After a decade of using Instagram, and gaining almost 40,000 followers I decided to leave the platform permanently. As a former Marketing Manager, this may seem like madness, but the decision to leave is already proving itself to be the best thing I have ever done for my creativity, strengthening my mission here, and most of all, my peace of mind. Here’s why I decided to walk away from it all despite all the hard work I put into building it over the years.
Why I left Instagram and I don’t regret it
I remember it like it was yesterday, with a newborn Arlo in my arms, and life having changed so very suddenly, I downloaded the newly launched Instagram app.
“How fun”, I thought! A new social media platform to connect with people all over the world. A bonus for a brand new Mum whose social life was suffering, and being the first of my friends to start a family, Facebook wasn’t exactly full of people in the same boat. I loved that it was based on photo sharing too, I’ve always been a visual learner with a love for photography.
The cameras on our phones might have been grainy, and the app itself rudimentary - but it didn’t matter. I felt connected to the outside world again, and at times that suited me - boring and bleary-eyed 2am feeds anyone?
Through this new app I felt like I could travel to new parts of the world, see things I never thought I’d see, and connect with likeminded people. I “met” many ladies that I am still in touch with all these years later. I have witnessed them fall in love, get married, grow their own families, start businesses and flourish! I can still recall tentatively mentioning to a few of them that I had an idea for a book, and them really cheering me on. It was a blessing to have joined the platform back then because what it has added to my life experience and network has been wonderful, I’ll always be grateful for that, however…
The purity of what I believe the original developers of the app had wanted to create has since been lost, and through corporate greed or otherwise, they have allowed a certain darkness to reign in its offices and among its users. Let me explain…
Instagram isn’t good for your mental health.
I didn’t want to do a big “I’m leaving” announcement because I think they’re a bit silly, I’m not expecting anyone to care or cry over it, and we all need to remember that the platform is opt-in after all. Not only that, after mulling the whole thing over for a few months, and trialling different ways of interacting with the app, such as going private, sharing more of my personality, and then less. I had decided for myself that I definitely wanted to leave, and didn’t want to cloud this resolve by having people try and convince me to stay.
Who, after all, would I be staying for? Certainly not Alena Kate Pettitt the woman, wife, mother, and writer. The Darling Academy was the only thing that might suffer. Maybe…
Instagram has been a nice place to connect with people, it has been a big factor in spreading the word about my blog, but it has had its downsides too, I won’t lie.
Not one single person on this planet has seen what I’ve truly been exposed to because of that app. The vile messages, the hatred, the passive-aggressive comments (which are, in many ways, the worst of them), and the unwanted attention from men. A pretty feed and lots of followers doesn’t shield you from the ugly side of human nature, and to add to the matter, since leaving I have had countless emails from people thinking I have blocked them(?).
Can you see how this is the first red flag? The user on the other end thinks that it is a slight against them when they can’t find you, rather than looking at things pragmatically, and maybe doing some research. I am still active on the blog and on Facebook.
In doing so, they would have found that I have simply chosen to focus my efforts elsewhere. When I’d ask other people with a larger following, or try and find some confirmation online from other bloggers, many were scared to leave and couldn’t fathom why you’d walk away from something that almost everyone with a blog does! It’s not normal to not be on Instagram, let alone be willing to leave! Surely, because I was not longer there, I must have been hacked or something!?
On the other side of this coin, I’ve had people truly worried about me, and concerned that something really bad must have happened. I’m honestly thankful that people care and have checked in, but an Instagram presence is not the litmus test of whether someone is “ok”, or alive.
An Instagram presence and activity online is not the litmus test of whether someone is happy, successful, or “ok”.
I think we all need to question our belief system around the use of social media. Just because someone is on it and posting happy snaps doesn’t mean they are ok or their mental health isn’t suffering, which is just as true as someone walking away from it, or not having an account isn’t an indicator of depression or otherwise.
Having a social media presence is not a sound way to judge a person’s mental health.
I haven’t exactly left because of health reasons (but I have definitely felt a certain small cloud leave me), but simply for time, and creative energy reasons! It took so much of that from me, and I never realised until I walked away.
Will my business or blog suffer if I don’t have Instagram?
In the months leading up to my departure from Instagram, this is a question I googled countless times in many iterations. The Darling Academy, at the end of the day, has a message that I want to promote.
I want it to be found by those who are fated to discover it, and all marketing professionals these days say that social media platforms are a must. Will walking away from my profile that had been active since 2016, and had amassed nearly 40,000 followers be marketing suicide?
The answer is actually, NO! I reminded myself that I worked in marketing before the advent of social media. My husband too, who works in the digital space and built this lovely website, has told me time and time again that “content is king”... Perhaps I should listen to him more ;)
So I sat down and crunched the numbers one day. If you have a professional account you can look back over the analytics and see just how well your efforts on the app “convert” into something tangible. In business-speak, it means how many people are clicking through and leaving the app to visit your own website. The number of followers you have is vanity, it’s how many visit you outside of the app is where the real value lies.
How many people would visit a blog post after posting about it in my stories? Around 2-3% of my total following! That’s not a good ROI, considering what you actually need to do in order to achieve that. Especially if you don’t want to pay to promote your profile (the idea of which gives me an icky feeling).
I stumbled across a few influencers who left the platform because it gave them anxiety over the pressure to perform, especially in “proving the numbers” to those who paid them to advertise products. What a horrible way to earn your keep.
The way the app is engineered, we have to ‘play the game’ in order to achieve better numbers, and that’s if I had been posting consistently and interacting with the app for many hours so that the algorithm would “reward” me for doing so and show my post to a tiny percentage of my audience.
Who is doing my housework in the meantime???
Numbers aside, it was a fun place to spend my time some days, of course, but the time required and the rate of return makes no commercial sense whatsoever! Social media is not a sound investment, and they keep changing the rules all the time. Exhausting!
Over these same years I have also had a newsletter here on the blog, and that reaches 100% of the subscribers, all 10k of you and growing! I’m not restricted in what I say, how I say it, or how much I can say. I’m not censored. I am in control, and what I say doesn’t expire after 24 hours, or lay dormant and undiscovered unless someone scrolls way back. Every single post has equal opportunity to be seen, and as long as we continue to pay hosting - is timeless! What happens if your profile gets hacked, or Instagram closes down one day? All will be lost.
The world hasn’t imploded (yet) because I chose to step away. I’m just choosing to do this like writers did in “the olden-golden days of blogging”, which was only just over a decade ago. The people who believe in and care about you and your business will find you and stick around, however you choose to communicate with them in the future.
It’s better to have an engaged network of people that share your values and like your work than thousands of fair-weather “followers”.
Instagram makes people vain and rewires your brain.
I really take issue with the word “followers”… I’m not Jesus. I also take issue with algorithms that mess with the user’s perception of success and popularity on a platform that’s supposed to be “social” and fun.
On too many occasions I’ve also witnessed people become the victim of their own success and they adopt an inflated sense of self-importance, and the developers really play into this. Handing out blue ticks to people they think should be set apart - mostly celebrities or influencers rather than people who promote causes and charities. They dish out filters like sweeties, and actually code the platform to promote a picture of a face over everything else.
I’d notice this myself, whenever I posted a picture of myself it would do so much better than say, a picture of a cake. This is initially flattering. It’s nice to hear how lovely you look, but I know it myself - I’m not a supermodel… and the pressure to post nice picture, let alone make the effort to get a nice picture is unbelievable! It’s the same with cake - I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’d spin it round to capture its best side. Just eat the darn cake!
Too many times I’d catch myself saying “don’t eat it yet, I wanna take a picture”! Could you imagine trying to explain that away to our Grandmother’s generation?
I’ve also found myself annoyed with friends for not checking first, and posting a picture of me from an angle I don’t think is my best, and I have also scrutinised and compared myself to my friends in group pictures. Not because I take any issues with my friend’s bodies and faces, or my own in comparison - but because complete strangers on the internet might! I worry too much about the opinions on my face and body of people I don’t even know!
Alena, can you hear yourself? You set up The Darling Academy, and wrote these books because you wanted to help women - it’s not about your appearance darling, but these apps are making it so!
Run, and run fast.
Imagine what this is doing to the self-esteem and self-image of girls younger than us? I’m a grown 37 year old millennial who grew up among a generation of selfie-takers, who believe it’s natural to share everything online, and it’s tough enough for me! I’m no longer happy to give my attention, (and therefore add to the advertising revenue the platform makes), when it doesn’t align with my values.
It’s a space of vanity and over sharing now, and what’s worse, “when you don’t have to pay for the product, you are the product”.
Instagram is a highlight reel, and promotes envy and comparison.
You’ve heard it said before that “an Instagram account is a highlight reel”, but that doesn’t stop people judging you based purely on what they see.
I can take some really pretty pictures, it took some practice to develop my style, but aren’t they lovely? It doesn’t mean my real life is picture perfect however…Deciding on the worth of someone, their success, or a person’s whole life and their value system based on happy snaps is not healthy. Nor is it beneficial to compare yourself to them. You can’t even compare what you know of them or their past based on visuals and a caption alone. My own Instagram feed, this blog, and current lifestyle belies my past. Unless you’ve spent time here on the blog, or have read Ladies Like Us, you couldn’t possibly grasp that difference and transformation from a bunch of pictures. Yet those trolls keep on trolling.
Trolls: what a sorry waste of their time… they should probably stop giving Instagram the time of day too!
The highlights we post can be damaging to other women too. Not only on my own feed, but those of my close friends, I have seen women leave heartbreaking comments along the lines of “I’ll never be able to bake like that”, or “you’re so lucky you’re married to a rich man”, and “you live such a charmed life”, not knowing the battles that lady who posted the picture is facing behind the scenes.
Comments like that, no matter how well-meaning are a lot of loaded assumptions based on what someone has surmised from a simple grid of pictures. Not only that, but they can judge them harshly in the negative too if they are perhaps triggered in some way.
A person is not materialistic because they post about something they purchased, they are not lazy because they went to a spa, they are not rich because they went on holiday, they are not happy because they had a big wedding, they are not miserable because they don’t have children, they are not better because they have a smaller clothes size… you don’t get to see behind the scenes so you also don’t get to make a fully formed judgement.
With it being a visual platform, I also came to realise as the numbers and volume of comments grew, that most people DO NOT read captions, no matter how hard you worked on them. However a blog post is worth its weight in gold because people actually connect with what I write here. If they don’t - they certainly don’t let me know about it!
I kid you not, on Instagram I’ve had people ask me for resources or recipes for things I have clearly mentioned in the caption. I’ve also had people say happy, jolly, lovely things on a post that’s quite serious in nature.
Case in point: picture of me and my cat that just died: “Ah, you look so pretty today, where is your dress from?”
Talk about tone deaf.
Does too much Instagram doom-scrolling lobotomise people and detach them from kindness to themselves and others? Is our comprehension and attention span suffering?
The dark side of social media.
Did you know that your image might be (and mine has) been used without permission on media outlets, and is at risk of being taken by other users for unsavoury things? It’s in the small print of the platform (that most people never read), that what you post is no longer your property. That’s a problem - especially if you post pictures of your kids.
They make it too easy for people to set up fake profiles, and they have shoddy policing policies for trolling, harassment, and sickeningly paedophilic and sexually aggressive activity.
Add to this, that not only do you not own your pictures anymore once you hit publish, you also don’t own control of your profile which can be removed without warning at any time - and Instagram owes you nothing. If they decide to close their doors one day, or sell-out to another company like TikTok, then unless you play by their new rules you will have lost everything!
That gorgeous curated feed you spent so much time on. All those followers, and all that “clout”. Poof! Gone… Meanwhile some company is using your data, watching your activity, and they might transfer the rights to your images on a whim. Red flag! The UK banned Government officials from downloading and using TikTok on their mobile phones this week, doesn’t that say it all from a safety perspective?
Unless you have a back-up plan, or a place for people to find you otherwise, (if they even need to) then it’s all upstream without a paddle.
You don’t have to have thousands of followers, or a business to care about this issue.
Social media is no place for the wholesome.
I tried. I thought that speaking to the media and using a platform with so many users would be a wonderful way to promote the brilliant work of the housewife. I can demonstrate and document how this life is not a drudgery, or servitude, or “less than”. We can shine a light into the darkness.
But as with all kinds of positive activism, good message, or wholesome idea, it will in time become hijacked by the opposite of what you stand for and believe in. Worse still, it will be monetised or cos-played. Most good things come to a natural end.
Instagram is not what it was when I first joined back in 2012 - it was once a great place to meet likeminded people and the “likes” didn’t matter. It’s now a place for INFLUENCERS who’ll dance to a merry tune no matter the cost, and I’m not comfortable with that lifestyle and moniker. It’s just not the place I want to spend my creative energy anymore. I know many lovely people who are desperately clinging on, but they are fatigued too. When is enough finally enough?
It’s like trying to enjoy a nice civilised cup of tea and a slice of cake in a strip club. I can choose who I want to sit at my table and chat to, but the surroundings aren’t that great.
Last, and first and foremost, I’m a writer, not a model - and I need to invest my free time in a platform that makes me happy and allows a creative freedom that suits words and prose, not picture perfection.
Since I left Instagram the amount of free time I now have is astounding. Not only from the time I was engaging with the app, but merely thinking about it. With all this newly reclaimed time and energy I want to invest it into something worthwhile, and tangible. Something to be proud of, and a space free of negativity and modern pressure. Something that has more of a chance of outlasting the latest influencer or trend. This blog!
I don’t like ephemeral things; I like things that last forever. Laura Ashley
If you made it this far, you now know that you can always find me here on my blog, sharing what I’m doing at home, my adventures, how I’m continuing to build a happy and healthy life, and a much loved community surrounding The Darling Academy, not a “following”.
I guess what I’m really saying is, I’m stepping back from apps in my phone and into something far more traditional after all. Writing to you like an old friend! Just via a blog - have you seen the cost of stamps these days!?
Oh and I prayed about all this too! Quite a bit… Just following orders.
Where to find me now I've left Instagram
As you might have guessed, this blog is now the best place to find me. I am aiming to write one new post a week with a mix of recipes, discussions on issues pertaining to “housewife life”, etiquette, and happy life updates. These can be emailed to you so you never miss one by subscribing. It’s free!
As ever, thank you to the wonderful Patrons of The Darling Academy, if you like our values here, please would you kindly consider supporting the blog?
I am still also active on Facebook (for now), so if you prefer to get your updates that way, you can follow along there!
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