I’ve been in my Bali Happy Place for the past four weeks… but if you follow me, you would never have known that.
Even though it’s my fourth time here, it also felt like a maiden voyage… for when I arrived, I realized if I wanted to be happy in this place, I would need to heal my toxic relationship with Instagram.
After seven years of working as a digital entrepreneur, I had burned out of my Instagram business page and my online “life” had begun to make me feel like a fraud. It was here, in this Bali Insta paradise, when I realized there was never going to be a good time to reflect on the bad habits I have developed with my hands and Instagram. So I began right there.
But let’s start off on a high note… and the fact that we live in an amazing time known as The Information Age. It first shook me while I was at a New York Times “Art For Tomorrow” conference in Doha, Qatar and a California art gallery owner said, “We are in the middle of the beginning of an Industrial Revolution called The Internet and the future will be very different.”
That sentence blew my mind.
Think about it… An Industrial Revolution… like the lightbulb… like the Railroad… like the Radio… And today … like the Internet. And the future will be very different.
It’s crazy to think about how fast this internet revolution has changed the way we communicate since 2009. (Pre instagram!) Or even more insane, since 1999. (What up modems and You’ve Got Mail!)
As an early adapter to social media and blogging, I became very well versed in sharing… well, everything. While I am incredibly thankful that instagram stories weren’t available during my college frat partying days, I did join “The Facebook” as a senior at the University of New Hampshire in November of 2004.
Looking back, I am also grateful to have been able to consciously enter social media at 21 years old, during a stage and age where I was old enough to know better and still young enough to make a few mistakes.
But today, we live in a digital world where consciousness and social media are not hand in hand. I can’t assume that we just “know better” and I wholeheartedly take responsibility that I have made more than a couple of mistakes, especially on the “newer” platforms of Instagram and Instagram stories.
Let me also state for the record (wow this is beginning to sound so formal!) that I am oh so thankful for all Social Media and have made a thriving business over the past eight years using the free (yes, FREE!) platforms. Hell, I write this from Bali after working my tail off by creating a business that capitalizes off of Instagram, so I do know that much good and abundance can come out of using these tool as one to connect.
But see, that’s the thing… Instagram is a tool… and like a hammer, it can be very helpful when you want to put some photos up… but when used unconsciously, Instagram is that same hammer that has the ability to leave a major head injury.
Let’s go deep here and authentically connect as I ask you a very personal question about an intimate connection…
What is your relationship with your phone and Instagram?
And even more important, because if you’re anything like me and you love/loathe it, how can you start right now and begin to heal it?
HERE ARE MY FIVE STEPS
BEGIN WITH THE BURNING QUESTION
Just for today…
When you find yourself scrolling on Instagram…
Why am I on Instagram?
Take a moment and see how you’re feeling while you’re scrolling. Is the content fueling or draining you? Are you digesting this content on the toilet? Are you on this app to procrastinate for what you really need to be doing? Is Instagram making you feel lonely? Are those constant happy posts triggering your deep unhappiness? Are those engagement ring pix making you feel less than with your current nonexistent relationship status? Did that umpteenth baby photo make you anxious about how your biological clock is ticking? (#askingforafriend)
STOP. For just one minute, stop where you are, and start to recognize that you are completely in control of what you consume … and if you’ve oversaturated yourself with so many accounts to the point where you don’t know who YOU are anymore?
Well congratulations, my friend.
This is your turning point.
GET MORE CURIOUS
Begin to go deeper and ask yourself,
Is anything sacred to me?
Start pondering what, in your life right now, do you hold sacred. Is it your kids faces? Your relationship? Your time in bed at night? Your daily runs? Your morning ritual? Your hard earned vacations? (I so often documented my tropical island vacay life for everyone else and now realize I never, just for one day, tried to live my vacation phone free.)
Lets go further… What sacred moment(s) do you want to start distancing yourself from documenting all the time?
And hey, I’m not saying go cold turkey on Thanksgiving and not take any photos of the grandkids and all that family, feast and fun… I’m saying get conscious about how often you’re pulling your phone out, especially during the holidays… Especially when you have such valuable, yet limited, time to connect offline with those you love.
BEWARE OF NOT BEING AWARE
If you start with basic AWARENESS, you can begin to create PHONE BOUNDARIES. Welcome to the foundation of this healing process.
Begin by having the courage to view your Screen Time and feel in your body if the number you see makes you clap, cringe or cry. Whatever that energy in motion is, it’s the first step to phone consciousness. Once you know which apps you are spending excess time on, (and you can’t un-know those numbers!) you can begin to understand where and if you need to change your digital app habits.
I wholeheartedly recommend setting up the Instagram Time Limit to a half hour per day… Use it like a kid at recess. Think of it as your free time to run wild and see what 30 minutes of being social on social media looks like to you on this new daily basis. If you need to get out content on Instagram for your business, think of Instagram Time Limit as the most amazing tool to help you with a much needed 30-minute self imposed deadline.
REMEMBER: You are the captain of your Instagram ship, and you can set your journey’s length to any amount you desire. Just be conscious of how long you want to be out to digital sea for.
FIND WIDE OPEN SPACES
My breakthrough was realizing my brain was “out of storage” from too much news and newsfeeds. I became aware that so much of my social media burnout was from unconsciously consuming too many other people’s content. I opened up Instagram constantly, to the point where my pointer finger already touched the app before my brain knew what I was doing. By the fall, the overconsumption began to stunt my own creativity.
I was completely overnetworked, overfriended, and overfollowing. The result was that I had developed a malnourished sense of self. The cure? It was not Glamping or the Greek Isles, but conscious TIME and SPACE away from my phone, especially from posting and consuming all the time.
What needed to change was not Instagram, my job, my network or my business that I had spent a decade passionately building.
It was that I needed to change.
I needed to shift my perspective from looking down at my phone all the time to looking out in to this great world again. It was out there, in pristine, perfectly imperfect nature that I finally got back to me again.
So where can you begin? (After you have checked out your screen time of course!)
- TAKE A WALK WITHOUT YOUR PHONE Just get up and start with a solid stroll outside. No headphones, no podcasts, no music… just you and the sound of your feet hitting the ground and the feel of your eyes wide open
- GET FAMILIAR WITH THE MUTE FUNCTION Further your conscious journey on Instagram by muting 5 accounts that trigger you. (Yes, MUTE is the most amazing starter before the “unfollow” button)
- PICK A WEEKEND TO GET QUIET Look at your calendar and figure out your next calm “weekend” (or two days off) is and commit to trying to be 100% phone free during that 48 hours. Pencil it in as something to look forward to.
- AND ON THE MOST BASIC LEVEL… Finish by turning off all unnecessary notifications (and yes, most are completely unnecessary)
EXAMINE YOUR FRIENDSHIP
Make believe Instagram is actually Insta Gram, an actual human being… and then believe that over the past few years, you and Insta have become friends.
- Is Insta your fun friend that you crave to hang out with and leaves you feeling inspired and laughing hysterically?
- Is Insta that little energy vampire that immediately starts talking shit to you and and makes you feel like your life is going to hell in a hand basket?
- Is Insta that perfect Varsity Blues head cheerleader that always looks perfect with #nofilter and in turn makes you feel like Shrek when you two walk hand in hand down the street?
- Is your gal pal Insta the one who you deeply connect with… who gives you the chance to vent, to be your true genuine self and just sits there and listens without any judgement?
Start thinking about having a conscious friendship with your friend Insta. And while you’re at it… treat Insta the way you want to be treated. Don’t just use her as your garbage can to dump all your trashy, viscous thoughts in. Don’t abuse her by using her to write careless comments that you don’t want to be held accountable for, or to start mean spirited direct message threads that you would never say to someone’s face in real life. Don’t waste Insta’s time and scroll her endlessly for hours with no intention of doing anything on her because you’re just avoiding hanging out with yourself.
You know, the true message of this piece is that your girl Insta is actually just you, in digital form.
You’ll discover that Insta Gram is just a mirror of who you are, how you currently feel, and how you choose to position yourself in the world right now.
And the best part? Is that you are in control of this friendship! So do you want to hang out and spark each other? Or are you more interested in using each other to avoid taking responsibility for your life and your goals?
You see, a subtle shift happened for me while I was taking time away… I checked in on my girl Insta once and awhile and realized how much I missed connecting with all my other friends and followers. I remembered why I started… because I truly do love sharing travels, my love for happy places and my zest for life. I also absolutely thrive off of seeing what’s going on in other peoples lives and showing insta love through likes and DM’s for all their big and small milestones. (Just like they do for me!)
So for the first time in six years, I honored this shift by changing my handle from my business name to mine.
Because hey, I didn’t just write this for my Thrive friends…. I wrote this to heal the relationship between me and my girl @HollyblACKbook