Last year I wrote and spoke this letter to Instagram. I have now taken my focus away from the platform and put energy into my blog, SEO and email list. Results are starting to show and I’m feeling much calmer and focused on my creative dreams rather than comparing myself to what others are doing. Is it time for you take a step back too? I felt called to share this again as it’s still a path I’m walking now.
It’s been a while since we first met- over 10 years now. Things started out really fun. I used all the different filters you offered me, and enjoyed capturing moments of my life like a visual diary. I didn’t care who saw these shots or not- a few friends and family that was fine. Sometimes I just posted images and no words. I had never heard of hashtags.
But then after a few years, things started to change. You started appearing on more and more people’s phones. You wanted exposure. You enjoyed people using you. You realised you could generate a lot of money if you started doing things differently.
At first, I didn’t notice these changes. They seemed harmless enough.
I found great comfort connecting with other new mums in the same situation as me. I thought how lovely it was of you to connect us all together. New mums at home at our wits end, now not feeling so alone. All along, you had another motive.
A few months of this and without realising, I had become addicted to the validation of likes and comments mostly from strangers you gave me about my daily life and choices as a new mum. You started giving me new followers. It was so exciting to open your pinky-purple icon and and count the new likes, comments and follows. What better way to feel like I was a good mum when I was still figuring it all out. Maybe I could even make a positive impact sharing my beliefs around equality and flexible working?
Over the next two years we got really close. I thought we were working as a partnership. I thought you were supporting me to achieve my goals. You updated yourself and kept adding new features – stories, lives, following hashtags, adding booking buttons, products… it was like getting a new toy at Christmas each time. Playing around and figuring these tools out. I even helped you by introducing you to many others like me and helping them get close to you. You rewarded me with the coveted swipe up- now I could link to wherever I wanted! How exciting!
The likes started decreasing. It was like you were getting bored of me and what I had to say. Only by paying would you bother to really connect with me. Or by me posting cheap laughs with meaningless memes. Like the digital version of fast food. You told me nothing had changed, but it definitely did. Whether it was me seeing through you, or you chasing new horizons.
Then you started threatening to take away the swipe up I had worked so hard to achieve. You knew you had the power to take it away as easy as when you’d given it to me-. I pushed hard to keep it, how could you take this away- I had earned it. Like being threatened with a demotion whilst someone younger and less qualified was promoted above me. I thought I had been playing by the rules. But you kept changing them.
After a few months of this, I realised you had been using me. All those hours, that photo editing, the crafting of posts for you to share. You weren’t my partner, you just wanted to take all I had to give. You didn’t care if I wasn’t present with family, you were like the popular kid at school- only after what they could get from people. Not interested in a real relationship.
I spent more time away from you and instead spent time with nature, connecting to the beautiful moon. The moon is after all real and does not consist of human-created code and algorithms. What even is an algorithm? It’s so cold and uncaring… the computer says no. You saying no didn’t bother me anymore.
And within a few weeks, you did take your swipe up back. And you know what, it felt like a relief! I didn’t have to strive to keep it anymore. Many of the followers you sent me dropped away as I reconnected with myself. And with each one I felt myself get lighter. I knew the people who really mattered to me would find another way to connect with me without you as the conduit. What was the point of posting stuff that I wasn’t fully behind just to keep you happy?
FINALLY, I could be with those I loved without processing my life in terms of what would make a good post- it did take a few weeks. At first, every time something funny happened or I saw a lovely sunset, I thought I had to share it with you. But capturing it and keeping it for myself was more special. I started a photography course and through the lens I was able to start seeing more of life again. To widen my own horizons instead of being stuck in your squares and your rules.
That I must always be consistent, and if my post doesn’t do well don’t you feel some responsibility about how that makes me feel? Just because I didn’t post it at exactly the optimal time and commit to spending an hours time of ‘engagement’?!
You know that you are tapping into an ancient part of my brain that craves social interaction. It is so hard to resist that allure of the little red badge icon- how many notifications have you given me since we first connected I wonder- hundreds of thousands?!
After all you had never really told me anything, just very strongly implied it and reinforced it with likes and comments from strangers. I had fooled myself that it was a partnership. I now know I need to be better at setting and sticking to my own boundaries.
I now know that being present with people in the same room as me – not algorithms somewhere in cyberspace is what truly fills me up.
I have flipped the dynamic.
When you used me, I just wanted to look good. Now I connect with that feeling in my heart and stomach as my true guide. Whether it looks ‘good’ or not. Whether it gets liked or not.
You know you are incredibly powerful and I have to respect you for creating that for yourself. But I don’t have to subscribe to your way of doing things. I’ve learnt there is another way, and I’m still working on making sure my boundaries don’t crumble again around you and your power.”
If it’s time for you to step away from Instagram, consider joining my membership The Intuitive Business Academy– in May we have a training about how you can switch your focus away from Instagram (or other social channels) and find a way of taking off the pressure it can often add to running a business, without tangible results.