I’ve wanted to get off Instagram for a while now but I was too afraid. I didn’t want to lose all of the followers I have spent years building because those followers are also my readers. And readers are a pretty important thing to have when you’re a writer. Especially as I will be coming out with a book in the next couple of years and I would like those readers to read it.
In the end, however, I decided that “wanting to promote my book in a few years” wasn’t enough to justify posting daily Instagram photos into perpetuity. So I closed my account and I feel so relieved to have done so. It’s not that I think Instagram is inherently bad, but there were a few negative effects it was having on my life and for that reason, I chose to opt out.
1. It wasn’t productive
As I mentioned, the main reason I stayed on Instagram for so long was that I’ve been working on a novel and I know I’ll want to promote it someday. In fact, I once went to a writers conference in which a publisher told us that they wouldn’t even look at publishing a book unless the author had at least 10,000 followers on one social media platform (and they would really prefer a newsletter list over a social media following).
It makes sense. Whether you go the traditional or self-publishing route, the author is the one ultimately responsible for selling their books. And having a lot of social media followers can be one way to achieve that. Because I had more than 20,000 Instagram followers, I kept telling myself that I needed to keep it. That it was going to help me get a book deal one day.
But then I started to ask myself if that was really true. Were my Instagram followers really my readers? Or were they just my friends, acquaintances, and people who loved my creepy dark aesthetic? Well, there was one way to find out for sure: Check Google Analytics. So I did. Here’s what I discovered:
Last year there were 22,457 people who visited my website. Only 828 of them came from Instagram. Meanwhile, 2,461 of them came from my newsletter. In other words, despite the fact that I only have 2,216 newsletter subscribers, I received 2,461 website visits from them in a year. By comparison, I had more than 20,000 Instagram followers and received only 828 website visits from them.
In other words, my readers were not following me on Instagram. And if they were, my Instagram account wasn’t a productive way of sharing my writing with them. When I announced I would be closing my Instagram account, 30 people signed up for my newsletter list instead. A much more productive use of my time if you ask me.
2. It was hurting my writing
Not to mention, I don’t know very many writers that have large Instagram followings. As my husband finally told me, there’s a big difference between bloggers and writers. And I’m not a blogger. I’m not trying to make money from my Instagram account or my blog. I have a job as a professional writer. The only point in having any kind of following at all is so that people read my articles and eventually my books.
And yet, as I started looking up every single one of my favorite authors: Anne Rice, Dan Brown, Diana Gabaldon, I realized that none of them were active on Instagram (or any social media platform for that matter). In fact, they all live pretty introverted lives. They focus on their writing. And that’s about it.
In fact, most authors do everything they can to steer clear of any and all distractions from their work. George R.R. Martin is said to write his books on an internet-less computer with no other software program loaded to it except the one he uses to write. Patrick Rothfuss doesn’t even have a phone. He says his parents once had to take out a classified ad to reach him.
That’s when I realized two things. The first was that I didn’t need Instagram to be a successful writer. The second was that trying to be successful on Instagram was actually keeping me from being successful as a writer. By spending time each day trying to find moments to photograph, filter, and caption, I was taking away from time that could actually be spent writing my book.
3. It was hurting my social life
Another one of the things I really didn’t love about Instagram was how it affected my real life relationships. I have a lot of really good friends, and Instagram stories allowed me to see what was going on in those friends’ lives on a daily basis. That caused two negative reactions in my life. The first was that I could see when friends were hanging out without me and that hurt my feelings. The second was that my friends could see when I wasn’t hanging out with them and that hurt their feelings.
In real life, this wouldn’t be a problem. Sometimes we hang out with one friend, sometimes we hang out with another one. Without social media, no one would ever get upset about this. But now that all of our lives are documented, we have the opportunity to hurt one another’s feelings by making people feel left out. And I didn’t want to live in that cycle anymore.
I also wanted to connect with my friends more authentically. I wanted my friends to call me if they want to talk to me. I wanted them to come over if they wanted to hang out with me. I want them to ask how my vacation was instead of saying that it “looked like fun” based on the pictures I posted on Instagram. And when we were together, I wanted to clink our glasses together without taking a picture of it. In short, I want real “in-person” connection.
And then there were my acquaintances. One of the most bizarre things to me about social media was that it allowed acquaintances to follow me under the guise of “staying in touch.” But following me on Instagram is NOT staying in touch with me. If someone wanted to stay in touch with me they could text or call me and we could get together for lunch. But to never R.S.V.P. to one of my dinner parties and then watch every single one of my Instagram stories is borderline crazy.
In other words, I wanted to improve the quality of my relationships by connecting with them in real life.
4. It was a waste of my time
Not only did I not want to spend my time on Instagram, but I also didn’t want to spend my time on my phone at all. My dream life is all about spending my days writing and spending my evenings hanging out with my friends. If I happen to be in France while I’m doing those two things, even better. But having a phone just doesn’t help me achieve any of those three things.
I wanted a phone so I could contact someone in the case of an emergency or take a photo of something I never wanted to forget. But that’s about it. Every other use of my phone was a waste of my time, a distraction, or a way of making me less connected with my work and less connected with my friends.
Right now I still need my phone to text my friends and hail an Uber. But maybe one day I won’t need a phone at all. In my dream life, my friends would all just live close by and we would knock on each other’s doors when we want to hang out. And we’d walk and bike everywhere so we wouldn’t need Ubers. Maybe that’s extreme, and maybe it won’t ever happen.
But the idea is that I don’t want to spend my time on my phone. I want to be present in my life. And I want to focus on the things that matter. My writing and my community. That’s what is really important to me. Everything else is just a waste of my time…
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