It has been clear to many of us for a while that using social media is addictive, manipulative and alienating. As an artist, person, and business owner whose values are centered on well-being and meaningful connections, it started to make less and less sense for my work and creative output to exist in a context so steeped in these negative psychological factors so contrary to my creative missions.
Aside from simply not enjoying it and how it affects my mind and attention span, the reason I took my art and small business off of social media boils down to my experience using the app feeling like my creative autonomy was not valuable, and how I don’t want to model that for myself or others.
I started becoming aware that there are specific ways to behave and create content on the app in order to receive the basic function (engagement and connection) on it. What works best changes very frequently, so it is never predictable. The unpredictable reward system has been spoken about from folks who designed it as an intentional and strategic exploitation of human psychology (and in my opinion, our creative energy too) formulated that way to keep people engaging the most, and it is what really started making me feel violated enough to justify leaving.
Creative authenticity is so important to me. Sharing online has been an outlet for expression for me for many years, whether that be personal expression or the way I share about my work. There is one thing I know for sure, and it is that the way I express myself, my art, and my business needs to feel authentic and true (and fun!) in order for me to feel good about sharing it. Otherwise, it is truly not Worthwhile. Honestly.
The message I have been receiving from Instagram in the last few years is that I need to alter the way I express myself, in ways I don’t get to decide for myself, in order get the support I need. And that is just something I have not been willing to believe or do.
As an added layer, I don’t want to be a representative of a creative on that platform! I don't want to be even a tiny bit complicit in a capitalism machine that is designed to make artists, or anyone, feel manipulated or drained. We can joke about it, sure, but at my core it doesn’t feel right to me. It's difficult for me to justify doing something that doesn't feel right to me. I respect myself and others by honoring and prioritizing that feeling. I also say this with the utmost respect and love for anyone reading this who is on social media - I am not judging you for being on it. We are in this together.
The great news:
When I realized that I didn’t like the idea of modifying the way I express myself to please an algorithm to maybe get a reward, I became even more clear on the kind of creative output that I do like to create!
It is so obvious to me now that Instagram is simply not suitable for the kind of creative output about my work that I truly enjoy making. I really enjoy long-form content, such as a post like this on my studio blog with nice big photographs and more writing, or my encouraging newsletter that contextualizes my products and with personal meaning and connection, and my Substack space for sharing my art practice with lessons that inspire me. This is also the type of content I enjoy taking in from others. I am endlessly happy to share in this kind of expression so much that even if it’s a small fraction of the audience I have gained on social media, I am still happier (I am walking away from an account with 50+k followers).
It feels more pleasant, purposeful and truly rewarding to create on my terms, with no ads, distractions or algorithms. Period, end of sentence.
There is something about not being on social media that actually makes me more excited, energized, and free to create and share the types of material that I really do like to make, and I believe this will bring more meaning to running my business, and cultivating the connections that really make me personally thrive.
I believe the happiest kind of business owner and artist is not necessarily the one with the best numerical metrics, but it is the one who is feeling like they are thriving in their process and making things they love!
If the fear is having less of an audience, this has been my big question: What would you rather struggle with?
For me, I would rather struggle with having a smaller audience, scaling my business back a little, and focusing on quality over quantity than to struggle with the negative implications of a phone app that hijacks my energy, truly isn't fun or inspiring for me anymore, and barely even promises me an audience anyway. It’s that simple for me!
As someone who tries to make work that is positive, healthy, uplifting, connecting and joyful, it’s clear to me that my ability to make that work is so much stronger when I am not having my attention span and self respect at the constant risk of being obliterated. As strong as I know I can be to navigate chaos and stay centered, I just don’t really want to do the gymnastics anymore. Not wanting to do something should be enough, and for me, now it is!
A surprising realization:
For a while I have been dipping in and out of being active on the app. I was holding on to "being there" sometimes because I thought it was best to have some connection there. But it turns out, staying even semi-active on instagram because I thought I had an obligation to was actually holding me back.
Without feeling like I have instagram as some net to fall back on, I actually feel more responsibility to prioritize creating and connecting in those other more fulfilling ways I mentioned above, and maybe new ways I haven’t had the space to realize yet.
The more I have distanced myself from social media, the more moments I have had where I realized how much I felt like “I have to be on instagram” to have success as an artist and business owner. This is the other part of this that feels like manipulative abuse - the feeling that we can’t leave, or else we will lose something important and integral to our survival.
Gross! This does not have to be the way.
What I know for sure is that there are so many ways to be successful, and part of this work for me is re-defining success and de-conditioning the messaging we have gotten around success with social media. So much of this is work around mindset and mental deconstruction of concepts, and returning to the realities that are emerging that I didn’t realize were right in front of me the whole time.
My exit is both so significant and strangely nonchalant for me. It’s been a slow burn, as I’ve engaged and participated less and less in social media the last couple of years. I realized that I was spending less time there simply because it felt off, I didn’t like the feeling of being there, didn't like the stuff I was seeing. So, instead of just leaving it hanging on a thread, it feels much cleaner for me to just be intentional about it and stop engaging. I took my time. I felt things out. I became clearer and more confident. My nervous system feels smooth. This transition is ripe.
I’m leaving my accounts up so I can still be tagged and found there, like a business card I’m tossing into the digital wind to float around for whoever to find if they so catch it. ◡̈
This is vulnerable...
I realized that when deciding to leave the one last thing tugging on my mind was the fear that others might think there must be something wrong with me, that my mental health must be on the fritz, or that I was making way too big of a deal of something trivial. This almost made me just play it cool and not share any of this. But the truth is, I am happy to admit that this has been significant for me, and happy share my perspective, even with the realization it might not be everyone's perspective. These are my needs right now, and this is an act of honoring my values, my stability and mental health, an act of self-respect, and an act of deeply knowing and following what is right for me. This choice might not matter or be right for others, but I feel confident that it is what I need in order to grow and thrive.
My statement for you:
As much as I don’t want to make a huge deal about this, another part of me wants my pivot to be a statement to my customers and friends. But the statement is simple. If there is a space that makes you feel bad, you don’t have to go there.
Whatever it is that you need, you can make it work, on your terms, you have more support than you realize. ♡
For the longest time I envied those who had jobs who didn't require them to be on social media. Then I realized the only one requiring myself to be there was myself.
This feels both like returning to a kind of simplicity that I have missed, and opening the door to a new chapter. I am confident that my art, my business and I can still be happy and successful without being on social media, and I truly hope the same for anyone who wants it.
Thanks for reading, and for being here! I really loved writing this “why” post about leaving social media, and my following post is about the “how”.
I also wanted to share an invaluable resource that has given me the confidence and validation in my experience to make me more equipped for this shift, and it’s the Off The Grid podcast. Amelia Hruby has created 3 seasons with great advice for leaving social media without losing your clients, and perspectives both from and for many different kinds of business owners, along with some very useful resources. If this is something you are considering for yourself, I would recommend starting there with this episode.
Waving hi from the other side!