The last few weeks I’ve been in a bit of an Instagram melt down. Spending frantic weekends and evenings scattering petals across notebooks and letting cups of tea go cold as I strive to create images that will break the engagement deadlock that seems to have developed between us and the algorithm.
Every café lunch or walk along a river became a potentially ‘grammable situation as I found various contortions in order to get #handsinframe or the angle where the light hit just so. It is worth noting that although I was taking photos all over the place, 99% of them never reached my grid, never even reached the editing stage. I was so fearful that I would miss a golden opportunity that I was taking all the pewter opportunities as well, and consequently living only in squares and through my iPhone screen.
I was reaching peak Instagram-bore, and something had to give.
So it was timely that Lighthouse Clothing* contacted me to join in on their Simple Things That Make You Happy campaign. Those five words were so basic, so elemental that they caught me off guard – so caught up have I been in photographing and writing about ‘simple things’ that I forgot to focus on the ‘happy’. It was the intervention I needed. If you’ve been suffering with the same Instagram blues, here is my 5 step detox program to get your head out of your phone and start enjoying the summer.
The 5 Step Instagram Detox
I’ve realised that I was hanging a lot of my self worth on Instagram likes, which isn’t a sustainable source of self esteem at the best of times, but especially not in the state of flux Instagram is in at the moment. I was questioning my creativity and even the viability of my business if I ever got below a certain number of likes, and would obsessively refresh a post all night when really I should have just gone and watched the birds in the garden.
I was on a bit of a self-destructive path that would inevitably lead to burn out at a time that I really couldn’t afford burn out. It was time for a mind set shift.
The first thing I did was take a few days off posting. I wasn’t in love with the pictures I’d taken so I just didn’t post them – I went and did real life instead (see below). Not only did this recharge my creativity, but it showed me that the sky doesn’t, in fact, fall in if you’re not on Instagram every day. Who knew?
I had become over-reliant on Instagram as a traffic driver and the home of my community, which is why every time a picture bombed it felt like my life was bombing too. Not only is it sensible from a business point of view to spread your efforts across multiple channels, it’s good for your soul too. By putting more attention back into the blog and setting up my Monthly Mail (sign up here 😉), I had lots of little projects to nourish and pour attention into, rather than fixating one channel I had little control over.
Take back control
For a while I would be angry at Instagram for their changes, and I think that was down to the lack of say I had in everything. For me, as a borderline control freak, I struggled with not being able to control what was going on with my results and engagement over there. Diverting energy into things I can control more, my email list, my writing, my relationships with people, has helped me to feel like I’m back on top and directing everything more, rather that clinging on and bumping along behind the algorithm.
Crucially, I’ve accepted Instagram for what it is: a useful app. It isn’t the cornerstone of my business, it isn’t my creativity, it isn’t the be all and end all – it’s just one of many useful channels available to me. And now, it’s one that I enjoy.
Do something un-Instagrammable
Inspired by the Simple Things That Make You Happy philosophy, the final step in the Instagram rehabilitation is to do something not “for the ‘gram”. To do something for the sake of joy that isn’t in the slightest bit photogenic. So, the first weekend after moving to Wales we spent our Sunday exploring new places, walking the mountians, popping into our new local shops, and topped it all off with a totally un-Instagrammable beach picnic.
A week or so ago I would have insisted on handmaking cheese scones, buying sourdough from the bakery and making sure everything was wrapped in crinkly brown paper. I would have sourced the perfect tartan picnic blanket, bought flowers to take with us and used the good crockery.
Which, writing it now, sounds lovely, but I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I’d have been so wrapped up in getting the angles right, pulling out odd numbers of petals to sprinkle over the plates, silently arranging and re-arranging with my back to Dan while he munched on the one piece of food he was allowed until I was done.
Which isn’t very, well, happy.
As it happened, we went to a supermarket, filled a basket with sausage rolls, sandwiches and cherries, and headed to the dunes. We nestled in a sun trap between the long grass (which coincidentally makes a great coat stand, see above) and watched the waves, laughed as the dog tried to chase our cherry pips, and talked about future plans. And although I can’t deny that there was a pang in my chest when I thought about my lovely pots at home, I was glad that we’d done it simply and happily, rather than in a faux-simple, Instagrammable way.
Since flicking the mindset switch I feel more creative than ever and I’m enjoying photography again. I spend time in an app that inspires me, chatting to people I adore and enjoying growth where it comes. I feel positive about it again. But more than that, I feel more able to put down my phone and go live life – because Instagram isn’t everything anymore.
Even in July the Welsh weather is unpredictable and we usually have wind, rain and blistering sun in one day. I’ve been so glad of my Lighthouse Clothing Rayna Waterproof Parka since moving – it’s kept me warm and dry through two downpours, but is light enough to take off and carry when the sun decides to show its face.
You may be thinking that the red isn’t very me (we all know my love for greige!), but if I get lost up on the mountains I want people to be able to find me – worst case scenario planning and all that. The long line of the coat is perfect for keeping my dry on rainy walks, but my favourite thing is that it also has a cinched in waist which counteracts the length and give you shape – avoiding that ‘big red tent’ look. It’s helped me get out and about (without my phone 😉), and I’m kind of hoping it’s going to become my trademark…
How are you feeling about Instagram at the moment? What are your tips for an un-Instagrammable life?
*This post happened because it was sponsored by Lighthouse Clothing – although all the words are mine and from the heart. A new brand, Lighthouse Clothing is all about being ‘in tune with your surroundings whatever the weather’ – a statement I can get on board with 🙂
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