If anyone should have Instagram anxiety, it's me.
I had a nicely growing account which was creating a community around my podcast, The Storied Recipe. I posted every day on both my feed and my stories, responded to every single comment, and spent a LOT of time liking and commenting on other accounts. To draw eyeballs to my account, I would set a timer for 10 minutes at a time, find a hashtag that fit my brand, and like as many photos as I could during that time.
Truthfully, I didn't mind much at first. The food photography community on Instagram is amazing and supportive and I really felt a kinship with many of them. I found the majority of my podcast guests on Instagram and a lot of my listeners came from there also. I was also beginning to post a lot of behind the scenes photos and videos and find followers that were interested in food photography education.
As time went on and I got closer to 10K, it became a grind. I was becoming *obsessed* with that magical number. The more I focused on 10K, the more my anxiety around Instagram grew.
Well. If only I had known.
I was not destined to reach 10K on that account, ever.
One day I was kicked out of Instagram right in the middle of posting to stories. I just stood there and stared at the login screen, not computing what was happening. When I tried to log back in, I was told I had violated community standards. I'll spare you the rest of the story and just say that I was a victim of the ISIS Flag Hack on Facebook. There's only a very tiny chance that my accounts will ever come back. At writing, it's been an entire year, and my accounts are still disabled. If you'd like to hear more, you can listen here:
It was hard to come back. Ugh, honestly, it's hard to even talk about it - all the time I put into an Instagram account that went away. I couldn't imagine putting in ALL that time AGAIN. And what if I was ever hacked again? As you can imagine, my Instagram anxiety was sky high.
I realized that I was going to use Instagram again, I couldn't do it the way I was before. Looking at my follower account and comparing it to all my friends who weren't hacked and were getting to 10K, 20K, and higher... it was going to destroy my mental health. And at the same time, I had a podcast to focus on growing - without the help of Instagram (at least not the same level of help.)
I had to take the wheel and steer not just Instagram, but my business.
Instagram doesn't control me anymore. I can manage my "Instagram anxiety" and still grow my account at a nice healthy rate. (Just as an example, I gained 200 followers in the last week.)
Here's what my hack taught me:
Instagram is not your work.
Instagram exists to support your work. And YOU get to decide - actually, it's essential that you DO decide - how Instagram will do that.
The more you focus on your work, the less you'll feel Instagram anxiety. All the time you put into creating, networking, pitching, and growing, you won't even be thinking about Instagram numbers! You can't feel Instagram anxiety when you're out there creating new work, hearing back from publishers, or making connections with potential clients.
At the same time, Instagram is still a super useful tool for some of us! Time spent on Instagram may be time very well spent. So what's the key to get over Instagram anxiety when you do need to spend time on it? The key is intentionality. When I stopped chasing followers and likes as if Instagram was the job and decided how Instagram would fit into my overall plan for growth, my anxiety went way down.
As you intentionally put boundaries and permissions on Instagram and use it as a TOOL to support your work, you'll quickly get over your Instagram anxiety.
Paradoxically, it's also when you'll begin to grow the most because your content will be valuable and authentic. And if you don't grow as quickly as yo like, you'll be less frustrated, because you won't be sinking time into it. Both things have happened to me as I've rebuilt my account - times of surprisingly fast growth and time of inexplicably slow growth. The great thing is, I've been able to cope with (and mainly avoid) the typical feelings of frustration, comparison, and anxiety associated with Instagram.
Here's the real key to using Instagram as a tool to support your work. You have to use it in a sustainable way that fits you - your energy level, your personality, your community, and your offerings. If you figure out how to do that, you overcome your Instagram anxiety. It will become just one more way to support your work - login, connect with your people, logout.
This post is getting long, so I'll wrap it up here. But if you'd like to go a little deeper on this, there's another post in this series I think you'll like: Stop Asking How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm (And Ask THIS Instead)
Read it now
Also, if you're ready to figure out exactly what boundaries and permissions you need to put in place to get over your Instagram anxiety for good and make Instagram a sustainable, joyful, peaceful, effective place that matches YOUR energy, personality, and work, check out my 18 prompt Guided Journal: Define Your OWN Instagram algorithm.