3. I’m remembering how peaceful it feels to just keep my eyes on my own paper and make things, without comparing my work to what others are making or saying or doing.
4. I’m wondering how my creative work would be different if I hadn’t spent so many years creating things at the intersection of what I wanted to make and what I knew would do well on social. I now struggle to write long pieces because I’m trained to think in caption-length thoughts, and this freaks me out, both in terms of my own little personal brain and in its broader implications for humanity at large.
5. I realized that many of the people I follow are folks I like and respect, but I’m not their intended audience. I may love them, but I’m never going to buy their coaching program or their e-course. When we’re not the right match for someone’s offer, the result is feeling like we’re being sold to all the time, which is part of what I wasn't liking about IG. OMG, the mute button can totally solve this!
6. I was Very Present on social for a very long time—before Instagram, it was Twitter and Facebook. So this month, for the first time since 2006, I’ve been working through my own feelings and thoughts and opinions without simultaneously consuming a tidal wave of thousands of other people’s feelings and thoughts and opinions. This feels… peaceful.
7. It’s become clear how accustomed I am to experiencing every terrible event and crime against humanity through the lens of social media, which is to say: a relentless fire hose of declarations and infographics, all crafted and optimized to *perform* within a framework built by people who make billions of dollars from our participation in it. This feels… F’ed up.
8. It's felt liberating to separate myself from the energy of urgency. On social, calibrated to 3-second attention spans, everything is urgent; things happen and there’s a race to stake an opinion, to be first to the scene. This keeps us (me) in a constant state of reacting, rather than responding. It rewards loud voices and sweeping declarations, content that is optimized for the algorithm, for “engagement.” Meaning, the stuff that keeps us scrolling longer and therefore more likely to buy $140 sweatpants.
9. I want to more consciously choose what I engage with. I want depth and nuance. I want to sit with things.
10. I’ve been questioning what happens to our brains when we normalize taking in a sequence of posts, day after day, that look (for example) like this: quote about loving yourself / artfully arranged cheese board / Black man murdered by police / buy this coaching program / look at this cute puppy / these cities will be underwater by 2032 if we don't DO SOMETHING. I worry about the dehumanizing effect of “content” being flattened into one endless, equally important, equally unimportant story.
11. Someone asked me last week if I thought the news has always been this bad. My answer was no, I don’t think so; the events of these last couple of years have definitely felt like a particularly, newly intense level of bad. But I also think part of why the news feels so overwhelmingly awful is that it has never before been this continuous or intrusive. We used to have to sit down at night and watch it, or buy a newspaper, or even visit a news site; now it comes to us directly and relentlessly. It notifies us.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to know all the things about everything everywhere, in real time, and not feel profoundly depressed and overwhelmed, and therefore less likely to actually take action in our sphere of influence. This is maybe more about news feeds on our phones than social media specifically, but Instagram was how I took in a lot of news.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I feel guilty when I stop paying close attention to news, and how I’ve believed it's my duty to stay educated about all the terrible things, because being Extremely Informed has felt like the rent I pay for my privilege – like, it's literally the least I could do. But in reality, this is counterproductive, because it leads to spiraling and paralysis and also makes me miserable which is never the solution. Guilt is counterproductive too, unless it motivates us to actually do something (in my experience, it usually doesn't).
12. I’ve been participating more fully and deeply in a narrower space. Our culture places so much value on living a Big Life, and I bought into that shit for so long because for years it made me feel important. But important is not happy. I’ve had more phone dates and one-on-one time with friends, including people I usually only interact with on IG.
I didn’t mean to turn this into a rant about How Instagram Is Evil. Partially because we all kinda know that anyway, and partially because it’s also brought a lot of wonderful friendships and opportunities into my life. (Mostly it’s been the people. I’ve never monetized @emilyonlife
; I am not a good influencer, which is not the same thing as a good influence.) But I think any time something that is supposed to be fun doesn’t feel fun anymore, It’s worth asking why and paying attention to the answer.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back there. I think the answer is: when I feel like it? Or when I need to, in order to promote something (that nobody will see, because algorithm)? When I begin to miss participating more than I enjoy being quiet? When I decide to reinvent myself as a person who makes menopause TikToks? (Unlikely, but never say never.)
I don’t have a central thesis to all this, which I guess is okay because I’m not a journalist! The bottom line is, I’m figuring it out. If you’re figuring it out too, know that we’re in this together.
It’s okay to change and shift.
It’s okay to prioritize your peace.
It's okay to dip in and out, to be inconsistent, to not post about everything you care about.
BTW: Author Lisa Olivera also recently took a break from IG and wrote about it in her newsletter
, if you're interested in reading her take on a similar theme.