Towards the end of 2018, I decided to take a three-month hiatus from social media in order to focus on my health, my business and my craft. I had begun to feel like I was living in an episode of Black Mirror in which my worth as both a woman and a photographer were determined by my Instagram follower count. Seriously—I felt like Bryce Dallas Howard’s character in “Nosedive” (minus all the cute pastel outfits). I was losing weight, my hair was falling out, I was having panic attacks nearly every day and, most importantly, I was falling out of love with my passion: photography.
I knew I had to do something. So, I deleted Instagram and Facebook from my phone. I also limited my time on Twitter to no more than 10 minutes per day. The result? An overwhelming sense of freedom. Sounds weird, right? Except it isn’t. Frequent use of social media platforms can lead to increased feelings of unhappiness and isolation. It can even affect how you sleep! I didn’t realize how toxic my relationship with social media had become until I stopped using certain apps.
Fast-forward to January 2019. My friend and colleague—and stylist extraordinaire!—Melissa de Leon invited me to collaborate on a project that would feature the muses behind each of her styling packages. To go from dreaming up new concepts in my tiny home studio to working with and managing a large group of women on a half-day photo shoot seemed overwhelming (to say the least). I’m an introvert and struggle with social anxiety issues, so I knew this would be a challenging experience for me. I also knew this would be the perfect opportunity to begin the slow, gentle process of re-introducing myself to the growing creative community in my area after my absence from social media.
During the hours I spent on set with Melissa, I was able to meet new friends, practice new lighting techniques and watch as this project came to life before my eyes. Do you know what I didn’t think about throughout this experience? Let me tell you. I didn’t think about capturing behind-the-scenes images to post on Instagram and Twitter. I never once compared my body type to anyone else’s in the room. I didn’t worry about my clothing, my hair, my (lack of) makeup or whether my stomach was flat or bloated. I simply basked in the warm glow of the lights on set, and enjoyed learning more about the women that have inspired and informed Melissa’s growing business.
The takeaway? At the end of the day, social media doesn’t matter. Life is about cultivating meaningful relationships with people in person, not online. Having thousands upon thousands of followers on Instagram or Twitter isn’t a reflection of your worth or the value of the work you create. Did someone you follow book a job or get to work with a client you’ve been dreaming of making a connection with? Okay—good for them. That doesn’t mean you won’t find success!
Although I’m active on social media again, I’m still working to find the right balance between sharing my work, supporting other female creators and giving myself space to back away when needed. What are your go-to strategies for combating the negative effects of your social media activity? Leave your thoughts—or links to helpful articles like this one!—in the comments section below.