I’ve recently unfollowed just about 700 accounts on Instagram. You read that right: seven hundred. I now follow right around 400 which means that at some point I was following over 1,000.
I shouldn’t tell you this because it might encourage you to go unfollow a bunch of accounts and that might mean you’ll unfollow me and that would make me sad and filled with angst and stressed out about people not liking me. But I actually think it might be the best advice I could offer when it comes to Instagram.
If it doesn’t make your life – and more importantly – your soul better, let it go. Unfollow. Turn off notifications. Maybe even delete the whole thing from your phone for a few days (or forever. Whatever works.).
I started using Instagram because it was new and fun (the filters! The rounded corners! The behind-the-scenes peeks!) and continue all these years later because it is still fun and feels important for this online business I run. I try to find that balance between posting photos that are pretty to get likes and comments and shares and ultimately grow my following and posting photos that are pretty just because I like to.
(Side note: quite honestly, I’m not sure there is a huge correlation between my number of Instagram followers and business success as we’ve gone about blogging/business a little differently. But I continue anyway).
At the same time, I’m an Instagram user and it can feel so pointless and shallow and not life-giving for me to spend time every single day scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through images of strangers’ lives and homes and kids.
Tell me I’m not alone in this … it is weird, right?!
I’m trying not to be cynical because that doesn’t really get us anywhere. I’m just in this place of deeply paying attention to what I do and how it makes me feel. Instagram is one of those things I haven’t quite sorted out.
Do I love it?
Instagram is full of beautiful photos and visually inspiring ideas. It is a way to connect with friends and family and celebrities and influencers that we don’t get to hang out with on a day-to-day basis (or ever). It has become a micro-blogging platform for quickly writing and sharing. It becomes a digital scrapbook, or even better, an actual scrapbook if you get your pictures turned into books. It has grown businesses and offered opportunity, a sense of community and humor and brought awareness to important issues.
Or maybe do I hate it?
With Instagram, we get lost in someone else’s life, someone else’s travels, someone else’s fitness/style/food/decorating/parenting journey while we stare at our phones and ignore our own. It so easily stirs up a sense of comparison and discontent. It gives us an incomplete snapshot of whoever we’re following which leads us to believe we’re somehow worse off or less-than or missing out. It creates a sense of community that makes us forget how important real-life friendships are. It lures us in with its likes and followers and analytics that feel inflating when they’re going up and crushing when they fall. It pressures us with the hope that if we post the best photos from the best angles with the best lighting and cleverest captions we’ll get noticed and liked and make it big.
See what I mean? It’s great and not great at the same time.
The good thing is, we get to choose.
We get to choose who we follow, how it makes us feel, how often we scroll and for how long. We get to decide if we post or not post and let Instagram serve us instead of the other way around. Which is why I deleted 700 follows. I stopped following a bunch of accounts not because any of them were bad or not inspiring or posted by someone who is probably a wonderful person in real life. But rather, I stopped following for one of three reasons:
- If every time I saw a post and it made me feel all compare-y and unsettled – like I wasn’t keeping up or measuring up – I stopped following. The issue of insecurity is in my own heart and has nothing to do with the account I’m jealous of, but one good step in healing is removing the thing that keeps tripping you up. There were not too many like this, but there were a few and it felt good to just let them go.
- If I was following someone whom I didn’t know and never would know, I figured I didn’t really need to see what they were doing every day. This eliminated pretty much every celebrity I was following. Except for @kensingtonroyal because I really like the British royal family.
- If I couldn’t remember why I started following to begin with and wasn’t super excited about any of the most recent photos, I unfollowed.
Just like that, 700 down.
At the same time, I also removed Instagram notifications from my phone. I no longer get a message when someone leaves a comment which means I pick up my phone and open Instagram one hundred less times per day. It also meant getting used to not having that regular affirmation in the form of Instagram comments popping up on my phone throughout the day. I’m embarrassed to say that it took some getting used to.
So that’s where I am right now. I still like Instagram. I still post and comment and scroll every day. I’m being much pickier about what I post – I don’t want to just throw a photo up for the sake of staying on top of the algorithm and keep followers.
My goal with everything I do online is to create a space where when you leave you feel better, not worse, about your life. I want you to feel less alone, more normal, encouraged to see beauty in the every day and inspired to do something creative in your home or with your hands.
I still hate it a little, too. I wish that darn followers number didn’t captivate me like it does and make me feel better or worse about myself.
I’d love to know where you’re at with Instagram. Do you love it? Not love it? Do you have any tricks or boundaries you’ve set to make it work for your life? Let’s have a heart to heart about Instagram …