I’m painting and thinking and writing and making morning walk sketches, and I’m not posting any of it on Instagram. I’m not even looking at Instagram. In fact, three weeks ago, I deleted the app from my phone. I also deleted Facebook and Pinterest. Currently, I have almost no digital visual input. And, it feels so liberating.
I was on the Instagram roller coaster for many years— posting on my feed 5 days a week, 3 times a day at 9am, 12pm and 3pm. I don’t ride roller coasters in real life, so why have I been riding this one? Because consistency in posting is what I heard would gain the most followers and keep my audience engaged. Why did I need more followers? To grow my business? To validate my work? I found myself working on my phone all-the-time. I’m a painter, and I was on my phone way more than I was painting. Something needed to change.
As the end of the kids’ school year was nearing, I felt this would be the perfect time to explore my relationship between my phone (mainly social media) and my art practice. It was time to get off the roller coaster; time to stop overthinking what to post; time to stop scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration to see what’s hot; time to stop comparing my life and work to others.
Don’t let the above fool you into thinking that I don’t love Instagram, because I do LOVE instagram. I am so grateful for the people who like my work and are curious to see what I do in the studio. Instagram is a gift that other artists (and mothers) give me. The people I’ve followed over the years have greatly fueled me. I want to contribute to that community but I want to re-enter it in a fresh way. I want to re-engage in a way that is fulfilling for not only my creative practice but to the lives of those who follow my feed.
Questions I’m currently asking myself:
How can I get in a state of creative flow and experimentation in the studio without ruminating about how whatever I’m doing is going to look on Instagram?
What practices can I establish so that Instagram doesn’t distract me from creative studio time?
How can I post images of my process and creative output while keeping my feed coherent? Does it need to be consistent?
What do I wish to share?
How can I follow other artists without being overly influenced by their work?
How can I limit the natural comparison that happens when engaging with social media?
What boundaries can I put in place so I have a healthy relationship between being influenced by what’s on social media and finding inspiration elsewhere?
Should I move away from using Instagram as a business tool?
Can I trick myself into thinking social media is not a business tool while knowing that it is?
How do I balance my need for creative flow and experimentation with my desire to share my work and engage with people?
How can I engage on a deeper level with people who follow my work and process?
Okay, the last two questions really get to the heart of this exploration. You see, I am an introvert. At the age of 13ish while at summer camp, I remember vividly how I felt when I got the results back from the Meyers-Briggs personality test. It read INFJ. I kept looking at the first letter in shock. What? I’m an introvert? I cried. I felt lost because I wasn’t what I thought was cool, an extrovert. On that day, I discovered that I was an introvert— not because the test said so, but because I could feel it in my bones.
I’ve been focused on getting stimulation from outside myself for years through social media, and I’m drained. Over the last few months, I’ve been feeling my introvert rear her head and beg for attention. I am honoring that part of me right now. I’m on a path to discover how to engage in a meaningful way through social media while consistently being in creative flow. Using this month to reset is the first step in that journey.
On a personal note, as you know, I have 4 children. My oldest turned 12 last week. She’s been asking for a phone for years. We believe she doesn’t need one right now; however, she will eventually. In the meantime, she and her brothers are soaking up how I engage with my phone. Before this social media cleanse, I felt like my phone use was getting out of control. I was posting what I thought others expected to see or posting in response to what I was seeing on other feeds instead of what I desired to share. Frankly, I wasn’t taking time to ask myself what I wished to share. I am seeking to find peace with my interactions through my phone before I hand one to her and expect her to know how to live with this powerful device. An important role as a mother of teenagers will be to help them navigate the world of social media. How am I going to do that if I don’t know how to engage with it in a conscious way?
It feels good to put all of this in writing. I can already sense that by simply taking a break and writing this down, my relationship with social media is transforming. I also know that it will be an ongoing dance to learn how to use it as I evolve and it evolves.
And so, this week I will begin to add social media back into my life. A myriad of emotions arise at the thought of re-entering the social media universe, but, for the most part, I’m energized by the idea of experimenting with it in a fresh way. You can follow me on Instagram @katelewisart.com to see for yourself what emerges!