttering my mind and getting rid of social media addiction. I also understood that I love spending time on Instagram and sharing snippets of my life in my little gallery. But sometimes it feels like the time freezes and I lose myself in these snippets instead of living in my present.
It is important to remember that after you froze the moment in one image, the reality continues to go on. Don’t swap your reality for the single moment on your Instagram feed. Make memories before posting on social, instead of letting the social become your only memory.