Today I celebrate 25 days of not being on my business Instagram account. We've queued up our posts on a scheduling app that automatically uploads for us and Blazin'Squad check in once a day or so and throw up something on the Stories.
I've had a tough year so far of autistic sensory overload. Stimulation of all sorts had got to the point of feeling like I couldn't function properly. I couldn't cope with my workload and I would go home after work and hide in a pitch-black bedroom unable to communicate with anyone. I have spent so little time with family and friends this year. I couldn't open work emails without feeling a pit of despair and my previously conquered agoraphobia was creeping back in.
Something needed to change and I needed to figure out what was causing the problem. Instagram. I no longer felt safe as an autistic person on Instagram.
I've built up a bit of a presence on Instagram over the years. Don't be fooled by the number of followers though, the bigger an account gets, the more Russian bots it attracts which smashes up engagement. I actively went through a period of trying to block but gave up.
I became addicted to Instagram, the constant scrolling, the need for external validation. Pictures of photoshopped people became "what normal people look like" and I began binge eating with despair thinking about how I'll never look that good. I've whacked on a fuck tonne of weight this year (legit measurement) as a result. My body image was in pieces.
And online rage. Rage = heightened engagement and the algorithm prioritises these posts. Rage = money and Zuckerberg loves it. I'd open Instagram and all I'd see was rage everywhere about every subject imaginable.
And I couldn't take it anymore. I considered ending my business, a business which I'd built on the back of widowhood and disability. Autistic people statistically experience high levels of unemployment and I thought I'd end up part of that number. I considered ending my life because autistic overload had become too much.
I had become trapped in a never-ending cycle of rage, photoshopped bodies, more rage, more photoshopping, buying shit I didn't need. I was supposed to be launching a sideline teaching marketing and branding and here was I wanting to scream that I just couldn't take any more. The sensory overload was too much, I couldn't function and I was a wreck.
25 days ago I made the decision that enough was enough. Instagram was taken off my phone, the password changed so it is only accessible from the studio on one device only.
By Day 3 I was starting to feel different. Day Three.
Today is Day 25 and already I feel like me again. I'm smiling, I've stopped having panic attacks, I'm laughing, my workload feels normal, I'm responding to emails with ease, my body image feels a little less anguished, I'm no longer binge eating and weight is beginning to come off. I feel creative and I'm thinking logically again rather than emotionally. I've taken up new hobbies and reignited old ones. Even my Blazin'Squad have noticed a difference in me.
With Brexit impending in two months (maybe, possibly, who knows because everything is so uncertain), I knew I needed to get my head back in the game. Because that is a bigger priority to my business, not whether or not I'm putting content on Instagram.
We only follow one account now. It's Nandos because we like grilled chicken!
I found a cracking subreddit r/instagramreality that has totally dismantled how I see images online. I've learned that my wobbly body is just as normal as everyone else's body.
The branding and marketing sideline will still happen and now I feel more empowered because it'll be less Instagram focused and has more of a range of things. I've researched and learned and more importantly, implemented new techniques over the past 25 days that are working. I'll even write a module or short course of "what to do when social media makes you feel like an inferior piece of shit." There is far far more to marketing than the Facebook Ecosystem and I had forgotten that. Not anymore.
We've had some lovely messages of support sent in for me, and even cards and presents. You are all so lovely for thinking of me. I can assure you all that I am well, continuing daily to feel better and that fighting spirit is coming back.