Why I am Leaving Instagram

It’s finally time to bid goodbye to one of my most favourite platforms

Image via Canva, modified by the author

When I think of just one word to describe my journey with Instagram, the word that easily comes to mind is love. I’ve loved the interactions on this platform more than on any other. Because while I used Facebook as a mish-mash of personal and blog updates, Twitter for a variety of reasons and Pinterest purely for blog traffic, it was Instagram that stole my heart when it came to understanding nuance and depth in terms of valuable connections.

And the way I’ve used it? The way Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, the original founders of Instagram, encouraged us to use it — as a photo-sharing tool to connect with friends. It’s why I stayed away from doing all of the distracting things on this platform and focused almost exclusively on images to convey my message.

My sole purpose on Instagram was to create content and connect with people. That’s it. And even as I leave Instagram today, that hasn’t changed.

What Changed About Instagram

Instagram is now very different from what it originally set out to be.

There’s more emphasis on going viral, exploding one’s reach, and staying on the hamster wheel of likes, comments, saves, and shares. While there is a very deliberate way to steer clear of all of these traps (and it’s one I’ve navigated fairly well, if I am being honest), it shouldn’t have to be this way.

We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our time, intentions and our attention to constantly seek validation in one form or another. It’s what Srinivas Rao emphasises in one of my all-time favourite articles: The Hidden Dangers of Confusing Attention with Accomplishment

As someone who loves to talk about the value of the right metrics to measure in our digital lives, there’s been a quiet voice speaking in the background that asks me a compelling question: “Are you 100% sure that the attention you get from Instagram doesn’t impact you even a tiny bit?”

And so, here I am, stepping back and out of the spotlight that Instagram shines on my work and letting myself slip into a space where I am most comfortable, out of the limelight: my website.

On Stillness & Learning

I’ve heard it said that reading doesn’t help your business move forward; writing does.

But the truth is, the more I read, the more I go inward and the more it makes me reflect on the need for quiet and stillness, even as a business owner. In the last two years alone, I’ve read a whole range of books and articles on an entire spectrum of topics covering social media, technology, deep work, mastery, deliberate practice, gentle productivity, writing, and the art of forming lasting relationships.

After close to a decade and a half on social media, I am in that space where I am deeply reflecting on my need to have a presence on any social media platform. I’m not frustrated or angry or annoyed with social media; not anymore. I think the better word would be that I am now viewing it through the lens of value — both in terms of what I can offer my audience and in terms of what I can receive from the people I follow.

This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t stepped back and chosen to spend time in some quiet contemplation, away from the water hose of information that’s constantly turned on, thanks to the infinite nature of these platforms. I’d love to continue creating content but do it on my first and favourite space — my blog. It’s a piece of my heart and my second baby (after my actual baby) and always will be.

The world today is faster — so much faster — than what we’re accustomed to. It’s affecting us in ways that we don’t really understand. It’s critical to think about the impact of all that speed on our minds, bodies and our outlook. What if we took the time to be still? To pause and to listen to what our world is telling us?

There’s much to be said for doing things differently and it’s my ardent hope that more of us can find that stillness when we most need it.

Also Read: The Power of Stillness in an Age of Constant Movement

On Time Spent Well

The average human lifespan is 71.5 years, or 37,580,400 minutes. How should you spend these precious life-minutes? What’s the ideal use of your time?

-Alexandra Franzen, The Checklist Book

I don’t think any of us truly, deeply realize what it means to spend our time on social media platforms. Yes, of course, we gain valuable connections and we can market our books, services, and products, but what do we sacrifice when we do this? Time spent in deep, deliberate, focused work.

How long does it take to become an expert at what you do? In a couple of wonderful essays on these topics, James Clear, the author of the bestselling book, Atomic Habits, explains that it can take between 18 to 254 days for a habit to set. But it can take up to 10 years for you to become an expert at what you do.

Two years ago, I did a 100-day countdown to the new year on Instagram and asked people to join me on the challenge. It was called ‘100 Days of walking’ — not at all an original idea- and was designed to inspire/motivate people to move more, get fitter and healthier.

Looking back, I understand why it didn’t really last. For one thing, it was for the wrong reasons — reaching a goal of 100 days. For another, it didn’t have an important element built in — the power of deliberate practice. And finally, I wasn’t in great shape, so it was very stupid of me to be telling other people to get in shape when I couldn’t do it myself. At some level, I believed that if I encouraged others it would give me the accountability necessary to start working on my own fitness.

Unfortunately, motivation and inspiration are very unreliable companions when it comes to improvement. What you need are two other friends: Deliberate Practice and the Right Intention.

One of the best people who is credited with embodying Deliberate Practice is 20th-century golfer, Ben Hogan. Reading about Hogan reminds me of the way my husband approaches his golf practice at home — practicing a swing 100, 200, 500 times until he gets better at it.

In a nutshell, deliberate practice signifies how you can continually tweak and improve your performance in a particular space, measure your progress and stretch yourself a bit more with each practice session.

If you’re just doing something for fun, there’s no need to worry about practice. But if you want to reach an expert level, you need to include deliberate practice in your routine.

If you’re really in the game for improvement, get ready to dig your heels in.

And when I thought about this deeply, quietly and without the distraction of social media, the question that emerged was: What will I be immensely proud of when it comes to my last few days on earth?

I am pretty sure that nobody will talk about the number of followers I had on Instagram or how I spent 30 minutes a day on the platform and still managed to be intentional about it all.

Or to put it another way:

What you pay attention to will define, for you, what reality is.

— Oliver Burkeman

On Living Life Queen Size

There’s really nothing in the online world that can compete with a stroll through lush green tea fields or the feeling of the wind blowing in your face as you take a speedboat out on the backwaters of Kerala.

What can possibly match up to curling up with an engrossing book, wrapped in a comfortable blanket with a hot mug of chocolate by your side?

To laugh until your sides hurt when your 5-year-old nephew performs monkey tricks to cheer you up

To smile when your teen daughter wakes you up from deep slumber to whisper that your evening tea is ready to drink

To cook a meal slowly, langourously, waiting for the wafting aroma of spices that tell you that lunch is ready to be served

To thread a needle through a buttonhole and watch with fascination as the thread fastens a tiny piece of plastic onto a sweater

To lose yourself for hours together as you put together the words for a book that is nestled inside your heart, waiting to burst forth

To sing from the fullness of your throat as the notes soar to a space that cannot be contained by your being

And to do it all, without having to talk about it on social media? There’s a sense of liberation there that cannot be fully explained.

The Idea of Enough

To be perfectly honest with you, I owe a great deal to social media for visibility, growth, connections, and my business. As long as I could compartmentalize the various things in my life, social media was wonderful in so many different ways.

I was also very conscious and very intentional about how I used Instagram, specifically. In fact, I created a fairly successful course around that topic. It’s one of my proudest achievements if you ask me.

However, today, I am at a stage of what I can describe, quite simply as good enough. Social media, in all its forms, is a lot like money or technology. It all depends on how much you use it and for what purpose. But before all of that you have to ask yourself the question: “Do I really need social media?” But most people ask this one: “How much can I use social media to build my business?”

The reason they do that is that they’ve heard from so many coaches (self-included), that social media is a great way to build visibility for your work. That isn’t entirely untrue, by the way. But there comes a point in your life when you must examine this from a dispassionate angle and ask yourself when it will be enough.

In his fabulous book, The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel says:

“The hardest financial skill is getting the goalpost to stop moving.”

Housel goes on to share an anecdote of famous writer Joseph Heller, the author of the seminal satirical novel, Catch 22

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough.”

Enough. I was stunned by the simple eloquence of that word-stunned for two reasons: first, because I have been given so much in my own life and, second, because Joseph Heller couldn’t have been more accurate.

For a critical element of our society, including many of the wealthiest and most powerful among us, there seems to be no limit today on what enough entails.

As this message became louder over the latter half of 2021, I found myself thinking about exactly how necessary social media was to the survival of my business. The answer was that I could manage quite well without it.

I’ve shared my journey and my reasons with you all as a way for you to think deeply about this question. I don’t have a clear-cut answer because your circumstances will be very different from mine.

I’ve been blogging for 15 years and was using social media actively for my business for a little over 2 years. However, I realized halfway through my 2nd year of using Instagram that I didn’t really need social media to let people know about my work. To date, most of my clients who work with me find me through one of these channels: My website, my newsletters, and word-of-mouth referrals from other fabulous business owners with whom I have built a relationship of trust and empathy.

If you’re thinking about giving up social media, here’s what I recommend. Try taking a break from it for a month or so and aim to cultivate these other channels. If you find that you can move away from social media without impacting your business, then by all means, welcome to the other side.

There’s nothing to compare with the feeling of letting things go when you know the time has come. And without anger, frustration, anxiety or FOMO, it is time to say

“Goodbye, Instagram and thank you for everything.”

How to Stay in Touch with Me

I send a free weekly newsletter every Friday, filled with tips on intentional living, growing an authentic audience and using time well. Basically, it’s whatever I also talked about regularly on Instagram. You can sign up for that here.

I also send a free marketing newsletter where I talk about my upcoming courses, workshops, e-books and more. That goes out twice a month and you can get more details plus check out previous editions of the newsletter here.

If you’re inclined towards audio formats of content, my podcast is something you may enjoy.

As for my written work, follow my blog and my Medium page as well.

If you’d like to get in touch with me for anything at all, even to just say that you LOVED my writing (ha ha, kidding), my email address is shailaja@shailajav.com

Further Reading:

I Took a 60-Day Sabbatical From Social Media

Why I Deleted My Twitter Account with over 5000 Followers

Originally published at https://shailajav.com on March 14, 2022.

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Shailaja V

Shailaja V

Digital minimalist. Writer. Bibliophile. Coach: I teach creators how to grow an organic audience without the overwhelm. More about me: www.shailajav.com