If you’ve been following me for quite some time, you might be surprised to find out that I am deactivating my fitness Instagram account next week. I’ve been teetering with this idea for over a month. It sprouted as I started to open my eyes to the unnecessary stresses I was placing on myself to maintain an active and engaged social platform.
(Keep in mind that this post is not about personal instagram accounts, but rather influencer or business accounts)
Why I Started a “Fitstagram”
My initial intention when starting my fitness account (@strongerbysu) was to hold myself accountable in the gym. I was struggling to heal from a thyroid disease, and I noticed that exercise and healthy eating were improving my symptoms. By committing myself to posting my journey online, I started to build the habit I needed to recover from my disease. (Click here to read about my natural recovery)
What I didn’t expect is that others would be inspired by my journey. I received many praises early on, as well as a plethora of questions and requests for advice. Those questions about my transformation encouraged me to start this blog. I wanted to give people a deeper understanding of where I came from and how I conquered my health, rather than just a gym photo and caption.
From an accountability tool to a full-on business in online personal training, my fitness account evolved into an amazing platform where I could reach out and help more people with my story. While this was a magnificent feeling for me, I wasn’t quite prepared to handle the responsibility that comes with having an account meant to serve others.
As my followers and engagement increasingly grew, the goal of the account changed from helping myself towards helping others. I started to curate each post based on inspiring others to change their health habits. I wholeheartedly believe in improving the health and mindset of women in my age group. Too often, we see young girls online portraying themselves as abundantly happy while being pencil thin. In reality, most women find it hard to achieve a body that looks like those from the popular instagram health accounts without using drastic and unhealthy measures. I wanted to be an influence who proved that happiness is highly attainable with a balanced lifestyle.
I myself started off very skinny because of my thyroid disease. Back then, women would express how “lucky” I was that I was able to eat anything and still lose weight. This mindset bothered me because I, not they, knew how hard it was to walk through the world being frail and weak. This weakness encompassed every part of my life, not just my body.
And so, with my fitness account, I strengthened my life by strengthening my body. I became stronger by my own terms. This triumph was felt so strongly in my core that I started Stronger by Su. I decided to get certified in personal training to help other women strengthen their life as well. (Click here to read about how I passed my CPT exam)
Despite reaching nearly 9000 followers, making tons of virtual friends, training five clients, and inspiring many women to change their mindset, I’ve decided that Instagram is not the place for me any more.
Instagram has changed.
What started as a space to share our creative outputs, Instagram has now become a competitive platform with an algorithm that makes it nearly impossible for accounts to grow organically.
Branding and story-telling is the name of the game. This used to be a business strategy, but I’ve seen it trickle into personal accounts as well. Because of this, accounts looking to expand have to play the game of beating the algorithm (i.e. posting at certain times, using the right hashtags, liking hundreds of photos a day, commenting on other’s photos, taking creative photos, building a brand, the list goes on…).
To me, it seemed like the perfect tactic to glue people to their phones, myself included.
I fell victim to using a bot that would follow and then unfollow a hundred new accounts a day. I must admit to you that I spent around $70 in the span of 5 months to keep that bot running. Witnessing my number of followers and engagement increase was the instant gratification that hooked me along. Instead of seeing how absolutely pointless it was, I was lured in by the (inorganic) growth of my account. Looking at this now, I can’t help but feel that Instagram got the best of me.
Not only has the platform itself changed, its users have changed with it. Nobody used to care when someone didn’t post for a few days or a week. Now however, if you miss a day or two of posting, you will lose followers and your overall reach and engagement will plummet. This means that the next time you post a photo, many of your followers (the ones that stuck around) won’t even see it. Instagram is unforgiving if you have to take a break from posting.
Because nobody wants to lose their reach, it causes influencers to post incessantly to stay relevant. While I never found myself falling too deeply into this trap, I did often feel guilty from not posting enough. This guilt was similar to that anxious feeling I have when I procrastinate; I know I should be doing something about that, but I don’t want to, and it’s piling up.
Also, because I know what it looks like to have a bot running, I noticed that ALL of my favorite influencer accounts use them. This dilutes the entire “awesomeness” of having a large influence because everybody is paying to do it.
With $70 down the drain for something that doesn’t even exist in the real world, and an underlying anxious feeling that I’m losing engagement from my lack of posting, I quit. For now at least.
The biggest impact that my fitstagram had on my life is that I actually developed the discipline I needed to make exercise a habit. I doubt I could have established myself as a “fitness guru” without my platform. Since I reached my goal of building the habit, I’m finding it harder and harder to want to keep the account. I mean, what do we do when we reach our goals? We reach for higher goals.
Right now, my higher goal is to complete my education. I want to spend more time practicing my writing (which needs a lot of work!!), and improving my understanding of the world. And I want to spend less time worrying about my reach on instagram. I want to spend less time thinking about social media in general.
Recently, a professor/friend at the university I’m attending recommended that I join the Economic Student Organization. He put in a good word for me to apply for a tutoring job on campus after my first semester. The last thing I need is for those professors and fellow students to find my fitstagram account and think about my booty gains while I’m trying to be taken seriously. Just thinking about this embarrassment happening puts a hole in my stomach.
I have changed. I don’t want to flaunt my body anymore. I want to be respected and knowledgable. I’m extremely proud of my body, but I guess you could say I’m “adulting” because I don’t feel the need to post it anymore to hold myself accountable.
Social Media Has Changed.
Cal Newport is a millennial who has never had social media. If you haven’t watched his thirteen minute TedxTalk on why we should quit social media, I suggest you do so. He argues that, “social media brings with it multiple well-documented and significant harms.” He mentions that the use of social media has been proven to lower our attention span and promote a constant feeling of anxiety (as I experienced earlier in this blog post).
Social media causes us to fragment our attention as much as possible. Cal points out in his talk that, “we have a growing amount of research telling us that spending large portions of our day in a state of fragmented-attention can permanently reduce our capacity for concentration.” I’m someone who has a history of ADHD, so research results like this turn me away from the pizzazz of an influencer Instagram account. I want to remove distractions that don’t contribute to my growth and instead put 100% in my school work.
We have a growing amount of research telling us that spending large portions of our day in a state of fragmented-attention can permanently reduce our capacity for concentration.
– Cal Newport, Georgetown University
As usual, I’d like to leave you all with my goals in doing this detox from the “influencer Instagram” world.
The first goal is eliminating unnecessary distractions. Removing myself from the fitness social scene will keep me focused on my ultimate goal of graduating. It also keeps me focused in the gym. Instead of working out to get the best pump for a photo, I’m lifting for me… like I used to before my account started growing.
The second and more important goal is to focus on real life things that matter. This allows me to spend more time being creative. I have scheduled off hours of my day to write, as I want to be able to contribute to a newspaper one day. I have more time to read, and relearn concepts I forgot since being out of school. It gives me the time I need to continually grow myself into who I want to be.
Thank you to the true friends who have supported me in this decision. You guys simply get it.
I’d like to point out that I’m still keeping my personal Twitter and hobby photography Instagram account. Those will be the social media accounts linked to this blog from now on. I have no intention of using those accounts to promote a business. So I’m not completely getting rid of all social media, but deleting the biggest platform I have is a huge step in this detox.