Why I Quit Social Media As An Artist: Leaving Instagram
Updated: May 24
I have had something that I have needed to get off of my chest for a while now and something that I have silently been struggling with this last year; my use of social media. I have finally come to the understanding that it is time for me as an artist to quit social media.
As an artist, Instagram was my outlet for marketing myself and sharing my art and creativity with the world. It was an easy way to lead traffic to my online art store, connect with like-minded people, discover amazing artists and find inspiration. But as we all now know, especially since the release of the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma”, there is a dark side to social media.
I feel like we are only now beginning to see those effects of the darker side of social media. I know for me, using Instagram just didn’t feel good, it wasn’t good for my mental health or my art and it just wasn’t me.
I found myself saying: ”there has to be another way, social media CAN'T be the ONLY way to be successful!”
I have been doing a lot of research during my 3 month hiatus from Instagram and have found that yes, there are still other ways to market yourself outside of social media. Along with sharing my own personal reasons for quitting social media, I have also gathered some resources from other working artists and entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses without social media that I will share here.
So, Why am I Quitting?
First I should clarify, when I am talking about social media I mean Instagram/Facebook/Twitter. I still use Pinterest to market my art business. Pinterest to me is a little different from Facebook or Instagram and it really works more like a search engine. It is also not nearly as demanding for attention as Facebook/Instagram.
Now on to my personal reasons for quitting:
I Just Couldn't Keep Up. Your posts will get shown to the most people if you are very active on the platform. While I could log on every day and try to post a story to Instagram to please the algorithm, (now reels and video are the new thing since this post came out). I had other things that I'd rather be doing. I personally like to take my time with paintings, so you wouldn't see a new piece of art from me more than every month or so.
I felt less creative and less inclined to try new ideas. I started to figure out which subjects and painting styles did the best on Instagram, and pretty soon I was creating art just for Instagram and not for myself. I stopped exploring new ideas for fear that that my art would get less likes, or my followers wouldn't like it if I went in a new direction.
I was spending a lot of time and energy on things that I didn't find meaningful. The time I spent trying to create the most aesthetically pleasing feed, following trends, researching relevant hashtags and taking selfies wasn't helping me to grow my skills as an artist and felt like a waste of my time. Unless you are trying to be an influencer, selfie-taking and sharing stories isn't going to get you hired and doesn't hold much relevance outside of social media.
I wanted a calmer, and more quiet mind. Instagram just felt like it was taking up so much space in my brain. I couldn’t turn off the thoughts about what I was going to post next, or if I replied to somebody. Once I detoxed from social media for a few days I started to feel more calm, centered, and focused on my own life rather than the lives of others.
It negatively affected my mental health. Social media was beginning to cause me a lot of anxiety and negatively affect my self-esteem. What would happen if I didn’t post for over a week? How many people liked my recent post? 20 Likes? My art must suck. How much will my engagement fall if I take time off for a while? Will everyone unfollow me if I am not as active on the platform?
I got stuck comparing myself to others. On social media, everybody’s lives seem better than yours. They are happier, more successful, more attractive, better artists who can create 10 new paintings a week when I cannot even finish one per month. I know people say not to compare yourself to others, but this is nearly impossible on social media when the highlights of other people’s lives are popping up in your feed every second.
It felt addicting. Instagram was like that relationship that you know isn't good for you but keep coming back to. It was there to keep me occupied when I was bored, anxious, sad, lonely, waiting for an appointment, or whenever I just felt like I needed some inspiration. I could pick up my phone and be transported into another world full of perfectly successful, attractive people and maybe if I posted enough, I could also become successful.
Personal morals and ethics. I personally like my privacy and value my time and mental health. How can I ethically ask people to follow me on these platforms when I know the personal cost to mental health, privacy and quality of life?
Disturbing Privacy Policies
On December 20, 2020 Instagram made some disturbing new updates to their terms of services. This was precisely when I decided to delete the app from my phone and take a long break. I started to question if I was really okay with handing over the personal details of my life to be stored and used as Facebook sees fit.
I am NOT okay with being a product as "The Social Dilemma" puts it. I am not okay with these companies profiting off of my hard work to create content.
Did you know that in the Terms and Conditions you grant Instagram a royalty free exclusive license to use your photos however they want?
Screen shot from tl;dr Legal tl;dr legal - Instagram terms of service
Statistics & Further Reasons to Quit
A good read about the harmful practices of social media is Jaron Lanier's “Ten Reasons To Delete Your Social Media Accounts Right Now”, where he introduces the concept of “BUMMER,” which stands for “Behavior of Users Modified and Made into an Empire for Rent.” Basically what BUMMER means is that the platforms who use this practice use behavior modification to keep us glued to the platform for as long as possible and "rent" out our attention to advertisers to show more targeted ads. Lanier has worked in the tech industry in Silicon Valley for years and has quite the interesting points and insights to make on how social media affects our society.
Did you know that globally as of 2021 people spend an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes per day using social media and messaging apps? That's over 16 hours per week, or 2.78 days per month, and 33.36 days per year just on social media!
It is also estimated that "more than 210 million people suffer from internet and social media addiction"
source: Social Media Addiction Statistics 2021
There Is Hope Outside of Social Media
I am definitely not alone in my struggles and reasoning for quitting social media. I have discovered so many artists, youtubers and entrepreneurs who have quit social media and are still successful today.
Successful People Who Don't Use Social Media:
Alexandria Franzen, a highly successful writer and entrepreneur who quit social media years ago before it was cool. She runs an online business where she teaches classes on marketing, writing and even has a class all about marketing without social media. Since quitting social media, she has written many books, as well as written for Forbes, Time, Buzzfeed (and so much more). On her website she offers some freebies like this super helpful article about 21 ways to Market without social media. Alex's philosophy is that social media is a choice and is not mandatory. I love her take that quitting social media may not look the same for everyone and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to delete everything or quit entirely.
Artist Julia Bausenhardt posted a very detailed article about quitting social media and has been running her business without the use of Facebook or Instagram for years.
Landscape Photographer Dave Morrow quit all social media aside from his YouTube channel and has many videos, and articles on this subject. He still runs a successful photography business without the use of social media. (He's also got a great blog article here on the subject).
Brogan Micallef, is an business owner/entrepreneur who recently quit social media. She runs a successful marketing business focusing on helping others to market their small businesses their own way. Brogan’s philosophy is that you can create your own content rules and insists that you can have fun while creating content. I love her approach to not following the rules when it comes to marketing! You can find her video about quitting social media here.
Conclusion and Ending Thoughts
Yes, there are some downfalls to deleting social media. I won't get to see all the posts from the artists that I follow who are not outside of Instagram. BUT, I crunched some numbers and found out that Instagram really didn't affect my art sales. Most of my Etsy traffic comes from Etsy itself and sites like Google. Pinterest is also very helpful for leading traffic to my shop and website.
As of now, I still have not deleted my Instagram account. Instead if you visit my profile you will find a little note in my bio saying that I am not active on the platform anymore and I can be found here on my website instead. I do fully intend to one day delete my account and finally make that last “bye I’m leaving!” post, but I am still building my alternative marketing plan. I have not had the app downloaded to my phone since December of last year.
UPDATE: Where I am 1 year later after quitting social media as an artist
So, in the end, do what feels right to you. If that means keeping an account that you post on very rarely then do that, or If that means deleting, go for it! You are not obligated by any means to be on social media.
What are your thoughts; will you reduce your social media use, delete all together or keep using for now?