Some people thrive in the social media arena. However, others find it a battle not worth fighting.
Before my most recent post to Instagram, I had not posted for about four weeks. I didn't make an immediate decision after that post on August 31. I was so busy with other stuff that I just neglected it. After a week of not constantly checking my phone, I decided that I would just take a break for a while. And I wish I could say that I was happily surprised with my decision. I was happy, yes, but I certainly wasn't surprised. I've known for a while now that the constant hustle of social media was having a significant effect on my mood.
I've talked briefly before about my own issues with anxiety and how I use photography to combat it. This is the other side of the coin, though. On this side, we have the hustle and grind that I associate with photography. Flashy one-upmanship mixed with high-profile collaborations, hot models, and exotic destinations. This sounds bitter, and to be honest, when I'm in that mode of, I'll call it "Insta-hustle," I do get jealous. I think I'm not alone in that, and I'm definitely guilty of it, too. I had to ask myself as I started writing this article: "Was I posting about my trip to Africa this past summer to promote my brand, or was it just my time to shine, so I gave my ego a good polishing?" Where that feeling of being left behind might drive others to get up earlier to catch that sunrise up a mountain with a cloud inversion and double rainbow, it seems to have the exact opposite effect on me.
Just. One. More. Like. Photo by Benjamin Sow on Unsplash
I did manage to stay with it for a while, regularly posting, because I was convinced that I needed to keep up with the rest of the gang, and, of course, social media is important for my business. After taking this step back, however, I've realized that I'm not even using Instagram properly as it pertains to my business. Most of my income comes from interiors and commercial gigs. All I've been using Instagram for is my landscapes, with some stories of my commercial stuff peppered throughout the year. So, what am I doing other than feeding my ego and nurturing my anxiety? Not much, I'd say.
I posted again recently and I reverted back to the same behavior, constantly checking my phone to see how many likes I'm getting. "I usually get more likes than this. Oh, God. Maybe I suck. I wonder what Kim Kardashian is up to?" Most of the time, when I check Instagram, I've actually picked up my phone to check my calendar or emails. Five hours later, I'm in the fetal position, mumbling about follower-to-like ratios.
Queen Bae is crushing it... Oh dear God, what has become of me? Photo by Nik Shuliahin via Unsplash
I've nothing against anybody who uses Instagram in the ways I've alluded to above. In fact, I really admire people who can keep on top of it. But in that moment, in that Insta-hustle mindset, the green monster rears its head. I resent the fact that people are doing better than me and I chastise myself for not being better or trying hard enough. That's a toxic attitude to have, and it's not the kind of person I want to be. People are making something of themselves, by themselves, and they're working bloody hard to do it. I work hard too, but not in the same way. I thought that I needed to replicate other Instagrammers to have the life that I envisioned, but if it's affecting my piece of mind in the manner that it is, then I need to re-evaluate my approach. I need to ask myself a number of questions:
- Where is most of my income coming from?
- Where do I want most of my income to come from?
- What kind of lifestyle do I want?
- Who is my target audience?
- How do they find me?
- Can I cast the kind of net that doesn't end up giving me a heart attack, a stroke, or a month in an institution?
That last one sounds like a bad joke, but I am completely serious. It's widely known that overuse of social media can have detrimental effects on ones health. Not everyone uses social media like that, but as I read thorough articles like the one I just linked, I realize that I show almost all the symptoms that they list.
Jenny is doing star trails at Monument Valley again? Damn you, Jenny. Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
I'm not entirely sure where this is taking me. Without a doubt, I feel that I need to take another step back from Instagram. After that, I need to ask the questions that I've listed above, and take action accordingly.
What about our readers? Has Instagram sullied your experiences with photography? More importantly, is it having an impact on your mental health?