We all know about the dangers of social media addiction - but you don't have to be an influencer to experience Instagram anxiety. It can affect any business owner, content creator, entrepreneur or local business. In a previous blog, we tackled the topic of digital decluttering, an essential component to remaining sane as part of the smart working regime.
INSTAGRAM, however, is a fickle chicken-and-egg loop that I never realised could contributed so much towards anxiety. The main problem is with the feed. Sure, we follow accounts we genuinely like but we also:
Follow accounts when you realise they could be a source of inspiration, a threat, a competitor, or purely as voyeurism.
Follow accounts and interact not just out of curiosity, but as part of your account growth strategy.
Follow hashtags you are interested in for the same reasons above.
As a business owner or content creator, this poses a problem. Suddenly, you are exposed to ALL of the available content: similar accounts, competitors, repetitive content, information overload. Instead of piquing your creativity, your feed starts becoming a source of anxiety because:
The volume of content available is gargantuan
You become aware of how flooded your niche or market is becoming
There are always going to be more talented people than you
There will always be brands or startups with bigger budgets
The information you receive daily starts to become overwhelming
You start getting into a "reactive" mode rather than a productive mode
Sure, "market research" and keeping your finger on the pulse on the industry is essential. Still, when this pulse becomes so intense that it starts conflicting with your productivity, it all starts becoming a process of reacting to other accounts.
EVERYBODY IS A THREAT
Whereas up to five years ago we were mainly concerned with local competitors, it almost seems that ANY business or content creator now poses a threat to you. You're no longer just a consultant based in Zurich, a coach based in London or a personal trainer from Paris. No: with Instagram, you're now GLOBAL. Why would you even bother mentioning your location on your feed, when your customer base can be international?
Except that this poses a problem:
By positioning yourself globally, everyone within your niche starts to become a competitor
Instagram's algorithm, still relatively obscure, randomly selects accounts that perform better than others - therefore, Instagram success is often perceived as talent or relevance, instead of a result of a technology lottery.
The increased number of "threats" send you into an overdrive of fight/flight/or freeze response. You start spending more time reacting or procrastinating as a result.
The volume of content and available choices creates customer fatigue: all of a sudden the material that used to be inspiring becomes so repetitive, copied and flooding feeds that everyone - you included - start growing sick of seeing this type of content.
YOUR INTERESTS TURN INTO HARASSMENT
Think of your favourite guilty food. Ice-cream, burgers, pizza: it doesn't matter if it's healthy: it's metaphorical. The point is, even if you could eat your favourite food all day every day for a whole month, without being able to look at anything else - you will soon get tired of it, and maybe even put off by it if you're forced to eat it without any other choice.
This is what happens with Instagram ads: the A.I. technology learns what you like: if all you "like" and look at on Instagram are your competitors and or / similar content for "inspiration" and market research - you're doomed. Your feed will be littered forever with more threats and the constant bombardment of force-fed content that is similar, better, or worse than yours - and you can't do much to stop it.
INSERT CUSTOMER FATIGUE
All of these "threats" can be a recipe for creative disaster. Why should someone with more experience and more talent than you on the other side of the globe pose a threat to you? Also, there is the pressure of frequently posting to stay relevant, and there is an urgency to keep growing, or you're failing. With Instagram, it can feel like it.
Of course, you may argue that posting daily to grow your content and your following may be necessary - remember that the risk of burnout is real, and the goal of the platform is to keep you ON IT FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. If you understand the strategy of the platform (i.e. an advertising publisher) - you will soon realise it's using YOU rather than you using IT. At some point, you will have to decide if your Instagram account is more valuable than your sanity!
Yes, you can quit Instagram and go on a "digital detox" - but unless you're thinking of writing off digital media altogether, this is only a short-term fix. Instead, here are some coping strategies that can help you retain your app, but also keep your mental health:
Even though it may have worked in the past, "follow for follow" is no longer a growth strategy that works. Stop following people in the hope they will follow you back, trust us - it will only clutter your feed. There are other ways to interact and grow your audience.
Split your accounts - you can have up to five accounts on Instagram. For your primary account, only follow few, selected accounts that give you joy and pure inspiration. Don't follow anything daunting, or that causes you any stress.
If you need to, use your secondary account to keep a "pulse" on what's happening. Even better, delegate this "market research" account to an assistant or member of staff - they can keep an eye out for the real inspiration or the threats, but give you a summary at the end of each month, instead of daily.
THINK LOCALLY - unless you're already an established international brand or content creator, decide on your niche and your territory. Just because the whole full world is available to you, does not mean you need to tackle it all at once. Reduce your target area within your local community to build a name for yourself gradually. It will also help to protect your sanity by realising you are offering something unique within your area, rather than feeling like a tiny fish in a global pond.
Use stories rather than your feed. The feed should showcase the very best of your content: your best foot forward because it's the first thing that other users will see. Coming up with daily content to post can be exhausting and frustrating if it doesn't perform well. Instead, use this feature sparingly - unless your account is one of the lucky ones that grow like weeds under the sun, the time versus reward isn't worth it. Use STORIES and HIGHLIGHTS to make daily content that doesn't require perfection, but will still engage your audience. Use the grid sparingly as an occasional highlight, statement or announcement.
Unfollow / unsubscribe to ads and content that you're sick of seeing. Start liking and interacting with content you'd like to see more on your feed: puppies, landscapes, jokes, or whatever floats your boat.. remember that too much "inspirational" material can end up having the opposite effect in excessive quantities.
Emily Jupp, aka Life Coach London says: "If you look at the research, Instagram itself is neither all good nor bad, but the way you use it can be. Passively scrolling for hours a day will make you feel powerless and demotivated, but there is evidence that interacting positively with other accounts, posting about things you love and striking up conversations can all be beneficial. As the saying goes, it's not the tool, it's the way you use it that matters!"
by Jessica Zoo Christensen, Co-founder of Mavericks Active Workspace