My sister recently added a golden retriever puppy to her small family. Soft wavy blonde puppy hair, giant velvety ears, big ole’ paws. Naturally, few weeks ago, I urged her to send me frequent pictures of little Remi as she grows into adulthood.
My sister replied by telling me to check her Instagram Stories, which feature daily puppy antics. When I reminded her I didn’t have Instagram, her response was like most people’s when they find out I’m not on the ‘Gram: distantly confused, unsure how to respond, surprised.
After all, I’m a twenty-something woman who lives in Los Angeles. I dress normally, pretty much live on my laptop, and have a smartphone—in short, it doesn’t seem like I’m trying to live off the grid. And let’s be clear: I’m not.
But Instagram has become so ubiquitous among millennials that it does seem strange that someone like me just wouldn’t have a presence on the platform at all, not even a private account.
Consider that the question is rarely (at least from someone within a decade of my age), “Do you have Instagram?” It’s, “What’s your Instagram?”
In addition, I regularly meet self-described Influencers at networking events (the default assumption is that they influence on Instagram). And almost as often as I’m asked for my email by a contact or company, I’m asked for my Instagram handle.
So, why did I ditch Instagram?
I wish had a conclusive answer for why I deleted my account and never looked back. Instead, what I have is the messy truth:
One morning in 2015, I had a terrible fight with my boyfriend (don’t worry, we’re still together!). We were doing long distance at the time, so our fights were confusing and painful. Hurt and angry, I hung up the phone and went looking for something to distract myself with. Hey, Instagram! I ended up posting an image from the weekend before, where I had been out with friends. Of course, I included some too-cool-for-school caption about loving life.
When my boyfriend saw that photo appear, he was disturbed that I seemed to shake off our fight so quickly. One moment I was on the phone deep into an argument, possibly crying. The next I was ostensibly at a picnic having a great time with my friends.
And I think it was his reaction that made me realize I couldn’t completely separate my offscreen self from the person I was portraying on social media. Suddenly, it hit me that the practice of sharing my banal life on Instagram—well, at least the good parts—was rarely helping me live better. Mostly, it felt stressful to try to keep up, took me out of present moments, and occasionally even damaged my relationships. This feeling won’t be unfamiliar to anyone who’s ever used social media, but seeing the disparity through someone else’s eyes made me feel sick enough to do something about it.
So, I left. And I’ve pretty much not regretted it.
In truth, I have felt incredibly relieved about not having Instagram in those moments when people around me seem to size up the value of a potential “connection” in terms of how many followers they have. “That was my friend Susie. She has, like, 200,000 followers,” someone might say with gleaming eyes. I was glad to be disqualified from the popularity competition right away (maybe because I knew I’d never win).
And despite many of my professors at college regaling me with tales of how we simply could not have a viable career in media without an active social media presence, I’ve built a successful freelance career as a copywriter with only a personal Facebook account.
Some of you might be asking, then…
Why am I coming back to Instagram now?
I think the answer is that now I’m clear on what I want out of social media, particularly Instagram. And it’s not acceptance, flashing ego boosts, or some vague idea of presenting my personhood in a curated image grid.
What I want is to be more visible for my potential clients and collaborators. The best thing about Instagram is that done well, done bravely, it can reveal a truthful piece of who someone is. And since my collaborators and clients work with me in a very personal way, I wanted another method, beyond writing blog posts, to show who I am.
Simply put, it’s no longer about inflating myself; it’s about giving another face for my business, using Instagram to build trust with potential clients—trust that I am a real person, living and working as I say I do on my website.
I’m still conflicted about rejoining Instagram
As much as people have given me blank or confused looks when I’ve told them I don’t have Instagram, I also most commonly receive one response when I tell them I am joining again: “I wouldn’t. It’s such a time-waster.”
That response is telling. Not so much because it reveals Instagram to waste your time (of course, any entertainment does in a sense), but because that response seems to point to how many people feel trapped into the platform. They admit that it wastes their time—that is, it is not worth the time they put into updating their grid, scrolling through others’. Yet, they don’t make a move to leave. In fact, the idea of leaving feels preposterous. I once felt that way, too.
So, I’m conflicted. I’m eager to have another public face for my business. But I’m also worried that just because I have a reason to be on Instagram beyond “wanting acceptance or ego boosts,” it won’t be enough to keep me from making the same mistakes I made four years ago.
Will I find myself striving to keep up with other accounts? Will I be unable to enjoy moments without thinking about posting them on Instagram? Will I be able to balance being honestly myself while also maintaining professionality? Will I lose myself completely in some attempt to become a full-fledged personal brand?
Ultimately, the biggest source of optimism in my re-venture into Instagram is the fact that I’m asking and deeply considering these questions at all. The first time around, I certainly did not.
And at the very least, I’ll finally be able to view daily updates of my sister’s beautiful golden puppy.
Content courtesy of Krista Walsh, creative copywriting for purpose-driven companies and passionate people
Contributing Author, Krista Walsh
Krista Walsh writes website copy, blog posts, and product descriptions for small eCommerce companies and service-based solopreneurs. Her writing and messaging strategies help her clients speak to their customers’ values and emotions, for meaningful sales.
In her free time, she writes about purpose-driven business and freelance life at kristawalshcopywriter.com. On the off chance she’s not writing, she’s volunteering to walk the big ole’ dogs over at the Dog Café LA or watching (pretty bad honestly) TV dramas on Netflix.
Connect with Krista through her website, Krista Walsh Copywriter