Why I Left Instagram

Back in 1999 I was one of the last people to get a mobile phone. Years later I was also one of the last people to get a Facebook account and one of the last people to get a smartphone. Even my parents, who at the time were in their late 60s, had smartphones before I did.


My old job involved me travelling to a different location each and every time, so I used to hand draw my route on a scrap of paper (using Google maps on a desktop) and watch tentatively out the bus window, scanning nervously for my destination. I often missed my stop. I often got lost. All because I didn’t want a smartphone!

Photo ~ Asim Bijarani

I knew in my bones that these ‘advances’ were more disadvantages, seemingly connecting us together more easily, but disconnecting us from ourselves more deeply.


The more time our brains are ‘logged on’ to an online world, the less time we spend tending to our needs and emotions in the offline world, thus increasing our susceptibility to low moods, depression, despondency, anxiety etc


I knew all this as a teenager in the 90s but have experienced an insidious dissolving of my resolve as society seemingly ‘progresses’. Everything I knew would happen to my brain has happened, and it’s time to take my power back.


Why I left Instagram

My teacher David Elliott describes exchange as the flow of energy or consciousness given and received as energy, respect, value, appreciation and love.


The reciprocity in my relationship with Instagram frequently felt off.


I was pouring immense amounts of myself into it, sharing vulnerable pieces of myself, my wounding and my healed parts, transmuting my life energy into 2200 character posts and 24 hr stories. My expansive energy was being containerised.

Photo ~ Greg Rakozy via Unsplash

I was also warring against a living, breathing beast of an algorithm and people weren’t seeing or responding to my posts.


I do what I do and I write what I write in the hope of connecting with people – to offer hope to the hopeless, to be witnessed and to witness, to be appreciated and to appreciate, to be heard and to hear. 


Sometimes this need and intention would be met, but more often than not I would be left feeling bereft and disjointed, like I was screaming love into a void. It’s very easy for us humans to feel discouraged in a vacuum, and Instagram was sucking the life force out of me.


Why I left Instagram

Photo ~ Fredrik Solli Wandem via Unsplash

Whilst I’ve always loved creating stories for Instagram and enjoyed the ensuing conversations, I became very aware that I was living in a self-created goldfish bowl.


In sharing my joy I was subtracting from my own – I was removing myself from the present moment. Every experience, everything I saw with awe, became currency for content. I was documenting my life and it was depleting my life force. 


My mind became an Instagram filter, calculating whether everything I saw or experienced was either postable or not postable. I was living through a lens, rather than just living. Life had stopped being a felt experience and was more about how it looked through other people’s eyes.


Why I'm leaving instagram

Photo ~ Gaelle Marcel via Unsplash

At one point I was spending 3+ hours a day on Instagram, under the guise of marketing and forming connections. The modern day equivalent of networking. That’s 3 hours actually on the app, but the time I spent on it mentally was so much more.
If I wasn’t on it, I was thinking about it. Again, distracting me from the present moment. Filtering everything in my life for content. Wondering what I could write about next. Worried I would run out of ideas. Worried I wouldn’t get enough engagement. 
Instagram was like an app running in my brain – always online even when I was physically offline. An ever present white noise interrupting and disturbing my consciousness, repeatedly throughout the day.

Photo ~ Karsten Winegeart via Unsplash

I am deeply adverse to labels and definitely adverse to calling myself disordered, but for ease, I will explain my brain as an ADD brain. I’ve struggled with attention deficit issues all my life, often joking that I have the attention span of a gnat. I have the capacity for hyper-focus on an activity with deep meaning and resonance for me, but otherwise I can be flighty, foggy and unfocused.


The speed at which we scroll through social media, scanning the plethora of stimuli for something satisfying is a recipe for disaster for even the most stable of brains. (Studies show that in the last 20 years, our attention span has decreased from 12 to 8 seconds, which is less than a goldfish!) So dangle this dopamine dispensing device in front of an ADD/ADHD brain day in day out and it can feel like it’s breaking your brain. 


Photo ~ Agni B via Unsplash

It felt as if I’d been brainwashed into believing that my business couldn’t survive without Instagram. I’d even recently spent a small fortune on a ‘Build Your Instagram as a Business Asset’ course by a very reputable coach. But when there’s that level of importance attached to anything, particularly a social media platform, it can create a dangerous degree of dependence and a huge fear or anxiety of not being on it ‘enough’. 


If my business depends on Instagram, then surely I need to be working on it all the time? If I’m neglecting Instagram, then I’m neglecting my business, right? This created a constant pressure to show up, irrespective of whether I felt like it or not, and created an impending sense of doom and relentless guilt when I wasn’t showing up.


Why I left instagram
Before I was on social media I rarely indulged in a game of compare and despair. Even despite all my suffering I was always very rooted on my own path and rarely looked sideways. 
My experience on Instagram uprooted me in a rather unexpected and unwelcome way. I found myself frequently looking sideways and falling into the trap of comparing my insides to other people’s outsides, and comparing the beginning of my business journey with the middle of other people’s. Even with all the tools I’ve acquired over the years, this unappealing new habit often felt unavoidable. 
Reframing the platform as a source of connection and a way to meet new people definitely helped transform my relationship with it, but the low hum of inescapable exposure to other people’s highlight reels became exhausting. 


Why I left instagram

Photo crop ~ Oladimeji Ajegbile via Pexels

Being conscious of the impact Instagram was having on my emotional health did help to an extent, but it didn’t eliminate the fallout. 
As a business on Instagram there’s an expectation to relentlessly churn out content and this in itself can feel depleting. I was also not immune to the feelings of futility and despondency when my posts weren’t ‘liked’ enough. I know too well the limitations of instant gratification and my brain was not sufficiently resistant to the little red notifications designed to deliver a dopamine hit each and every time. And the perfunctory pops of pleasure are almost always interluded by periods of gloom.
Mood stability and freedom from emotional volatility have taken me a long time to achieve throughout my recovery, and my relationship with Instagram was starting to threaten that. 

All of this (and more) was all too often overwhelming me to a point where my brain just felt flooded. I was spending a considerable proportion of my life in a relationship that was not nourishing me – it was harming me more than it was helping me.


And so I’ve decided to walk away and see what happens. I already feel a full body exhale and a spaciousness within my soul, much like the feeling of coming out of a toxic relationship.


• To be more present in my life.


• To feel at a cellular level the wonder of a brand new shoot or an unfurling leaf. To feel the wind on my cheeks and really listen to the sound it makes rustling through the trees.     


• To experience more flow and ease with how I show up online for my business, and to create a routine and rhythm that work for me.


• For my attention span and focus to improve significantly. 


• For my time back, which will open the valve for more motivation, inspiration and ideas to flow in.  


• To re-root unwaveringly on my own path, without the incessant sideways glances.


• For a feeling of groundedness and connectedness in my own body, less attached to outcomes.


I have no idea how long this will last – whether it’s a break or the end – but I’m excited to see how my Instagram-free life will unfold.

Olivia is passionate about all things healing. Having spent the last 12 years on a personal recovery journey from substance abuse and self-harming, she has a uniquely gentle and compassionate insight into this world.


She believes that connection with others and connection with ourselves is at the root of all healing and uses different modalities to explore this essential truth – 1:1 and group Breathwork, women’s healing circles, creative arts.


  • Graham

    Unusually I actually pursued this through to the post and read it (most !) I’m glad I did 😊. The content is no surprise and I ‘get it’ even though I can be a time and attention robbery victim also and often. My need to know and be in control can be acute. More awareness here for me 👍😎

  • Vicki Marston

    Olivia this is beautiful, a heartfelt truth and one which will resonate with many including myself.

    These so called advances can so easily take us away from our true nature and away from our ability to be present.

    They very often feed into our deepest and darkest insecurities increasing a feeling of separateness rather than connection.

    Thank you, go well on your path of awakening – Vicki xx

    • Olivia

      Thank you so much for reading Vicki, and for resonating. Totally agree they feed on our deepest, darkest insecurities – marketing, social media, it’s all the same. Modern society absolutely serves to create separateness rather than connection. We keep aiming to serve up the antidote xx

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