What I Learnt from Taking an Instagram Break

Social media is a huge presence in our lives these days, and the more I hear about the dangers of social media for young and vulnerable people, the more I hear of people taking time away from it too. The constant updating, notifications, liking, sharing, and everything else that comes with sharing your life online, can be overwhelming and at times intimidating. Whether you use social media as a simple communication tool, or if it’s part of your business as well, it can become a constant distraction and at times, a source of anxiety. In fact, research shows that the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to suffer from mental health issues. Multiple studies have begun to focus on the disturbing association between online social networking and a variety of negative feelings and psychiatric disorders such as low self-esteem, anxiety, feelings of inferiority and increased symptoms of ADHD (source).

I love instagram. I am a hugely visual person and use it for inspiration, amusement, research, and of course to see what my friends are up to around the world. Being a blogger, and now a PT, it’s expected that I share a portion of my life with the wider world, and even use the platform as a marketing tool for new clients. It can become an integral part of everyday life, and not always in a positive way.

social media, blogger, instagram, mental health

(Credit: Elle Linton)

After a particularly stressful end to 2017, the lead up to Christmas was an anxious time for me. I wasn’t feeling festive, and seeing everyone else’s seemingly happy posts about Christmas plans, romantic getaways and family gatherings filled me with both envy and sadness. Why wasn’t I feeling festive? Why is everyone so happy and I’m not? I’ll freely admit that I got caught up in the endless cycle of scrolling though instagram feeling that my life was rubbish and everyone else’s was great. Now, I know that social media is a tiny snapshot of someone’s life and that it should be taken with a pinch of salt, however, when you’re already in a low mood, it can be hard to find that rational voice in your head.

Feeling low, stressed, and generally overwhelmed, I decided to take a step away from the ‘gram. After a couple of days of feeling a little lost when I opened my phone, I soon enjoyed the break and only returned on January 1st 2018. With a better perspective on things, I now want to share with you what I learned with nearly 3 weeks away from instagram.

1. It’s a Habit That’s Hard to Break

The first thing I noticed when I deleted the app is that whenever I opened my phone, on the bus, tube, when I got home from work etc, the first thing I’d do is go to click on instagram. It’s purely a habit, much like checking the time, and checking my emails, and it took a while to break that. Instead, I’d tap on my favourite podcast, meditation app, or find some music to listen to instead.

2. The Reason I Took Photos Had Changed

I love photography. Since my teenage years I’ve always taken a camera on nights out, birthdays, family events, last days of term, even lazy days in the park as a student. I even took photography as one of my A-Levels.  I love having photographic memories of these events, and have piles of photo albums full of prints. Soon that changed from always having a camera, to always taking photos on my phone. No problem there, but when I deleted instagram, I realised that when I opened the camera on my phone, my thought process was to take a photo for instagram, not to take a photo to savour the memory. My reason for taking photographs had shifted. Over Christmas, I took photos that I wanted to cherish that might never appear on social media. One of my favourites being the three generations of women in my family….ok I did put that one on facebook eventually…but that wasn’t the reason I took it. Not to mention some hilarious photos of me with my nieces. Taking photos should be about the memory, not about the ‘instagram-ability’.

family, social media, women

3. Followers Come and Go

The burning question in your heads if you’re a blogger is probably ‘Did you lose a load of followers?’ – well the simple answer is yes…but not a lot. My following dropped by about 2%, that feels like quite a lot when I’m not a blogger with a huge following in the first place, but I really wasn’t bothered by that. The followers I regularly interact with were still there when I logged back in, my engagement didn’t take too long to return, and I expect most of the loss was from bots unfollowing a seemingly inactive account. Followers will stick around for fresh content from a calmer, less anxious me, and if they didn’t, well I don’t want them following me anyway.

4. Nothing Bad Happened

Taking a break from instagram didn’t ruin my career. I didn’t miss half a dozen events. I didn’t lose all my followers. I didn’t become an online outcast. Nothing bad happened. In fact, I found time and space in my life to meditate, have wonderful conversations with my mum / brothers / friends without the need to check my phone or photograph my Christmas dinner, or ‘insta-story’ our Monopoly game. Not criticising those who do that, AT ALL. This post is not about telling people they should spend less time on instagram. What I want to say is; if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant online stimulation, feel that you’re falling into the comparison zone, or simply need to step away from your phone….it’s OK!! If you do take a break, I’d recommend deleting the app to avoid temptation 😉

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(Credit: Elle Linton)

My instagram hiatus was exactly what I needed. Now I’m happy to not post for a day or two, happy to not spend half an hour each morning scrolling through posts in bed, and happy in the knowledge that while social media is a part of my life I enjoy most of the time, it’s also something I can step back from when I need to practice self-care. If you’re thinking about taking a break, give it a go!

The Problem with Yoga and Instagram

Hello, my name’s Natasha, and I’m an instagram yogi. That’s right, I like to post photos of yoga poses, the occasional handstand and videos of my favourite flows on social media….and there’s nothing wrong with that! Is there a problem with yoga and instagram? I don’t think there is.

beach, yoga, travel, sunset

I’m getting a little tired of hearing that yogis who post photos in lovely locations, in seemingly perfect postures, are not proper yogis. My question is; who gets to decide who is a good or bad yogi? In my opinion, absolutely no one.

I’ve recently seen articles to this effect though, demonizing yoga teachers with a large social media following, such as Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl) and Laura Sykora (@laurasykora), and claiming that they’re ruining the true meaning of yoga. The argument states that they’re turning yoga into a narcissistic popularity competition with a sole focus on making poses look pretty and not showing the hard work behind it all. To those people, I say ‘please get off your yoga high horse, and if you don’t like what you see, simply unfollow’. To me, there’s so much more to it than that, and whether you like it or not, those people are making, or at least trying to make, a positive difference in the yoga world.

yoga, photoshoot, yoga, fitness, model

Yoga is a process, and it can be a long one at that, and everyone has to start somewhere. The nation, and the planet, is getting fatter and lack of activity is becoming a huge problem. Teachers, and influencers are often looked to for inspiration, and people are looking online more than ever before. If use one person looks through instagram, sees me, or another yogi in what they think is an impressive pose and decides to get off their sofa and find a studio, then surely that should be celebrated. OK, it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to achieve that immediately, I’m not denying that, we should be looking at the bigger picture here; introducing people to yoga.

My yoga journey started in a similar way, I started following a few so-called instagram yogis, was so impressed by their strength that I started going to class regularly. I had A LOT of unlearning to do, which I am working on in my own time. Do I show that on social media? Sometimes. Should I? Not necessarily, it’s something that I do in my own private time. Does that make me a bad yogi? No. Sometimes, you need to start with aiming for the pretty stuff and work backwards, and that’s what I’m doing. I started yoga, and now I’m learning all the intricacies that go with it, there’s no right or wrong place to start. Just the fact that you’ve started.

yoga, fitness

Another cause for complaint is the parade of designer yoga gear that walks through yoga studios each day. Again, bigger picture! If putting on a pair of fancy leggings gets someone to class, and makes them feel good about themselves, then that’s great. We all need a confidence boost, and for some people, that comes through what they wear. What someone wears on their mat doesn’t affect anyone else in the room (unless it’s crazy see-through of course!), so there is no need to comment.

Perhaps you agree that all this photo taking, and designer legging wearing a little narcissistic, but you don’t have to join in if it’s not your thing, and there’s plenty around to suit everyone, camera-shy or not. Yoga in a darkened room for example or online yoga classes where you can be in your pyjamas in your living room and still reaping the benefits. Not to mention meditation apps, digital detoxes and more. Labelling someone as being narcissistic is cruel, judgemental and utterly pointless. What is there to gain from spreading such negativity?

yoga, photoshoot, yoga, fitness, model

Yes, there are eight limbs yoga, and in an ideal world, each of those should be adhered to by the most devout of yogis. Out of those eight, only one is actually the physical practice –  ASANA. The others being ideologies and ways of living to create what is thought to be the true definition of yoga – to join, unite, or yoke – and create harmony between the mind, body and spirit. Despite there being these eight limbs of yoga, in order to achieve all of these takes years of dedication, focus and practice.

Think of it this way…If you knew someone who wrote in their spare time, published some articles, maybe a short story or two, but not a full length novel, yet they were so proud of that, they shared it with the world…you’d unlikely turn to them and tell them that they’re ‘ruining the image of a true writer’ would you? I hope not. So why is it appropriate to tell someone who is currently only working on, or showing the world, one or two of the eight limbs of yoga, that they’re not a real yogi?

beach, yoga, travel, sunset

So there you have it, my mini-rant. Taking photos during class, I don’t agree with, of course not, that’s just respect. But snapping a shot outside, where sunshine and sea air have given you a healthy glow, and where you feel confident and happy doesn’t make you a narcissist. Not in my books anyway. So, if you like photos of yoga, food, fancy leggings, and occasionally my cat, come and find me @danceflowlift.