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Social media is part of daily life for almost all of us these days and I’m definitely no exception. Over the past few years Instagram has become a central point of my life-  it might not be cool to admit this but it’s the truth. Not only is it a great tool for my career as a photographer, it’s also a powerful point of connection and inspiration for creatives and a social form of media in the truest sense. Through Instagram I’ve been able to meet some of the people who have become big parts of my real world life and I get to share my photos which is hugely rewarding. But you know what they say, you can’t have the good without the bad and lately I’ve been really feeling that online. So instead of continuing to feel stressed and frustrated and a bit of a slave to technology, I did something I should have thought of a long time ago and got off Instagram for a full week. No surprise, I learned a few things:

1. Time alone is crucial and hard to come by. I’m an introvert through and through. Don’t get me wrong, I have a social job which I chose and I love my people but I also need time alone to recharge. Once I stopped checking in online regularly I realized there’s a real difference between being alone with a phone and alone with yourself.

2. Old habits die hard but eventually they do and it feels great. For the first three days off Instagram I was constantly opening my phone to the folder I would usually find Instagram in. Even worse, when I couldn’t go on IG instead of turning of my phone I would just aimlessly open other apps and stare blankly at my screen. Today marks my first real day back on Instagram (more on that qualification below) and I’ve only opened it twice, both times to line up posts and answer DMs.

3. Less is more. When I’m not paying attention I end up scrolling Instagram any time I open my phone. Sometimes I even forget my real reason for picking up my phone to begin with a default to the gram. This adds up to a lot of time spent online without any real purpose. This screws with my work flow and makes me less present with the people I want to connect with around me. Checking social media less often but with real intention would be way more beneficial.

4. Fomo is real. Most of the time I spent disconnected felt great, but I still knew that I wasn’t receiving DMs, including some from clients and worse, some from friends who knew I was offline and I can only assume were trying to break my will power of steel. I also missed out on a full week of @classicalfuck memes, didn’t see what my friends were up to and lost followers (insert shrugging emoji here). Even for a good cause, like your own sanity, missing out is hard. Which leads me to…

5. One week was impossible- at least for me. Previous to my decision to take a break, I had already committed to attend and cover one amazing local event at The Watch That Ends the Night which meant a full night online. I didn’t scroll or post anything other than stories but I was still connected. Beyond that, I also realized that there was information I needed for work (contact info, shoot times, event dates) stored in my DMs and every time I logged in to find details like those I would inevitably see a work related DM that I couldn’t resist answering. Social media has become truly integrated into our day to day life and fully checking out might not always be a realistic expectation.

Okay, so now that I’ve learned some stuff, what next? Well, I’m going to try to change things going forward, just like this:

1. Leave the phone at home. If you follow me, you know I’m 100% addicted to stories but it was so refreshing to leave my phone at home every now and then and be present with my family, my friends and my dog. It also felt really good to do things for myself, to enjoy a beautiful breakfast or a perfect snowfall or a sweaty workout without letting anyone else in on it.

2. Schedule Instagram time. This is an extension of a practice I applied to emails around this time last year. When possible I check in once earlier in the day and once in the evening. It’s a great way to keep up to date enough without constantly distracting yourself.

3. No social media in bed. For a while I was rocking a no technology in bed thing, letting bed be for sleeping, reading and other good wholesome activities like drinking my morning coffee. As I’ve gotten busier I’ve backslid. First it was Netflix, then social media and then full on waking up in the middle of the night to the ding of an email and answering it. For now, Netflix is going to stay but social media and emails in bed are done. Going to sleep and waking up to work, finances and other peoples’ streams of consciousness was beyond stressful.

4.  Clean up my following list. This is a hard one. I fall in love all the time with new things and love getting inspired, but I realized a lot of what I’m seeing doesn’t really speak to me. I almost never sort through the accounts I follow, which means that over the year a lot of stuff has accumulated that isn’t relevant anymore. This is going to be an ongoing project.

5. Take breaks whenever, wherever (cue the Shakira). In most other areas of life, like work and exercise, we accept that we need breaks every now and then. Why should something as pervasive as social media be any different? Now that I’ve done it once I’ll be ready to do it again whenever I feel like I need to reconnect with myself and I'll be less scared to do it.

This is a pretty ambitious list for me, a major creature of habit, but I think it’ll be worth it and that it will get easier over time. All that being said I'm stoked to get back to Instagram and hopefully I'll see you there! 

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Alexa CudeComment