I Took a 2 Week Break from Instagram. Here’s What Happened.

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Spoiler alert: I got loads done.

Soooo a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how fed up I’ve become with Instagram and why I wanted to take a little break. I turned it into a mini protest against Insta’s crappy algorithm, because why not, and I took a solid 2 weeks off from the app. I thought I’d end up on there via work, posting for a client or something, but that didn’t happen in the end, so it’s been a full two weeks with zero Instas. I’ve never kept a note of how long I actually spend on social media, because some of it is for work and all that, but in the first week I think I probably had a good half an hour every evening where I found myself looking for something to do. It also snowed awfully that first week, and usually being stuck inside is Prime Internet Browsing Time, but after a few days I stopped reaching for Instagram and started reaching for Twitter instead. Then a few days after that, I stopped reaching for Twitter. I think that during the last week or so, I have hardly even been using my phone. More on that in a minute.

Here is a brief list of the things I got done that in retrospect I might not have had the discipline to do if I hadn’t had one less app to look at when my concentration wavered:

  • 2 separate pieces of art that I’d been thinking about for ages and hadn’t got around to doing properly
  • Posted a bunch of stories online to sites I hadn’t got around to joining
  • Made about 3 spreadsheets for work and actually used formulas and got my financial shit together which is probably the highlight of my year
  • Researched some events and markets and stuff, which I hate doing because selling at events means acknowledging my business requires people to survive ugh
  • Ran a survey about Patreon and did some proper market research
  • Researched potential wholesale partners for my shop, which I have avoided for 2.5 years because it requires talking to people
  • Reorganised my dressing table which is something I have steadily put off since last summer, and if I hadn’t been stuck for things to do I think I would have kept putting it off until I drowned beneath an avalanche of spare hair pins

I also started editing the first draft of the Giant Writing Project (you know, I’m just going to start calling it a book because at this point it is long enough, damn it), made macaroni cheese, had lunch with my dad, did some Pilates and listed some stuff on Etsy. I probably would have done those things anyway, but the weirdest thing about coming off Instagram was that I realised how much time I spend online generally. At first I replaced Insta time with Twitter time, but gradually I kind of just stopped looking at my phone. I think I messaged a few friends a bit more, because WhatsApp and Messenger were the only apps on my phone that didn’t require m i n d l e s s scrolling, and I think I’ve been more disciplined with work in general. I have the natural attention span of a gnat, but taking away one major distraction definitely helped me get away from other distractions, if that makes sense?

I think I also benefited from not seeing, or posting, the highlight reel photos we all post to Insta. I don’t really know any other writers and the people I follow who are also freelancers or on Etsy aren’t of the bragging variety, so I wasn’t missing anything that would directly make me feel inferior – but taking time away from all the likes and the popular page and the constant struggle to get a post noticed helped me to focus. I didn’t have myself down as someone who lets other people’s posts, highlight reel or otherwise, make me feel bad. But I must feel bad on some level, because in the last couple of weeks I’ve felt oddly at peace. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the feeling: I’m focused on what I need to do in the next few months, and I feel confident about how I’m doing it.

That being said, there are a few things I’ve missed. A handful of accounts I follow are by people who aren’t online anywhere else, and I’ve found myself missing their posts. When I go back to Insta this evening I’m going to catch up with Gerard Way’s photos, because I heard he’s got new music on the way, and @lgbt_history, which is possibly the most informative account on the whole of Instagram.

I might trim down who I follow, so I’m not seeing the same photos on Twitter and Instagram, for example, and I might set some sort of timer so I can only spend a certain amount of time on Insta per day. The good stuff on there is great, but I am ready to keep my distance from it, partly for my mental health but partly because god I’m getting so much done! This book might actually be ready to be pitched to agents by the end of the year, for one thing, and for another I can actually find I need on my dressing table which probably hasn’t happened since 2007.

Has anyone else taken time off from Insta or social media? How have you found it? I’m tempted to avoid Twitter for a few weeks next. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT.

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It’s Not Me, It’s You | Why I’m Taking a Break from Instagram (and kind of staging a protest)

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Yesterday I floated an idea with some fellow bloggers and Etsy sellers, and their response didn’t make curl up in embarrassment, so here goes. Last week I posted a photo to Instagram of the Kuang Si Waterfalls in Laos, with a link to the accompanying hilarious blog post. In the space of a few hours, which is the average lifespan for an Insta post, it got three likes. I work in digital marketing so I would have understood if I had tagged the post badly, or done a dodgy caption, or posted a photograph of an actual turd. But the Kuang Si Waterfalls are literally paradise:

My cousin even wrote some comments, so every point on the old ‘how to post a good Insta photo’ check list was ticked: funny caption, relevant tags, engaged audience, LITERAL PARADISE. I gritted my teeth and thought ‘maybe it is time to take a break from Instagram.’ I’ve been cutting down on my social media follows and posts generally lately because I’m busy, and if LITERAL PARADISE can’t reach my other friends and family, let alone potential blog readers, what is even the point? Intagram’s recent algorithm changes are making it harder and harder for people to see recent content, or even just… content. I think I see more ‘sponsored posts’ and ‘recommended posts’ than I do actual posts, and then photos from a week ago show up on my timeline that I completely missed a week ago. I’m not an expert but I did some Googling and here is the science behind why that happens:

  1. When you post a photo, Instagram shows the photo to 10% of your audience
  2. If within the first 10-60 minutes, your post gets high engagement (likes, comments, shares), Insta shows it to the rest of your audience (the exact amount of time seems to be debatable, but it’s definitely no more than an hour or two)
  3. If the post doesn’t perform then Insta, um, doesn’t show the rest of your audience.

TEN MINUTES. Here is a good article with more info, by the way. I dunno about you, but a lot of my followers are in a different timezone and a lot of the rest are spam accounts that don’t care anyway. No one sees anything in 10 minutes! Anyway, that’s not the point. Algorithms used by Insta and Facebook show you posts based on what the algorithm thinks you want to see, based on your history and previous engagement and whatnot, not on what you actually might want to see (again, I am not a computer expert, if anyone has a good explanation for how algorithms actually work, hit me up).

In theory this means all accounts (businesses, personal, robots pretending to be people) have to engage with followers by commenting, posting to Insta Stories, watching Insta Stories, etc. Officially, the new algorithm is a way of rooting out fake accounts that spam everyone. But it is also a sneaky unofficial way to get more people to use the app. To gain followers/readers/customers, we have to give Instagram more of our eyeball time, and thus give Instagram’s advertising partners more of our eyeball time. Small businesses or bloggers are more likely to pay for a sponsored post to reach more people, but how many of us see a sponsored post and immediately engage? I do sometimes, but not when I already follow that account and can’t see their organic posts!

Frank Iero fuck off gif
from Tumblr

Anyway. At first I was annoyed with Instagram as a regular person, then I was annoyed as someone whose job includes posting to Instagram for clients who expect results, and then I was annoyed as someone with a blog, Patreon and Etsy shop that deserve way more coverage than they get. But I don’t like moaning about a problem without trying to fix it, so I’ve had an idea for a little protest project.

As I said before, Instagram is fundamentally concerned about hooking users into spending more time on the app. It needs us to engage, because it’s a for-profit company that relies on advertisers paying lots of money in exchange for exposure to lots of people. And the only thing that really resonates with businesses is money. If users spend less time scrolling and watching Stories, there will be less exposure for advertisers and less revenue for the company. If lots of users spend less time on the app, citing the algorithm, the boss dudes might consider improving it.

So I’m taking a two week break from my personal Insta accounts, effective Monday 26th February. I can’t delete the app because I have clients who will want me to post for them, but I won’t be on my account, or the alternative Etsy account I run. If you’re annoyed too, join in! Of course, you don’t have to take two weeks. If spending an hour less a week on there is all you can manage because you have customers and friends to keep up with, that’s cool too. I am clearly not going to be monitoring you – this is a fun lil project that will stop me gritting my teeth so often, not Black Lives Matter or the gun control protests. I’m not really expecting to get through to a multi-million dollar company. There’s not really a time limit either – I can’t see this going viral and all 800 million Instagram users taking a two week break, somehow. And I’ll definitely be back on the app in a fortnight, because there are people on there I really care about. But best case scenario, Instagram’s bosses remember their audience is a community and worst case, I get a bit of headspace and meet some other disgruntled bloggers and business owners!

So if you’re taking part, hit me up in the comments – I’m also on Twitter and Tumblr, and my blog Facebook is here. You can email me at transmissions@indifferentignorance.com too. I wanted to hashtag #FuckInstagram but I think that might be too combative. I’m thinking maybe #ItsNotMeItsYou?

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Reasons to Let Trump into the UK

This post isn’t about South East Asia! Anyway so in case you’ve been living under a rock (great idea, by the way), there’s a petition asking the government to downgrade President Dickhead’s state visit to a regular one. I haven’t signed it, because although a state visit for a US president during their first year in office is unprecedented, and despite the opportunities it gives Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage to spout more self-aggrandising bile than we thought possible, I think a Trump administration state visit actually holds a wealth of opportunity for us all. No really bear with me:

The Queen will have to meet him

She might not be able to comment on politics, but she can publicly make subtly scathing conversation without raising an eyebrow. Various aides will have to murmur behind napkins ‘you certainly have done a lot’ does not mean she agrees with you on the Muslim ban, it means she can’t believe you haven’t been impeached yet. Yes, she really is offering you another biscuit.

Prince Phillip will have to meet him

Less subtle and witty. More like ‘the trifle is gorgeous today, isn’t it? So are you planning to start World War III with China or with  Iran?’

There will be loud, intrusive protests everywhere the delegation goes

The British tradition of just not mentioning unpleasant smells won’t be enough for officials to avoid bringing up how angry people are about the US administration’s desire to defecate over everything it sees, and the UK government’s desire to hold the toilet paper as long as it puts us in good stead come Brexit. Because how do you avoid bringing up signs like these?

Petition for Ian McKellen to get another knighthood.

Boris Johnson will almost definitely insult Trump to his face

Using words like ‘piffle’ and ‘codswallop’. For the first time in Boris’s political career everyone will be pleased about it. I guess this would also happen on a regular visit, but if it’s during a state visit he might be wearing a black tie and tails and the memes alone will be glorious.

Banning a man who’s spent his presidency banning things is too much like playing his game, and the British game is so much more fun

A lot of people just want him barred from entering UK airspace and although any type of Trump visit will be detrimental to our air pollution goals, I just don’t think a ban is particularly British. I think what is British is satire, sarcasm and a succinct declaration that we are quite cross.

Remember Je Suis Charlie? Now’s your chance to make good on the free speech and satire quotations you retweeted then. When Trump visits – and he will, at some point – every mildly eloquent, satirical or artistic person with access to the Internet gets to let loose. Whether it’s Have I Got News for You or The Last Leg or some bloke named Steve live Tweeting a press conference, the message will will be unambiguous: we will not hold the fucking toilet paper while you shit on our values. Columnists will crack their knuckles; cartoonists will sharpen their pencils; protesters will take their signs, chants and sit-ins to acidic new levels; Banksy will decorate a high rise. Small children will ask ‘why does my mum break china when he’s on TV?’ to the point where schools will hold assemblies explaining civil unrest. Alt-right neo Nazi scum will look at one another and gulp. Republican higher-ups will blink and realise that the special relationship isn’t about the Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiations. It’s about neighbours looking out for one another even after the odd failed invasion of the Middle East and dodgy extradition attempt. We will invite you in for a cup of tea, Mr Trump, but we reserve the right to spit in it.

I can’t believe I’m 21 and just made a toilet paper analogy. Yes, I can. Anyway what are your thoughts on the state visit? Do you have any ideas for protest signs? Tell me. (Next post we go back to regularly scheduled chat about Cambodian beaches.)

Referendum Flu

Since every other motherfucker in my Facebook and Twitter and household is telling me what they think and/or why I’m wrong, I thought I’d return the favour while I still can – and share some of my favourite referendum satire. I can’t upload the entirety of this week’s Private Eye coverage, but if you see a copy please do have a read, they’ve outdone themselves.

So, for what it’s worth and despite the EU being flawed beyond belief, I’m voting remain. I think the economy could be fine/shit either way, not that many people seem to actually have a clue, and I’m more interested in the fact that we live in an unstable world in which isolation of any kind would be a bad idea. Whether we like them or not, close cooperation and communication with our neighbours is crucial. The EU was originally something the British helped create to prevent another war, and I might be getting sappy in my old age but I think that’s something worth preserving (although I would like to see it sort out all the bullshit).

And now for the satire: the Now Show did a Vote Now Show which takes the piss for a solid half an hour, and John Oliver explained the referendum to the US. If you watch any of that, please for the love of god watch the song at the end just for the rhymes. I’m also in love with this, which asks the right question:

I have probably forgotten something funny (the number of people who think Boris is a suitable candidate for Prime Minister, maybe), but in case this is my last 24 hours of living in a country that hasn’t collectively voted to agree with the likes of Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and every racist who’s ever lived, I think I will leave this here and go and look at last minute plane tickets to the continent.

 

Friday Musings with Sweet Pea the Dog

I hadn’t realised it’s been over a week since I published; I’ve been working on a long-ish post but I’ve been trying to take my time over anything longer than a couple of paragraphs so you can expect it around the same time as the Chilcot report. In the mean time, I think it’s very important that we take a moment to appreciate the t-shirt Frank Iero designed recently.

I cannot really afford to buy more t-shirts, partly because I have both an MOT  and a bill for new glasses approaching, and partly because I own 34564 t-shirts and wear about three of them on a regular basis. But.

But.

Maybe I wouldn’t have to wear it. Maybe I could just hang it up above my bedroom door so it’s the first thing I see every day. A benevolent Sweet Pea dream catcher. When I get my own place I could hang it in the entrance hall as a warning to all who enter.

The real question isn’t ‘should I get a Sweet Pea t-shirt’. It’s ‘where can I make one with my own dogs’ faces’.

This is going to keep me up all weekend.

Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2015

Here we go again…

Record of the Year

My stereo has been home to two CDs more than any others this year: Chantal Claret’s Battles of a Heavy Heart, which if God existed would be available in all good music shops with a world tour. As it is you can buy it directly from Chantal’s site and follow her on social media to pretend she’s on a world tour.

The second CD actually came out last year, but I am always late to the music party, so I would like to highly recommend this Hozier chap. I think he may go on to big things. Remember when I lost my shit over the Take Me to Church video? Make a sequel.

I’ve also recently fallen back in love with Fall Out Boy (thank you to whoever made a Tumblr edit to The Kids Aren’t Alright and The Raven Cycle). FOB are a band I forget I love until I’m listening to them, then I can’t remember why I don’t listen more often. I got American Beauty/American Psycho a few weeks ago and my ears are so happy they want to set something on fire.

Video of the Year

I forgive you for Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen. I’ve also come to really love Call Me Maybe.

Book of the Year

This is hard. There’s The Raven Cycle, which has stolen my heart (and will break my heart when it concludes in April), When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit… but because I didn’t do book reviews when I read them, and because I went to a talk with the authors who were lovely:

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

I wish this had existed five or ten years ago. Basic summary: there is a kid who is transgender. I can’t tell you any more than that because there are twists (don’t worry, she doesn’t ‘go back to normal’), but I finished it in an afternoon and it’s amazing.

Trouble by Non Pratt

A girl called Hannah gets in trouble. Some random guy offers to help her out. ‘In trouble’ means pregnant, by the way.

The ‘I Saw This Shit Live’ News Story

Once upon a time there was a Liberal Democrat named Paddy Ashdown. As it became apparent that his party lost a general election more severely than Sepp Blatter lost his morals, he refused to believe the exit poll and threatened to eat his hat if the poll turned out to be correct.

Then, like all good politicians, he did a U turn. The end.

The ‘My Twitter Timeline United Like It Never Has Before’ News Story: Equal Marriage

I’ve never seen so many people so happy as when Ireland held its referendum and when the US Supreme Court sorted their shit. I do have quite a selective timeline, apart from that one day I accidentally followed the Westboro Baptists, but it’s not usually entirely focussed on one thing. So I think everyone should be allowed to get married, all the time, because it makes everyone stupidly happy.

Equal Marriage Celebration.png
Even lawyers win when love wins

The Homophobic Dick Award: Kim Davis

So it turns out not everyone was stupidly happy about letting the queers get married. Some were stupidly stupid. I will devote no more of my time to her than this paragraph.

The Indifferent Ignorance Ignorance Fuck Award: Donald Trump and Daesh

I am upset that this year, like most others, one winner of this particular category is American. Come on, rest of the world, raise your game. Although reluctant to pay either of them any more attention, I felt that both Trump and Daesh deserve the award for similar reasons: they are both ignorant of human empathy, dangerous when armed and an embarrassment to their respective cultural and racial groups. I actually chose Trump before Muslim Visa Gate, but that clinched it. America, if you’re reading, kindly do not allow this gentleman to run your country. Sincerely, everyone. I was going to ignore Daesh as one does an attention-seeking child and Katie Hopkins, but if they are reading this then they’ve sat through Tom Hanks lipsyncing, a video of two men kissing and Paddy Ashdown, so they’ve got a good idea of what hell will look like when they get there.


 

All right, that’s it for 2015. I think next year I will keep track of people who are doing their bit to eradicate ignorance of the likes of Trump and co. Doctors, artists, civil rights activists, etc. Balance the decent person:motherfucker ratio. My instinct tells me we’ll need them when the US election heats up if not before.

Happy new year to everyone!

Days Like These

You know those mornings when your dogs bark every time you start to concentrate on something, and you have to go out mid-afternoon so you’re reluctant to really get stuck into anything, but you can’t ignore the fact you really ought to get stuck into something, so you decide to pass the time writing a blog instead of pretending Tumblr browsing is market research?

Me too!

I try to be all behind-the-scenes-y on social media, especially Instagram, but if I showed you what my office space looks like right now, you’d all stop taking me seriously. (I’m aware that implies you already take me seriously, which is unlikely. My point is, the room looks like Royal Mail exploded.) There are two baking trays on my printer, tissue paper and open boxes sitting in places where other things should go, receipts stacked underneath the printer and a Pilates ball in the middle of the room to really set the ambience. I’m not moving any of it until tomorrow, when my mum is away and I can haul things up and down stairs without causing havoc… I’m thinking of changing my room around so I stop keeping shop supplies on the floor, but if past experience is an indication of ‘a quick tidy up’, I won’t just move some things around. I will deep clean, throw out shit I’d forgotten I owned, redecorate my desk and probably take several hours doing it.

But on Monday I will breeze downstairs and all will be right with the world… I’ll probably write four pages, finish a blog draft, do Pilates, enjoy a constant stream of Etsy orders and have a backer on Patreon. All because I spent the time re-organising, of course.

I wish I believed that.

I mean, everything is in place for all of those things to happen. I have pages of notes to turn into prose, a couple of blogs to craft into viral-article material, a free sticker scheme on Etsy until next Sunday and a Patreon full of excellent perks and reasons to support my work. But the biggest thing to happen on Monday will probably be my driving lesson. Maybe that is a bad example because driving is a huge thing for me and I often have to practice breathing before a lesson, but you know what I mean? Sometimes you can plan and organise and de-clutter and be as zen as you like and things still don’t fall into place. Is there a word for that? I feel like the Japanese or the French or the Greeks would have a word for that, while the English just vocalise it by making vowel sounds and flapping their hands. Like ‘mojo’ or ‘kefi’. What the hell did the English say before we learnt ‘mojo’?

I’m digressing. Perhaps I will decorate Indifferent Ignorance until it’s time to leave. If you have any ideas about how to describe ‘with the best will in the word, you’re running up a down escalator’ in less than 13 words, let me know.

Oh and if you follow me on the social media, I apologise for any spammy photos this evening of the O2. We’re seeing Top Gear Live That Isn’t Called Top Gear Live Since Clarkson Got Sacked. I am hoping for muscle cars and lots of this:

Top Gear complaints form dontkillthevibe.t
from dontkillthevibes.tumblr.com

Oh iPhone, You Have My Heart (and my attention span)

Yesterday I cleaned and rearranged my entire desk, so now the multiple Post Its and to-do lists are all zen, just like my mind will be when I start work every day. Coincidentally, today I activated my new phone (or half activated it, since apparently it takes ages for my provider to realise it’s sending cat emojis to a different device) and I’ve been thinking hard about which apps I want to reinstall and how I want to use the new phone. At the moment the home screen is so serene, with twice as much space as the old one… admittedly it’s twice the size, but it got me thinking that I’d really rather fill my phone with mindfullness apps and cookbooks than I would with work things or social media – which are sometimes work and sometimes personal… and always time-consuming.

I feel like getting a new device is the perfect excuse to embrace hippiness and quit my Instagram habit. Become one of those people who checks their mobile for half an hour each day, with the occasional game of snake while stuck in a queue. I always feel that although those people might not get updates from their Etsy shop or messages from Headspace reminding to keep their shit together, they must already have very peaceful minds. I want my phone to be a tool to enrich my life, god damn it, not something to which I am beholden just in case Sweet Pea the dog updated her feed.

Okay, bad example because Sweet Pea will only ever enrich my life. But you know what I’m getting at? I spent a large portion of my teenage years living with repetitive strain because I texted far too much; I often don’t sleep because I just had a quick check of Twitter in bed and two hours later I’ve got the Syrian civil war and Gerard Way’s massage Tweets papering the inside of my skull. And why do I reply to emails on my phone? I have a desktop, an iPad and a Windows Surface, all of which are easier to read, easier to type on and, oh yeah, won’t fit in bed with me.

Thing is, when push comes to shove – which it does too often – I have to work from my phone. It’s so accessible, and Instagram doesn’t work nearly as well from a desktop. I need all five email accounts on my phone, both Etsy apps and Tumblr just in case my zen desk space failed me and I only remember something important in the car on the way to a birthday. And what if the iPad, desktop computer and Surface break in a freak accident? I need the Internet for money, so boom, the phone is a lifesaver. I don’t even like leaving it at home on a walk because what if I get attacked by crazy people or trip over or find a stray dog and need to actually speak to someone?

Upon reflection I think that it’s all down to me not taking my phone to bed (or into the bathroom, or to situations where I don’t actually actively need to use it). I’m the one who decides whether or not I should check Facebook for the 10th time on that device that morning, and it’s down to me to choose not to. Like anything, my phone will only take over my life if I let it. The part of me that wants to be chilled and  organised has to sit on the nervous news-seeking Internet junkie part of me. I’m fed up with only avoiding my mobile on holidays and at Christmas, and I know that if I spent less time refreshing my feed and more time properly working, I’ll be more productive in the long run.

So I’m telling you this hoping that by holding myself publically(ish) accountable, I might actually do it. Think of it as a new month’s resolution (speaking of, where in God’s name did September go?!). Have any of you ever tried minimising your tech use? Did you end up moving to the jungle to be at one with nature or did you flake out as soon as the new OITNB dropped? Please share your stories, because I think I’m going to need a support group for this.