Sometimes, like in so many relationships, it’s really necessary to use the “It’s not you, it’s me” line and take a much-needed break from someone or in this case, something. Relationships that have served you well in the past can also become toxic when boundaries blur and co-dependencies are formed. Which is exactly what tends to happen in my own twisted relationship with the platform that I love to hate, Instagram.
Let’s be completely transparent here. Instagram with its up and down algorithm is essentially a business, trading in the currency of your attention span. The longer they can keep you on the platform, the longer they get an opportunity to sell you something. Think about it. If a platform this colossal is free, my friend, you are the product. This is why the Instagram algorithm is set up to show you more of what you click on, hover over or interact with because it assumes you tend to like that content more which means you stick around a little longer. This is the biggest flaw of the algorithm monster in my opinion. Humans are hardwired for a negativity bias for survival and sometimes hover a bit longer than usual on the drama, which results in, you guessed it, MORE DRAMA on The Gram.
But simply consuming content aside, even for those of you who are making a living on Instagram, the way you stay top of the pops is engagement and consistency. Aka, spend more time on the app! The fact Instagram has announced it’s plans to become a video focused app means even more time spent snipping clips and typing out cute boxes to point to. I know I sound like a little naysayer, but I do believe that Instagram can also be an amazing tool. Never before have we had as much connection to our communities, consumers and collaboration opportunities and the mic is in our hands. No more waiting around to be picked, you get to pick yourself and there’s a space for everyone to be heard, no matter your message.
With great power though, comes great responsibility and sometimes the boundaries need to be re-assessed and repainted. A Social Detox has always been the best way for me to go to ground and reconnect when I feel like I have slipped into the mindless scroll and have a bad case of “tech neck”. I feel that after just a few days of zero notifications, my thoughts become clearer and after a few more opportunities to just be bored, my creativity really comes alive. As much as Instagram is an amazing platform for showcasing your work as a creative or an entrepreneur, it can also be the very thing that makes your inspiration run dry. Instagram can sometimes be such an instantly gratifying interaction for me, that I actually end up not really making anything worthwhile but rather opt for bite size content that gets a quick reaction. Courses, content, campaigns and blog posts never get to see the light of day because I always seem to run out of time but have nothing to show for it. This oftentimes results in heightened anxiety and a sense of urgency that feels uncomfortable.
So just how do you go dark? How do you ghost your need to post and how the hell do you manage to carry on without the ability to capture your morning cuppa for the world to see? This is my tried and tested strategy for a vacay off the The Gram.
- Temporarily deactivate your account or change your password
This would depend on just how invisible you would like to be during your break. Do you need to stay visible for your collabs, future business opportunities or just so that your friends don’t think you’ve ditched them for good or would you relish the thought of not existing for those few sweet and silent weeks? You can choose. I have done both. I’ve temporarily deactivated my account which is great for an “out of sight, out of mind” feeling, and I have left my account active but got someone to change the password for me. I would suggest someone you trust to help you with this and certainly someone who won’t forget your password! If you are booking out of Facebook too, you can temporarily deactivate your account like this. Make sure you remove the apps off your mobile device and even try out a social blocker if that suits you better. OFFLINE, BlockSite and Freedom have helped me out.
2. To ghost or not to ghost, that is the question
You do not need to explain your need for reticence to anyone and sometimes people won’t always understand. I find it way easier to silently bow out without warning and then bust back in like Slim Shady for a little performative drama. Jokes aside, you do what feels right. You may want your community to join you on a social media vacay, you may want to raise awareness around the value of mental health and time alone or you may just want to let people know what’s potting for admin purposes. There is no right or wrong way to do this, only your way. Just remember that you are doing this for YOU.
3. Decide how long you want to take leave before you leave
I find it much easier to decide how long I will be disappearing for, before I go off because there’s a short withdrawal period ( I wish I was joking but it’s real ) from the scroll and it’s easy to fall back on your intentions if you haven’t held yourself accountable. If you are starting out why not try the weekend, then a week, 2 weeks and eventually a month or more! Having a set date allows you to truly relax and takes off a bit of the pressure to show up. It also helps hold yourself accountable when the itch to scroll tries to sweet talk your brain.
4. Observing your process and using your time to reflect
So you are silent to the world, now what? You can expect a short few days of social media withdrawal with random and subconscious phone fumbling, only to realise you’ve deleted the app. I find that journaling during this time is incredibly helpful. For the most part we post in order to have a conversation and what better way to fill the vacuum than by having the conversation with yourself and all the voices in your head! Sometimes it can be a painful conversation and sometimes you are being cheered on and hyped up. Either way, you are growing and that’s why we came here in the first place is it not?
5. Spring clean after you holiday
Anyone that has gone away for some time and then come home knows the joy of a spring clean to start the next chapter. I find such joy in doing the same when I get back on socials. I trawl through the accounts I follow and cull any account that I feel is not contributing to my awareness, happiness or growth. Follow fewer accounts that really make an impact rather than hundreds of accounts that clog up your feed and contribute to your scrolling tunnel. Your high school acquaintance from 20 years ago will understands, trust me.
I’m writing to you from week 2 of my third month-long digital detox and It’s no secret I am a huge fan and cannot recommend this break enough. So far, I have written multiple blog posts, cooked incredible meals, photographed them and read a life changing book. Just the medicine I was looking for. If you have been waiting for the sign to switch off, here it is, and if the thought of this terrifies you, then you may need this more than you thought you did! Come to the dark side, your best work is waiting.