I’ve been dreaming of writing this post for a long time, and like many areas of my life in need of some buffering and improvement, this was certainly one of them. I’m sure many of you can relate to the love/hate relationship I have with Instagram. On one hand, I love being able to see what the world is up to, but on the other hand, I hate to feel like I’m being left out of it. And aside from all of the people I wish I could be and the places I wish I could go to, I was having consistent inner battles with myself and my posts.
Prior to Mindful Loving Project, I was using my own personal account jdasilvz (you’re more than welcome to take a look if you’d like). What you’ll see there is that I posted an array of photos, most including me, with a great big smile, posing next to a variety of different people, doing different shit all the time. Looking at my page, you’d think I have 1,000,000 friends, I’m happy all of the time and I’m the go-to person to ask for weekend plans, but in reality, I probably have a handful of friends that I see somewhat consistently, I’m in the process of overcoming social & general anxiety, and I’d rather spend my weekends at home working on projects or doing physical activity outside. These polarities were beginning to bug the shit out of me, and so 1 year and a half ago, I said goodbye to jdasilvz and never turned back.
Now I’m not suggesting that you stop using your own account just because you’re faced with similar issues as me, I just personally didn’t know how to deal with all my emotions regarding my relationship with Instagram. I would post for weeks at a time, and then take a break, post for weeks at a time and then take a break. It literally felt like relationships I had with real people in my life! Meanwhile, I was also simultaneously building my creative Instagram on the side, which almost ended up being another failed relationship due to the same reasons.
Prior to Mindful Loving Project, I had a built a photography page called Follow Your Lens. During the time, I was in Grad School studying Psychology and using my student loans to bank my trips to third world countries. I would post amazing pictures and gained almost 10,000 Instagram followers. These weren’t organic followers, I would tediously follow people for follows, and then have to unfollow those people that followed me back, because in reality, I wasn’t interested in their lives. There was a point where I was following 8,000 people that had over populated my feed, blocking me from connecting with people I actually cared about. It honestly felt like I had dug myself in a hole that I knew I would have to eventually dig my way out of, and then consequently lose all of those people that diligently followed me back. Honestly, it just felt so inauthentic and manipulative, and I was beginning to learn that I personally can’t peacefully co-exist with such a facade.
Two years into Follow Your Lens with almost 10,000 followers and likes beginning to reach over 1,000, I decided to end that relationship as well, because like jdasilvz, it felt inauthentic. Traveling is amazing and photography continues to be a huge part of my life, however, I didn’t feel connected to the community I was building and the content I was creating. Yes, the pictures were pretty, but the meaning behind them felt empty, and much like the rest. From there, I decided to take a risk and change my page from Follow Your Lens to Mindful Loving Project, after all, my life has been one huge project, ever changing, ever transforming. I decided to choose an identity that felt consistent to my values and what I wanted to genuinely share with the world. From that change alone, I lost 4,000 followers, and my likes dropped from 1000 to 100. I’m not going to lie, this gradual decrease was eatingggggg me alive. It was a daily reminder of the shallow relationship I had created with my followers and the fragile foundation I had built. Out of the thousands that had followed me back, I am so grateful for the handful that have stayed with me and continue to support my journey till this day.
I now follow about 600 people and have about 5000 followers. Up until 6 weeks ago, my numbers were consistently dropping, I thought I’d never see it grow again. But once I began to shift my focus on the people that continued to follow my page, as opposed to those that were leaving, I began to notice an increase in my numbers. Instead of reverting back to pretty pictures and meaningless captions, which is what people seem to like, I began to post photos that expressed my genuine nature and wrote captions that held substance. I wanted to make a difference in the world, shedding light and inspiration with those that followed.
My relationship with Instagram is still growing, and my need to avoid, has gradually transformed to one of genuine connection. I follow such amazing people and am bombarded everyday by posts of inspiration and empowerment, all of which I’ve personally chosen to follow. I am no longer focused on the number of likes I have, and instead am feeling excited that my deepest expressions could be of somewhat value to anyone who is willing to listen. The shallowness of what I previously associated with Instagram, has become one of meaning and connection to the world. And I’m so excited to continue building and nourishing this new relationship, as I continue to change and grow.