My Relationship With Instagram

Oh, Instagram.

I get asked a lot about this little app. Most people want to know how I grew, how I edit my photos, which hashtags I use — that sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy strategizing about social media. I listen to podcasts and chat with other bloggers. One day, hopefully very soon, I’ll have a blog post answering all of the questions I’ve been asked over the last few months.

But today, I want to talk about social media boundaries.

I will never forget my first experience with Instagram. It was my freshman year of college, and my friend Savana told me about this amazing photo editing app with all of these ‘super cool filters.’ They were revolutionary at the time. So, that day I took about a hundred horrible pictures — some selfies, even — and edited them on the photo editing app that was Instagram.

Except, it was not simply a photo editing app, I discovered about a month later, when I was asked for my “Instagram handle” and realized that the entire world could see what I thought was my hidden camera roll. Yikes.

It took about a year or so for Instagram to become my social media platform of choice, and I really loved putting posts together, taking photos with friends, thinking up captions, and being creative in a way that felt very accessible to me.

Fast forward about five years to the summer that Aaron and I decided to make the move from California to Kentucky. I was already going through so much transition — friendships were changing, I was making a career move, and we’d only been married for six months — and I wanted to have a real fresh start. I didn’t want anyone back home knowing anything about my new life without hearing it from my lips, and I didn’t want anyone I met to have any preconceived notions of me based on my social media presence. So, I archived all my photos, deleted the app, and went off the grid.

I am so glad I made that decision. It allowed me to fully immerse myself in my new life. But, of course, being the rather extreme person I am, I went around telling everyone how horrible and damaging social media is. Ha. There’s some truth to that, but I think it’s easy to be extreme — to be totally obsessed with something or completely against it — and it’s a lot more difficult to be balanced and moderate.

Well, I could write an entire post about my year off of social media and another about how I started an Instagram account to sell clothes, which turned into an OOTD account, which turned into this blog. But, I’ve got to stay focused…

Here are five of my social media boundaries:

1. I don’t follow anyone I know in real life.

Yes, you read that right. One thing I learned from not using Instagram is that my relationships IRL are better without it. But that’s just me, personally. Maybe for you, Instagram should be a place where you only follow people you know and want to keep up with regularly. Whatever your answer is, know that who you follow has influence in your life, even if you don’t follow “influencers.” They have access to you and can affect you in ways you might not realize.

2. I set a timer.

When I first started my IG, I had social media timers to prevent some of the negative effects social media had on my life in the past. However, as I started working with more brands, I thought that I needed to be on Instagram more and took the timers off. When I look back, it’s clear that I didn’t need to devote more time to Instagram, I just needed to change my mindset. I have the timers back on now, which brings me to my next point…

3. I create for my blog, not for Instagram.

This is SUCH a huge one. Every time I see an influencer ask her followers if they still read blogs, I cringe. WHO CARES. The content created for Instagram lasts about two seconds in people’s minds, if that. The stories disappear forever. Yes, it’s a fun way to connect with people, but if that’s your main creative outlet, you’re going to get burnt out because it’s impossible to keep up. The more I focus on creating content that I think is worthwhile in the long run, the better I feel. I share on Instagram to reach a broader audience, but when I create, I have my blog in mind. Because it’s all mine. No one is looking at my website next to someone else’s, unlike on Instagram, where they scroll past my photo and it’s onto the next!

For some of my favorite bloggers who do this incredibly well, check out Jess With Less, Un-fancy, and Natalie Borton.

4. I ignore the numbers.

Some of my favorite photos have “performed” terribly. Some lame photos I took in five seconds and posted without thinking have “performed” incredibly well. Yes, the numbers matter. They allow me to work with brands I love and receive better compensation for my work. But the numbers are impossible to control, and whenever I think they matter, I lose creativity and motivation. No one besides me even notices! (Except Aaron, who is obsessed with checking my analytics .)

5. I scroll like I’m flipping through a magazine.

Especially now that I have the timers back on, my time on the gram is limited. When I’m waiting in line for coffee or need a break from work, I don’t just grab my phone and start scrolling. I have to make a decision: Am I going to respond to comments and DMs right now? Am I going to check out what my favorite bloggers are up to and respond to their work? If I just need a break, I grab my kindle! And I feel much more refreshed after taking an intentional rest. That said, when I do decide to scroll, I’m careful to only follow other creatives that make me feel positive and motivated. I make sure the content on my feed is full of things I love. You wouldn’t pick up the same magazine over and over again in a single a day and flip through the same pages, would you? I also try to limit my Instagram time to one chunk in my day instead of spreading it thin. I find it to be much more interesting that way!

These boundaries are the only way that I can have a sustainable relationship with social media that will allow me to continue blogging without it affecting my mental health! What boundaries do you have with Instagram? Let me know in the comments!