Does life exist apart from Instagram? I wanted to find out. It’s awfully strange for a blogger and brand storyteller to go off the photogenic digital grid of Instagram, but perhaps there was something to be learned from it. In a bold move, I decided to see if I could become one of “those people” who opted out of a life of likes and follows.
(To set the stage, let me first explain a little bit about my decision. I do not think that Instagram is bad. Quite the opposite. When used well, it is an amazing tool for sharing, marketing, and storytelling. In deactivating my accounts, I chose to keep my own personal moments and daily ventures more private. But enough of the fine print.)
I won’t say that it has been completely easy. The temptation to share every single tiny cactus or chai latté is still there, trust me. With a little reflection though, there are some things that I might have missed in a more two dimensional world:
A lack of social media doesn’t make me less creative. (It’s actually the opposite.)
As a person who often needs to get the creative gears turning, I sometimes find myself bursting with ideas and sometimes cannot seem to think of a single thing. It’s tough. Exposure to certain images and ideas has the potential to boost my creativity or give me a little nudge of inspiration. In excess, however, it also has the capacity to rain all over my parade.
Information overload is real. There is a world of endless media at our fingertips, and passive consumption is far easier than active creation. When I step aside from my screen, I can think more clearly. My ideas flow more freely, and good old pen plus paper (plus a nice café or outdoor spot) is sometimes the perfect antidote. It’s like a cup of coffee for the imagination.
Play is more fun, and work is more enjoyable.
Ah, balance. I don’t think that I have met anyone that dislikes balance, but I also don’t think that many people would say they have mastered it. Too much downtime breeds boredom, and too much work breeds burnout. One can’t be appreciated without the other. Likewise, keeping boundaries between personal life and creative work can make both so much more fruitful.
When I am preoccupied with likes and showing the world my photogenic life, little moments get overshadowed by the desire to create something that might just be slightly artificial. Snapping only pressure-free photos, or sometimes no photos at all, is an opportunity to just enjoy things as they come. The little nuances and jokes and moments of spilling matcha latté all over a new dress are so much better when they are taken in fully.
There is also an undeniable high of being on assignment. I thrive on telling stories through pictures and words, but I do it so much better when I can define the time and space reserved for a given project. When I am able to live life with clearer boundaries, I can be more authentic in my work and it becomes more—dare I say it—enjoyable.
Comparison can’t sneak up as easily.
In the moments when I am most content, nothing threatens to dampen my spark quite like the sneaky comparison generator of social media. I know that I am not anyone else, and that’s okay. Trying to be someone else would take away from who I was created to be. But when I scroll through endless photos of people in other places doing other things, my ideas suddenly don’t seem so exciting anymore. The life I have looks more and more dull.
The saying that “comparison is the thief of joy” could not be more true.
I will perhaps go back to Instagram one day. It’s actually quite likely. And I still make use of its power to find new and upcoming people and brands. But now I know that it doesn’t hurt to sometimes just take a break.
Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.