About a year ago, I lost my Instagram account. It had become a regular feature of my day, an important part of reaching folks as part of my business and also connecting with lots of like-minded souls…over 4 years I had gathered close to 9000 of them. And then poof!, one day I couldn’t log in. Instagram said the account could not be found. My first response – the one in my gut – was relief. Closely followed by my mind coming up with a litany of responses/plans/thoughts to get it back.
At the time, my son was only 4 months old and I was in the middle of teaching a semester of Moon School. So my time to be able to get to the bottom of what had happened and rectify it was limited. I did everything Instagram asked, but no response.
But I kept coming back to my first response…relief.
While there were so many amazing parts of Instagram and social media in general, I also found it overwhelming a lot of the time. To be a creator there and be an active community member requires a lot of creative and social energy. It’s simply how the platform is set up.
For me, it wasn’t the usual suspects that many cite as being an unhealthy relationship with social media – comparison, addiction and grass-is-greener syndrome.
It was the guilt of not being able to respond to every DM thoughtfully. The sheer number of comments to digest. The pressure to always be up to date with all the communications with people in other domains of my life because I know it would be hurtful for them to see me posting and interacting online and not having gotten back to them on something.
I also am so passionate about my work and sharing it with those who can benefit from it. So my clinician’s brain hated not being able to follow up on the health questions that would come in, even though I knew it was stepping over boundaries.
With the benefit of almost a year of being Instagram free (in the business sense) and reflecting on why I was finding it overwhelming, I have come to a couple of conclusions.
First, it’s just not in my nature to be able to respond quickly to lots of different people on the daily. Cyclical awareness helped me navigate this a lot better (a.k.a knowing that at certain times in my cycle I could handle the volume much better than others) yet still on balance, it was tiring.
The second came from discussing this (a lot) with my husband, who is a psychologist. For him the answer was obvious – humans are not wired up to handle that many social interactions. We max out at a certain point. According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, that number is 150, also known as “Dunbar’s number”. For a snappy definition, I’ll refer to Wikipedia on this one:
Dunbar’s number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person…By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships.
As I step back into work more and more, I feel the pull to be back on the platform, to fire the engines back up so to speak. But I know that I will need to do it very mindfully and be clear on how I will use it.
Have a marvellous Friday and a restful weekend!