My Long Goodbye to Instagram

A fellow writer and I were recently lamenting the vagaries (so close to the word ‘aggravation’!) of the current iteration of Instagram. The black hole of time suck it has become, not to mention the effect on one’s mental and emotional health from scrolling mindlessly were but two of the common reasons we found to complain. We both value our mental and emotional health.

My friend and I are part of many of the same creative communities, people we’ve known, in person or virtually, for over ten years. The Venn diagram of our social media connections have significant overlap, and we were noticing the same things.

“What is the deal?!” I could hear the frustration in her voice.

“We’re all circling around the same campfires, pointing at the same people, commenting on the same content.” I said. “Does it ever feel like we’re in some online echo chamber?”

Instagram was beginning to feel like a clique, not intentionally, but because of the nature of the medium. In my humble opinion, its demise began when whatever robot is responsible came up with the algorithm. I hate the algorithm.

Maybe This is Why There’s a “Clique-y” Feeling.

Rather than being a virtual bulletin board of remarkable or everyday photos and subsequent illuminating captions, being on Instagram felt like watching my luggage pass by on an airport conveyor belt. I know there should be some kind of life in these containers, but why do I keep seeing the same things go by time after time after time? Where are the photos and posts I want to find? And why is there an ad for skin cream I do not need?

Okay, maybe I could use some skin cream.

The essence of Instagram interactions seemed to boil down to a push to post or comment with a, “Do you see me seeing you?” kind of vibe. Or letting my followers know I was with so-and-so, or was reading such-and-such, making sure I tagged the appropriate people to be sure they knew. Tagging. Always tagging. And hashtags. #somanyhashtags

Of course, we weren’t really “seeing” each other. The distinct lack of authentic communication engendered by a virtual space is a poor substitute for reality. And a lot gets lost in translation.

Part of my decision to leave Instagram was also this: I found myself constantly viewing everything I saw or read as fodder for IG posts. Each flower in my garden, bird at my feeder or snapshot of the sky was processed through the lens of, “Oh! This would look great on Instagram.”

My current or TBR pile of books (curated and influenced by folks I followed, not usually by myself) also were a regular source of #pressuretopost. Yes, I just made up that hashtag.

It was exhausting.

The Pressure of Platform

As a writer I’d repeatedly heard the mantra about platform-building as a necessity for publishing success. Writers in any genre or market who want to find a home for their work are at the mercy of acquisitions editors and/or agents who now look at followers, followers, followers. I recently read the minimum number that agents and editors look at is 25,000. Twenty-five thousand.

I have a book of poetry coming out in October 2023. Thanks to the not-so-subtle Marketing Questionnaire from my publisher, the necessity of marketing my upcoming title is a foregone conclusion. But the pressure to post regularly on Insta (aside from my infinitesimal sliver of presence on Twitter & Facebook) had become a nagging, constant presence in my overcrowded brain. Build engagement, get those likes, connect with readers!

I am no best-selling author; indeed, I have less than 200 email subscribers to my blog. My first two books were self-published and sold 500 copies (Book One) and about 200 copies (Book Two). But 200 subscribers or 20,000 followers, the IG pressure is still the same: Are people seeing you? Are you letting them know you see them? Do your friends and followers know who you’re seeing/what you’re reading/watching/listening to? Not only is it exhausting, it’s also not sustainable. Sometimes I felt like a one-woman cheerleading squad.

I Blame the Enneagram. Kidding. Sort of.

As someone who processes the world through words, I spend a lot of time recording my thoughts; I have a very large collection of journals on my shelves to prove it. I’ve also started taking notes during my monthly meeting with a Spiritual Director, the author of two books on the Enneagram. The personal discoveries I’ve made in the last year about how God wired me personality-wise have been insightful to say the least.

There’s a common theme in both my daily journals and the notes from my monthly Spiritual Director meetings—my love/hate relationship with Instagram.

Here’s the thing—I’m an Enneagram 7—my besetting sin is gluttony. Not the eat ‘til your pants burst their buttons but the fill-your-life-so-full-with-entertainment-and-input-you-never-slow-down-to-your-actual-life. (Yes, that was a lot of hyphens.)

My coping mechanism for when life gets a little too close for comfort with pain or problems is to look everywhere else for meaning and worth.

My Spiritual Director reminded me about where I was turning—where was my focus of attention? Who was in the middle and what was I turned towards? If Jesus was in the center, I could better reflect Him in my life. But my focus of attention was mere mortals, fellow flawed humans who were not my actual Source of Life.

My perspective was alllllll wrong.

Coupled with my bent towards ignoring my own life and turning to others’, the addictive nature of Instagram was too tempting. (Thank you, infinite scroll).

My first waking thoughts had become focused on what so-and-so was reading/thinking/doing. Or on my need to let everyone know/see what I was doing and searching for the just-right photo to accompany it. The tug towards the virtual world of Instagram was not serving me well.

God was speaking very clearly about paying attention to the actual people right in front of me, using my time and energy to pour life and encouragement to those already in my circle and offer my writing gifts to those who’ve invited me into their virtual lives and Inbox.

Social Media Presence ≠ Book Sales

Another issue that became clear was my engagement with folks on Instagram rarely built my email list or translated to interest in my books. There was zero return on my audience reach for the time I was investing, whether in Instagram posts or stories. According to this article, the conversion rate for book sales on social media is less than .1%. That means for every 1000 followers you have on social media, you sell one book. I had exactly 350 followers on Instagram. Let’s not do the math. Yes, I want to build my readership and widen the reach of my words, but there had to be a better way.

Enter this podcast, Writing Off Social.

The friend I mentioned earlier texted me a link one day about leaving social media. It was the nudge I needed. I gave a listen and decided—yep, it was time to leave Instagram.

The process was incremental: I first changed my personal IG account to private, intending to leave the opportunity to still scroll through my feed and see peoples’ posts but not add any of my own. But I was still scrolling at any and all times of day. Next, I took the app off my phone and tablet, so I’d be forced to read and comment on my computer during break times while I was writing. Hashtag hopeful. But the draw and diversion were still there.

By the time I was tiptoeing towards a final goodbye to my IG accounts—one personal, the other to document my 2022 Italy trip—the content of my IG feed had become ads for movies, ads for products, posts from people I didn’t follow and occasionally inspiring content from someone I actually knew.

That clinched it.

In late April this year, I finally pulled the plug.


Since then, I’ve felt more freedom in my own headspace than ever before. I’m more present to my actual, physical life and the people right in front of me. I am (learning) to be more focused. My creativity has returned and new possibilities for serving my website readers have floated to the surface.

And funny thing? Since I’ve been gone, I don’t think anyone’s missed me.

I’m still connected, but in different and better ways. Like in person with actual people. Also, praise be, via Zoom. And I ask you, why else do you think God invented email?

Connections with humans matter. Sharing our words matter. But there is a better way.