Back in the spring I gave myself a 10 week hiatus from Instagram. Despite being a useful platform for visual artists, I found that I was being steered by my 'likes' or absence of them and the little love hearts were starting to alter my decision making in the studio. If a post didn't receive a bundle of likes I would find self doubt creeping in, (rather than a healthy and critical self appraisal of my work). I also found the app too addictive and having been a member on and off since way back, it is only recently that I've found myself compulsively checking the home page. This could be a result of other reasons and I'm sure the pandemic has changed my relationship with my phone but these apps are designed to keep us coming back for more. So anyway, those issues were my main reasons to give myself a break.
What happened really surprised me. I was hoping for better sleep - and it came. And with the sleep I had more spring in my step the next day. I found I was listening to my family more and was less distracted. I think my son noticed the difference straight away and I enjoyed watching his face light up when he knew I was really listening. Just that actually would be enough but, there is more. I completed household jobs faster and more thoroughly, which gave me more time in the studio. In the studio, my work evolved, became stronger and I was more productive. I also made my own decisions again, rather than being a bit too keen to share new work and waiting for some kind of validation or direction in either likes or comments. It would be true to say that my self confidence grew during these weeks away.
So that was all brilliant but the icing on the cake for me was the reduction of anxiety. I don't blame Instagram for my anxiety, it will always be there on some level but the benefits of leaving - increased sleep, confidence in own decision making, building a strong work ethic and routine without the distraction of my phone - all of these benefits decreased my anxiety massively.
Anyway, after roughly 10 weeks, feeling absolutely brilliant I decided that it would be a good idea to log back in. In hindsight I realise this was bonkers and that is partly why I'm writing this all down because I tend to forget and writing helps me work things out and remember. I decided I would rejoin with some rules...
1. Set an app timer for 15 minutes...which changed to 20, then 30, then 1 hour, then 90 minutes over the following weeks
2. Only check it once a day...nope
3. Not post everything I was up to in the studio - I stuck to this one
4. Encourage others - this is tricky when the Instagram algorithm only shows about 10% of the people you follow and the golden retriever reels send you down a rabbit hole for 20 mins whilst sitting on the loo. This is too much of my life in very small increments that I will not get back. And life feels more delicate and precious these days.
The rules didn't help and all my unhealthier habits have been quietly creeping in. So during one of my sleepless nights this week I decided that was it - and I have not just logged out but permanently deleted it (well they keep it for 4 weeks just in case you change your mind). I'm going to hold on tight to all the good things that came from leaving before and I am so looking forward to some better sleep.