Lessons Learned after a Social Media Hiatus

You read that right, I left social media. In 2017 I went all 1997.  See ya later status updates and letting everyone know my biz. Peace out, cat memes. #nomorehashtagsforme 

I talk the big talk now, but if I’m totally honest with you, it was a scary move. When I pushed the delete button for my Facebook page, I literally expected my computer to explode. When I deactivated my instagram account, I totally thought parts of my body were going to disappear. It was hard, really hard, but that’s also how I knew it was the right thing for me to do. 

Would I ever book another client? Would I ever get another visitor to my website? Would anyone ever know I even existed?! 

Why I did it… 

At the time, I was a family documentary photographer out of a small town in central Illinois, population 15. My social media following, though small by most standards, was humbling to me. At the time I went rogue at the beginning of 2017, I had 1,700 supporters on my Facebook page and 800 followers on instagram, celebrating each and everyone of those fabulous people. It didn’t take long, however, where I started shooting for them. What did they want to see? What did they like? How often did I need to exist to them? Why didn’t they like this photo I posted? It became exhausting and I could feel my voice leaving my work. They weren’t photos that I wanted to share, they were the photos I thought they wanted to see. 

On top of that, the comparison struggle was real for me. Whether it was comparing likes, followers, or photos in general, I always left any given scrolling session by feeling less than fabulous about my photography, my parenting, and my life overall.  I was riding the struggle bus with it all. 

And the last straw in this whole toxic relationship was time. I was spending so much time doing nothing on social media, I didn’t know what it was all for. When I taught high school, I remember seeing all the teenagers glued to their phones, thinking about what a shame it all was. And there I was, missing things, not allowing myself to be in the moment or just exist, because I was worried about a following. I was never allowing myself to be bored or get new ideas because I was so plugged into the ideas and lives of others. 

After trying so many tactics and work-life balance hacks, even though I cut significantly back on my existence and time on social media, I still felt empty every and like time was wasted every time I logged on. And so, against the advice of all of my fellow entrepreneurs, I said goodbye. 

Lessons I learned from a 6 month social media hiatus

What I learned…

First of all, I learned that you can, in fact, survive without social media. Phew! I booked sessions and filled workshops, in spite of my decision to go rogue.

I also learned that you can still grow a business without social media. While I didn’t have Facebook or instagram to share my photos, I was fortunate enough my clients and friends wanted to do that for me. Not because I asked, but because they genuinely liked my work. My focus was on pouring my heart into my blog and newsletter and making photos that I loved, not scheduling posts and coming up with clever commentary. 

I learned that people that want relationships with you make the time off of the internet. I had long phone calls with old friends and sent letters and real printed photos to people. I worked at cultivating relationships that I wouldn’t have before. I had creative ideas that I know I wouldn’t have if I would have been hiding behind a screen, waiting for the ideas of others to inspire me. 

Lessons I learned from a 6 month social media hiatus

What it all means… 

My leave from instagram lasted about 6 months and then I felt like I was in a good enough space to return, with a new account, a new focus.  Plus, my mother was getting a little irate with the amount of photos I wasn’t sending her of my kids. This month marks a whole year off Facebook (though, full disclosure, I have an account with 0 friends so I can be in groups for workshops I teach and mom activities I’m part of).  

Now, however, I’m more mindful and purposeful of the things I share, making sure they are for me, not for the popularity contest that sometimes exists in the virtual world.  I take weekends off, giving myself time and space from the noise.  And, as much as I want to support everyone that has a dream and a beautiful feed, I only follow people that feed my soul.  It’s almost monthly that I go through and unfollow people that don’t fit the bill.  And yes, I feel like such a brat admitting that.

I’m not telling you this because I think everyone should get offline, but rather because, if you are like me, feeling like the noise of social media is a little deafening and you want to break away but everyone says no, I’m here to tell you yes.  Even if it’s just a week or a month, you might learn something about why you do what you do and share what you share.  

And most importantly, I’m telling you this to remind you that you are more amazing than the number likes on your last post, I guarantee it. 

Lessons I learned from a 6 month social media hiatus

Ashley Manley

Ashley is a family documentary photographer living on a small farm outside of Peoria, Illinois. She spends her days chasing two littles and telling her story on her blog, and so we laugh.

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