Fostering a healthy relationship with social media can be hard. Here’s one musician’s battle with Instagram, and how he came out better off.
What’s your morning routine?
Mine was this: Before getting out of bed, I would reach for my phone and check social media—the usual suspects, but mostly Instagram. Every morning, I told myself I would do this for 15 minutes, and every morning, I wondered how 45 minutes passed by so quickly.
A few months ago, I caught myself mindlessly opening Instagram only seconds after closing it. I felt trapped. How did I get caught in this endless social media loop? I could hear Instagram’s founders cackling as they lined their pockets with ad revenue fueled by my total dependence on their platform.
I decided it was time to change the way I use the app.
Don’t get me wrong, Instagram is an amazing tool for musicians, but it’s no secret that social media is a double edged sword. The majority of platforms are designed to be highly addictive.
The good, the bad, and the FOMO.
Last May, the Royal Society for Public Health published a study on well-being as it pertains to social media use in young adults. To the surprise of no one, they concluded that excessive social media use is bad for your mental health.
In the study, Instagram outranked Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube in terms of having the most negative net impact on well-being.
Keep in mind, this study was based on a general population of young adults. If you view it through the lens of a musician, the positive effects arguably carry much more weight.
The Bad: Poor sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, negative body image, and FOMO (fear of missing out).
Apparently staring at a palm-sized rectangle of white light at two in the morning is bad for your sleep cycle— who knew? Personally, the FOMO hit home hard.
If I don’t have enough gigs lined up for the month or haven’t posted something in a while, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out, and that leads to anxiety. It’s hard not experience FOMO when there’s a constant stream of incredible music-related content at your fingertips.
The Good: Awareness, access, self-expression, self-identity, real world relationships, and community building.
Negativity aside, Instagram is an extremely useful platform for musicians. Through the app, I’ve been hired for gigs, found a teacher who transformed my guitar playing, connected with local musicians, and had a lot of fun creating musical content.
Of course it can also do wonders for your career as a musician. Just look at the uber-talented Emily Browning, who— all the way from her hometown in Christchurch, New Zealand— connected with the PickUp community in the U.S. and built a large audience through Instagram.
Photo by Sandra Jenae
If you’re feeling addicted to Instagram but value its benefits and want to maintain a digital presence for your music, try the ideas below.
Fostering a positive Instagram experience.
Quality over quantity, always.
Spend less–but more meaningful–time on Instagram.
You don’t need to constantly check the app to stay engaged. Remember that algorithm everyone complains about? It makes sure you see the stellar stuff that you would have otherwise missed with a linear timeline.
The first thing I did when I reached the peak of my Instagram addiction was make it harder to access— I put the app in the second page of a sub-folder on my iPhone labelled “Use Sparingly”. The extra effort makes me question if I should be scrolling through Instagram whenever the inclination strikes (I usually don’t).
Take a social media vacation.
I did this for a week straight. I felt better. I was more social. The grass was greener. Song-singing birds landed on my shoulder wherever I went. Homeless people offered me money. I’m exaggerating, but it still felt great and was a much needed breath of fresh air.
“But Kyle”, you say, “I have thousands of loyal followers! I can’t ghost them for a week! You and your measly 600 followers wouldn’t understand!”
That may be true, but you can work around this. Build up content in advance, and schedule 15 minutes per day where you’re allowed to post and engage with others–then put your phone away.
Be selective in who you follow.
We all know someone who posts the most inane content 12 times per day, every day. If you see their posts and roll your eyes, then go ahead, unfollow them. You’ll be happy you did, and there’s only a small chance they’ll find out and resent you for it.
Don’t follow people as a way to gain followers or simply because you want to return the favor. You’ll end up with an overwhelming feed full of uninspiring content. If you’re selective in who you follow, you’ll create more meaningful connections and have a better overall experience.
Don’t be discouraged (music isn’t competitive).
As the great Allen Stone once said, “The best part of learning is just loving where you’re at.”
Don’t worry about the gigs you’re not playing, the followers you don’t have, or how your skills stack up against other musicians on Instagram. It’s all too easy to benchmark your musical progress against others and feel discouraged.
All that matters is you work hard, enjoy the process, and create music that you’re proud of. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
Disclaimer: I checked Instagram four times while writing this.
Kyle Sparkman is a musician and writer based in Philadelphia. He writes about music and other things that are interesting to humans. If the music is funky, he probably likes it.