On Dec 21, 2017, I posted for the last time on Instagram.
It wasn’t a conscious decision to quit. It was nearing Christmas, I was too bundled up as a human burrito stuffed with turkey and chocolate, and my pudgey thumbs couldn’t be bothered to scroll and double tap as required by my weird ass job.
It was meant to be a week off. A week to be present with loved ones and see if there is such thing as “too much Cadbury”. (Spoiler: there is not)
This one week off became two.
Two became four.
… and now here we are, 6 weeks later, the DMs slowly trickling in to ask if I’m okay, if I’m still alive and even some who have said they miss me [none of which were my mom…. probably].
After silently lurking in the shadows for so long, breathing heavily and all that, I think it’s finally time to crack open this messy can of worms and let you know why I so badly needed a break.
But first – I need to tell you: this isn’t your typical “Insta-complaint” post. I’m not going to ramble relentlessly about the woes of the algorithm or the artificial aesthetic of the industry. By putting Instagram on pause for 6 weeks, I gained clarity on what the problem really was.
Guys, it’s US. We’re the problem.
I’ll tell you why very soon, but first, I feel I owe you an explanation about why I needed to take a step back…
PS: As overdramatic as this post may sound, I need you to know that it comes from my experience as a female travel blogger trying to “make it” in this crazy industry. The pressures we face are often unique, and admittedly very 1st world problem-ey. I hope you’ll read with an open mind, or a big bucket of wine to help you through my ranty words.
First thing’s first – Instagram was ruining my self esteem
When it comes to tip toeing the paper thin line between inspiration and making you feel like trash, Instagram is #1. And sure, while I love consuming gorgeous photography and content, sometimes the constant perfection can feel like a big bowl of “eff you” stew.
Your brain starts to overload itself with thoughts like I should be thinner, my legs should be longer, I wish I travelled to cooler places, why isn’t my breakfast in a pool, where’s my ballgown, etc. It doesn’t matter that you know they’re staged, it doesn’t matter that you know they take hours to create or that Photoshop is involved in 90% of it – it doesn’t matter because all you’re confronted with is what you aren’t and what you should aspire to be… and especially when you work in an industry where image and popularity are equated with success, it gets really hard to admit that maybe, you’re just a normal, stubby-legged girl with frizzy hair and 15 grey cardigans. (That is actually not a joke, I counted once).
The pursuit of Instagram fame is tough when you’re just a regular human… and inevitably, you get brainwashed into thinking you should make yourself seem like more. I started constructing this “Instagram” version of me – a flowy dress-wearing, luxury hotel hopping Christina that would (probably) be a d-bag in real life. Here is Exhibit A:
And then, as a result of this constructed image…
I was living my life through a screen
The scariest part about this new version of me was that she began to overtake the real me.
I genuinely started to believe that my life needed elaborate breakfast spreads and fancy experiences. The staged photo shoots I used to pursue “ironically” became a necessity, and nothing ever felt like enough.
Once upon a time, I could eat a bowl of Froot Loops for breakfast and feel like an absolute queen. Today, Instagram trains me to think my #goals should be an elaborate breakfast spread with 4 juices, 3 courses, all spread out precariously over crisp white bed sheets (which is really impractical by the way, just as a side note).
When I went to Bali last summer, it felt like I had finally “made it”. Not solely because it was a stunning destination (which it is!) but because insta-FOMO had me convinced I was the last Instagrammer on Earth who hadn’t been… and when I arrived, my trip was more about getting good photos for Instagram than it was about enjoying the actual trip. Hey, this 5 star villa is awesome but I wish I had a pool floaty to pose in… Hey, the food here is fresh and delicious but maybe I should order what looks best on camera.
It was this kind of warped and demented thinking that started to completely consume my life. I even started posing like this:
Plus, the algorithm was turning me into a salty, vengeful beeyotch
If you’re a fellow creator reading this, you’ll be familiar with Instagram’s painful and frustrating algorithm.
And if you’re a regular user with no clue what I’m talking about, just know that we Instagrammers have been struggling to get our content seen for months, ever since IG’s feed changed from chronological to the random clusterwhat that it is now.
And like many others, I began stewing in a pot of negativity. I became obsessed with trying to “game” the algorithm rather than produce value for my followers, and as a result, my content became something that didn’t quite feel like “me”. No disrespect to the gorgeous girls killin’ it in high fashion outfits and beautifully staged shots… but they don’t at all reflect who I am.
So because of that, I started hating and resenting Instagram as if it was hellbent on destroying my life.
… which of course, made it increasingly tough to spend any time on it at all.
And so, Instagram just wasn’t fun anymore
Once upon a time, I looked forward to logging onto Instagram. Somewhere along the way though, it began to feel like millions of people trying to one-up each other.
To me, the most toxic thing about Instagram is the way it feeds our desire for more. MORE followers, MORE likes, MORE stuff to get us noticed… and it is honestly the most emotionally exhausting first world problem.
Especially when it is so tied up with your work and career (like it is for me).
What happens is we get caught up agonizing about all the things we don’t have instead of valuing the things that we do. The clothes we don’t have, the press trips we didn’t land, the sexy AF photographer boyfriends that all the “big names” seem to flaunt around (seriously, where is this black market are you finding them in??!!)
Anyways, the truth is this: Instagram is 99% illusion. Not just the dreamy imagery, but the success. The millions of followers that can be bought, the thousands of likes that can be faked and yes, even the weird “BFF” friendship trend where all the attractive grammers are all besties and just hang out together all the time looking perfect. None of them accurately reflect reality.
In 2017, I let these things get to me. I was so obsessed with the idea of success that I forgot to lead with value first. I started posting staged photos that weren’t at all “me”, I did a ridiculous loop giveaway that gave me thousands of followers who couldn’t care less about me, and I became more fixated on numbers and vanity metrics than what I should be prioritizing first and foremost: building connections with others, inspiring people with my content and having FUN. Because as much as this is part of my job, it’s also supposed to be enjoyable, right? That’s why I chose this ludicrously unpredictable career over a 9-5 office job… because I thought it would bring me more joy. If I dread everyday opening up a freaking app, then clearly I haven’t “chased my dreams” properly.
So that’s why I took a break. For 6 blissful weeks. And after this time away came a pretty obvious epiphany…
The problem isn’t Instagram. It’s how we let it influence our lives.
I mean, duh.
This epiphany might sound stupidly obvious to you, but for the longest time, I was so caught up in this filtered dream world that I didn’t realize the obvious.
Instagram isn’t the issue…. we are.
The way that we treat social media platforms like sentient angst-machines is the problem. Along the way, we’ve failed to realize just how much control we have over how these platforms influence us and shape our lives.
Social media can be toxic… but it can also be inspirational.
It can create an artificial world that negatively impacts our mental health, but at the same time, it can also be a connector, and a platform for SO much good.
The most beautiful thing about social media is that we have the power to use it however we want. If you see content you hate, hit ‘unfollow’. If you feel the space is oversaturated with samey content, create something unique. For me, I’m tired of being a wannabe “IG dream girl” and making everything about “me me me”. That’s why moving forward, I want value, education and knowledge bombs to be the focus.
During my time off, I got so many messages asking if I was okay, if I needed support, etc. This in itself meant to me that I was wrong about Instagram – the community is there, the friendships are there… it’s just up to us to sift through the white noise and find them.
Guys, I’m back. I had my time to think, to reflect, to drink wine by the bucket, and now I feel more excited about creating content than I ever have before. My goal for 2018 is to reclaim Instagram and make it something I enjoy again, and I want to start by focusing on building deeper relationships with my followers, and putting the focus on adding value to the IG space. Will I continue posting pretty photos? Heck yes. But I’m also going to make it my mission to share knowledge, epiphanies, stories and all the amazing facts I learn through my travels.
In fact, in the name of consistency, I’ll be posting daily……. but not just any old thing. I’m committing this year to learning or doing something new each day. That can be as simple as visiting a new place, or filling my brain with a mindblowing fun fact. One a day riiiiiight here.
So if you’ve been sipping your bucket of wine, smugly agreeing to this post like a human “praise hands” emoji, I invite you to join me and hold me accountable over on Instagram.
So, did this post resonate with you, or was I being a total drama queen? Have you ever just wanted to quit Instagram? Drop your two cents in the comments – I’d love to hear those opinions!