Updated: Jul 17
Photo Credit: @candiceswanepoel
In the time leading up to me 'quitting' @selfhealersfoodguide on Instagram, I noticed how much I enjoyed the feeling of community and how important connecting IRL was to me. It's the small, but meaningful interactions I have with genuine people everyday that make me so happy, and it makes me want to spend less and less time on my phone.
I recently moved into a new home, but I've been in the same neighborhood for about a year, and I've become a regular at a few different spots. I realized I don't go to Erewhon, my local grocery store, for the matcha or juice, so much as I do for the person that makes it for me and who cares enough to remember how to make it. He even surprises me with one while I'm grocery shopping. The whole interaction makes my day, and I appreciate him immensely. I love going to my Pilates studio, seeing the same faces, and chatting with them every week, and I've been enjoying getting to know my new neighbors. Most of them I’m not connected with through social media. Just real-life connections.
I also work in retail right now – a very different environment from sitting behind a computer screen and looking at Excel spreadsheets most of the day or being in ZOOM meetings (a virtual experience I thankfully haven't had to have). Instead, I work with different clients daily – meeting someone special can be the highlight of my day. I've been at my current job for less than a year, and honestly, as a more introverted person, it was a job I was a little afraid of, but an experience I needed to push me outside of my comfort zone.
Hitting pause on @selfhealersfoodguide for my blog was a decision I didn't take lightly. It was an idea that kept coming back to me repeatedly, but my ego's resistance got in the way. I thought about the three years of time, energy, effort, and passion I poured into it – amounting to precisely 890 followers. Not great in the eyes of the social media world, but I started at 0 and it was an entire virtual world I created – a space I felt ‘safe’ to share more of myself and my voice with a barrier between me and viewers. When I started, I mainly focused on stories and connecting with followers through DM's. So much of my time was spent just responding to followers' questions and messages because I cared and was passionate about what I shared. I valued those connections, and the messages of appreciation always made my efforts worth it. I didn't look at likes, or even think about the fact that I was sharing products that people were going out to buy and I could be making commission on them. I just thought it was cool to get messages that people were buying what I shared or that they found my content 'inspiring'. I had fun with it, sharing what I loved, what helped me, and what I thought might help others (SELF-EXPRESSION and SERVICE are two other essential components of happiness). My intentions were pure.
As time went on and life changed, so did my financial circumstances. I knew I needed to get back to work, and I put more pressure on myself to monetize Instagram because I wanted to make money 'doing what I loved' - isn't that everyone's dream? So I kept thinking if I just 'try harder' and spend even more time focused on content, and share more, it will grow. While I know nothing grows into a success overnight (a limited belief I should most definitely work on), three years in started to feel like I 'should be' further along.
When videos that took a lot of energy to edit weren't getting 'likes’ or bringing in new followers it began to make me feel frustrated, and just feel bad in general, 'not good enough' even. In reality, I know that's not true, and I know what I have to share is valuable. The thing is Instagram has become an advertising platform where people have teams to professionally edit their content, so doing it all yourself feels too 'homegrown' in comparison. Even without a team, so much time and effort goes into reels and videos. I never even thought of buying followers either - I wanted to grow organically. Too much of social media is fake, and I wanted to stay authentic. When I started to feel this way, I would take a step back, knowing being connected 24/7 isn't mentally healthy, and I would share when I was 'in the mood' or felt inspired to share (everything is energy, after all). Then judgment about various things from people I knew started to ensue, and while I understand their perception of me is only a reflection of them, it made me angry and sad that people could even be that way.
What started as sharing healthy living tips, started to feel unhealthy. No wonder social media is making people feel anxious, depressed, and lonely – there’s so much comparison, hate and judgment being exchanged, and most people spend more time on it than anything else these days. These virtual realities that we are actively choosing to spend time on, something that should make us feel more connected socially, is distracting and disconnecting us from our physical reality and our own lives. On top of that, the excessive amount of content available is making people expect information in a fast, cheap, and easy way. People have become numb to content because their dopamine receptors are shot – making everyone want everything in an ‘instant’ and if it takes more than a couple of seconds to read or watch, it’s onto the next attention grabber. Social media is destroying our brains and ultimately our happiness.
I didn't like the way Instagram started to consume and impact my energy in a negative way, and it was something I was actively choosing to participate in by choosing to create content, put myself out there and ‘spend my energy on it’. Ironically, I don’t consume that much content and am very aware of who I choose to follow. But the feelings I had about social media all started to build up and one night, while I was sleeping, I woke up in the middle of the night, and a message came through. I heard my answer, 'just quit it'.
My ego may have had a really hard time letting it go and wanted to view what I created as a failure, but since making the decision to let go and release the pressure, my energy has been freed up, I feel back in a flow, no longer held up by taking pictures of my morning smoothie, what I'm buying at the grocery store, or remembering to respond to a DM, just free to move into the next thing. It feels peaceful. Over the last year I’ve come to appreciate living at a much slower pace, taking my time with things, living with less stress, and in turn that makes me want to share at a slower pace.
As I edit this and read it back, I realize how much my life and my priorities have changed over even the last year. I’ve been through a lot behind the scenes, and I spent the last few years in a small world without a lot of one-on-one connections, but it’s spring and everything feels fresh to me. I'm in a new home, I just got a new car, and recently took a 10 day ‘staycation’ just to reset and enjoy my life and neighborhood as it is now. It’s a new beginning, one I have been working toward for a while, and I want to experience people, places, and things in real life, and in real time. I want to savor each moment without the pressure of capturing it on a phone. The food blog wasn't a failure, that’s just how my ego was viewing it. It's my jumping off point to what's next, and since I've disconnected my energy from sharing every day, my mind feels clear and connected to what’s around me, ready to receive the next inspiration.
If you’ve read this far, I just want to say, don’t be afraid to put your phone down and look up, especially when you’re going about your daily routine. Your life is happening right in front of you - stay present and focus on the real-life connections. Also notice how your phone, especially social media, tries to distract you from the present moment. Notice how it makes you feel. Our happiness is dependent on our own real life experiences and connections - not viewing it all through a phone.