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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A Retrospective of the Fiscal Year and Dubious Freelancing/Artist Advice

Who’s excited for the end of the financial year? Who wants it to be 6th April already so they can relish a clean slate and make 2016/17 the year they go up an income threshold? Who sometimes wishes they had someone else to make tough decisions regarding business card expenditure?

Yep.

Since we are nearly at the end of this fiscal calendar, I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learnt since 6th April 2015, as a writer, shopkeeper and digital marketing freelancer and share some of my pearls of wisdom.

  • It’s genuinely really hard to invest in necessities like business cards and packaging when you have no capital. Use some savings (or visit one of those bank things or find some investors) to get you off the ground. It will cause less stomachaches.
  • Speaking of packaging, it’s completely okay to reuse bubble envelopes if they aren’t scummy.
  • You might think you can predict what will sell, but you can’t. You just learn to guess what your customer wants, and even then they will probably surprise you.
  • If a product isn’t working, photograph it better. Or replace it with a better product.
  • Photographs.
  • Photographs.
  • Photographs.
  • 80% of your time is spent marketing and organising, 10% is spent corresponding, 5% researching and developing and perfecting, and 5% making the art you sell.
  • Look after yourself, mentally, physically and financially, because freelancers don’t get sick pay, holiday pay, pension schemes or sympathy when they’re ill.
  • Always try to correspond with clients or customers in the same way your teachers wrote home to your parents: politely, firmly and with the spellchecker on.
  • As a freelancer, you make your own motivation and set your own timetable. I’ve learnt that my motivation is my desire to spite the people who think I should get a ‘real’ job, and nothing sets a timetable like knowing you have 8 hours to complete 12 hours worth of work.
  • If you’re not busy, clean your desk and do your accounts because when you are busy, you will come downstairs and realise you work in a pigsty with no recollection of where your money went. Oh and if you’re not busy, you probably need to improve your marketing.
  • Taking a step back from this blog last summer was one of the best decisions I made all year.
  • My readers and my customers are the strangest, most eccentric and most generous people. (I already knew that. You’re welcome for the reminder.)
  • Social media marketing is about being social. Not copy and pasting the high five/praying emoji onto  twelve Instagram posts alongside the phrase ‘keep up the good work!’.
  • Marketing.
  • Marketing.
  • Marketing. Work out who your customer is. Work out where they are and what they want. Go to them with the thing(s) they want.
Artemis was right, Greek mythology poster postcard by Francesca Burke
In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was a hit with the asexual and aromantic bloggers of Tumblr.
  • #GIRLBOSS the shit out of your life, because no one else will do it for you.
  • Read #GIRLBOSS. Even if you are a guy, non-binary or allergic to hashtags.
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, girlboss.com
from girlboss.com
  • Nothing is more isolating than being the only person you know who does what you do and working from home while you do it. Find other people who do something similar and meet for coffee, follow their blogs and write your own, or join an Etsy team. Or all of those things.
  • A wise man in a World War II film I saw recently said something along the lines of ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person. People with all the time in the world never get anything done’. TL;DR: if you really want to make art or write a book or start a business, you will make the time to do it.
  • Paying yourself with meagre wages, knowing you can account for earning every single pound, makes up for being perceived as unemployed by your nearest and dearest, explaining that you post to the Internet for a living but no, you can’t wire up a wifi connection, and working on a Saturday night because you can’t afford to go out, move out or use up the bubble bath.

Most of the time.

Now bring it, 2016/17, I want to win at this game.