Silencing The Noise // switching off Instagram

Twice I almost said it, twice I stopped myself. And then, without warning, it was out; “I’m thinking of switching off Instagram for a while”.

Each time I repeated those words they were met with the same response. A deep breath, an understanding nod and a lengthy conversation around the negatives of social media. Time wasting, comparison culture, insecurity breeder. Did I agree? Yes! In so many ways, Instagram could be those things for me too.

Not often, I must admit. For me, it’s a place of connection, friendship, content production and inspiration. It is a place to explore a creative side I didn’t know I had, a unique little community.

None of which is negative.

It was very possibly a couple of years ago that I first felt a nudge to take time off from the squares, from that still small voice…or was it? Is it just me God, thinking I should? What are my motives? Would it ruin the community I had poured into? Was it for my own self gratification?

Amongst my friends who are also a part of the ‘content creation’ world there was a concern that it would be insta-suicide to leave the app behind for weeks, possibly months. The whole basis of Instagram is to be consistently active. It’s well known that a failure to post and engage regularly leads to your page, your posts, your stories even, being hidden. Instagram does not like “a break”. My thoughts were a rambling mess.

How will I know which clothes are most stylish?
How will I know what interiors are on trend?
How will I know what books the cool kids are reading or TV Shows that the world is binge watching?
I’ll never know how my online friends are spending their weekend/birthday/play dates.

Along my prayerful ramblings I suddenly became so aware that this was about surrender. It became glaringly obvious how noisy that world is. I often say that Instagram is not about the numbers for me, it is about the community; was that really true? And so, I threw up my hands and whispered my yes.

I reflected on how my conversations in real life were becoming increasingly shallow, because we have all watched each other’s Instagram stories; there was no longer a need to ask how the other’s week had been. It often feels like an exchange for actual friendship in place of just knowing each other’s business. How it has made me a lazy friend who rarely initiates play dates or invites for coffee; confining our chat to a few lines in DM’s, and more often that not, a GIF in place of words.

I’m not saying I dislike Instagram, indeed, the opposite is true.

My musings to the Lord changed from being about switching off to tuning in. What would this break mean for my spiritual and personal growth? How was I to use this space I was clearly meant to create?

I want to learn again what it’s like to have a moment that doesn’t get shared. To sit in a space and really take it in, to engage and delight in the pure whimsy and wonder of it all. To forget that there is an audience that likes to see it too. I want to string words together in a diary, sitting in a non insta-worthy outfit with a regular coffee in a regular cup. As words fall out on to the page I want to enjoy how they flow rather than think about how to manipulate them into a caption. To hear peoples news first hand, hear their stories over mugs of tea or see their renovated bathroom in person.

It’s true that I also crave the same interest in me, rather than assuming that I am the sum total of my grid posts that week or stories of that day, which are such a dim reflection of the richness of real life.

I want to create space to notice the little things. Reduce the noise to hear His voice more clearly. I want to reignite my passion for beautiful and raw pictures, for words and story telling and reading and just being still. I have this memory of my mum perched on an armchair in our hallway, holding a phone that had a long, curly cord which draped over her shoulder. She was there, fully invested in a conversation with a friend. It’s the only way I can think to describe the life I want to press into.

I want to lean into simple daily rhythms, void of expectation to keep up with messages or comments.

And I will admit, it’s pretty scary.
Scary because some of my work life is interwoven with Instagram.
Scary because I have made wonderful friends there who may not stick around because I am no longer present on their screens.
Scary because of the great possibility of losing relevance as well as relationships.

But I am all in, ready and so willing to see how life looks without Instagram. If only for a while.

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