No Social Media Challenge

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

It has officially been 30 days since I started my No Social Media Challenge! On the first day of April, I decided to make a post on Instagram explaining that I was taking some time off from social media. Truth be told, I had been feeling like I needed a social media break for a while before I made that post. I kept going back and forth on whether or not it was a good idea. After all, social media seems like an absolute must for artists these days. Just google “can you be an artist without social media” and you’ll see what I mean.


Despite what some advised me to do, I decided to listen to my instincts and quit social media. I was feeling drained and depleted every time I used it. And the mere idea of sharing my work in an arena that stifles unsponsored posts felt exhausting. Social media is like a toxic relationship for a lot of people, especially artists. We don’t really like it, but feel like we have to include it un our lives in order to be “successful”. But if social media really helps artists, why are so many of my peers leaving for good or experiencing burnout? Clearly, it doesn’t work for everyone, including me.


So what exactly did I find in my time away from Instagram? How did my life change by quitting social media? What impact did I find in my art practice by taking a social media break? Should we move away from social media once and for all? Today I’m sharing five insights I gained from my no social media challenge, along with what I’m planning on doing next.


Peace of Mind

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One of the things I really dislike about social media is the lack of peace I feel while using it. There is so much going on all the time and it feels like you always have to be online and making new things and posting and rinsing and repeating… It felt like a giant, virtual hamster wheel! I was doing so much work trying to keep up with all the changes and stay relevant and ended up getting absolutely nowhere. I’m sure it works for some people just fine, but that lifestyle is not for me.


I enjoy a slower paced life I get to experience in a private, analog fashion. I don’t mind sharing my artwork, but I want to do so in a sustainable way. My work is incredibly detailed and is created with probably the slowest media available to humankind. I’m not going to have something new to post every day. And if I want to be able to do this for the rest of my life, I need to honor my pace and journey by showing up in ways that respect that.


So how have I felt since I left Instagram? When I uninstalled the app from my phone, I instantly felt a wave of peace. It was finally quiet. I could think clearly, make decisions for myself, and enjoy living life slowly and intentionally. It felt like I had finally escaped the Matrix, and I’m way too far down the rabbit hole to go back now. If you’re feeling stretched thin, maybe consider taking a break.


More Time

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Have you ever looked at how much time you spend on social media? I don’t actually have a timer app on my phone, but I know it was probably about 2 hours every day when I was actively posting. That’s 14 hours a week sucked into a platform that hasn’t given me any return on investment. By cutting off the endless scroll, I made a co-decision to invest that time elsewhere.


And once I escaped the scrolling trap, I found I had so much more time to get things done! My productivity related to art has skyrocketed. And as someone with chronic pain, my time is already limited. I can’t be spending it just any old way. I really have to determine what is and isn’t worth my time and energy. Social media is not my priority; building a strong portfolio is much more important to me, so I’m choosing to shift my focus there.


By cutting out the biggest time suck in my practice, I’ve been able to make much more progress in my studio than I thought I could. If you’re finding yourself strapped for time, try cutting out social media. And if you feel like you can’t quit entirely, maybe try scaling back your posting frequency.


Less Distracted

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Another thing I hate about social media is how distracting it is. We know how addicting the apps are; programmers specifically made them that way. But it doesn’t make it any less difficult to resist the urge to scroll! When working on illustrations, I often have my phone nearby playing podcasts with the color picker tool open. It's so easy to take a “quick” break and get on the ‘Gram only to find half an hour went by! Those breaks make it incredibly difficult to make any progress, because you’re fragmenting your attention repeatedly.


Since uninstalling IG, I don’t have to deal with that anymore. I barely get on my phone now, and you can see a direct impact in the amount of work I’m getting finished. By focusing my attention and fostering a distraction-free zone, I’m able to get into and stay in flow so much easier than I was before! It feels so good to keep my attention on something that’s actually benefiting me.


I also feel an added benefit of not worrying about if anyone will like what I’m doing. When you’re trying to find your artistic voice, the last thing you want to do is hinder your ability and right to explore as an artist. Obviously you’ll have to prove your work is consistent when working with clients and art directors, but that distraction is not helpful when you’re figuring things out or making a huge pivot from your previous work. So feel free to step back from social media if you feel that Instagram is destroying your concentration or distracting you from your real goal.


Reduced Anxiety

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If you suffer from any sort of anxiety disorder - or even if you don’t - you’ve probably noticed an uptick in your anxiety while using and after using social media. And I feel like it’s even worse when you’re trying to run a creative business through it. You start to worry why posts didn’t do well, why your sales are going down, or if you should even pursue your dream since no one seems to care anyway. It’s crazy that an app can make us feel this way, but it’s been proven that the impact of social media on mental health is terrible.


As someone with an anxiety disorder, I find operating in the social media space extremely difficult. It makes me question everything when my posts bomb. And the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to perform well is absolutely insane! Artists of the past did not have to deal with this constant barrage of accessibility. Yes, it’s really cool to see the process of something. But to open up our lives and share every little thing we do - art and non-art related - with anyone and everyone is ridiculous. It’s no wonder artists are burning out and leaving the field. It’s too much to ask of anyone, let alone artists who often pour their soul into their work.


My anxiety isn’t gone completely, but the levels are so much lower compared to before. I feel much less stressed when I sit down to work on my illustrations, because I’m no longer worrying about hitting a home run with every single thing I make. More importantly, I’m not deriving self value from how many double taps my latest post got. If you’re finding that your self worth is wrapped up in your online presence, I really encourage you to examine that, because that’s not healthy for anyone.


Self Appreciation

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While I fully expected to experience all the previous points above, I didn’t predict that my relationship with myself would also improve. But it makes so much sense that it would! Why? I’m no longer comparing myself, my life, and my art to everyone else. As a result, I’ve started to find compassion and respect for my personal journey as well as room for self-love.


When I was spending too much time on Instagram, it was so easy to berate and insult myself when I saw someone else doing “better” than me. But now that I’m not constantly inundated with hundreds of other lives, I can immerse myself in my own life. I don’t have the same pressure to feel perfect and perform for others. Instead, I’m learning to love my strengths, embrace my weaknesses, and accept where I am right now while also setting healthy goals and boundaries around my work.


I also feel so much more in love with my work than I ever have before. I’m so thankful for the hours and dedication I’ve given to my craft, because it fills me up like nothing else can. And once I removed the source of comparison, I was finally able to see how far I’ve come and what art is truly about. If you’ve also fallen prey to the comparison trap, maybe it’s time to take a break from social media. Nothing is worth stealing your joy and self-love.

 

So what does all this mean? What exactly have I learned from this experiment? Essentially, I’ve learned that social media is not for me. It makes me feel terrible about my work, myself, and others. I simply don’t want to live like that, which means I’m not going to be returning to social media at this time. I would say forever, but circumstances can change. And I’m open to changes for the better. But for the time being, social media and I are no longer in a relationship.


Instead, I’ll be continuing my blog here with resources for other artists, progress and process posts of my work, and articles about artistic well-being. My gallery and shop will also be changing and evolving as I delve further into the work I love. And of course, my newsletter will go out every third Thursday like always. As other things evolve and projects are wrapping up, I’ll be sure to share them!


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Thanks for reading and happy creating!