Summers Off: How Leaving Social Media Helped my Small Business (and my sanity)
Maybe you've noticed it yourself. That slow and hot, drawn out pace summer days tend to bring. The nostalgia for lackadaisical vacations ripe with dips in the river, melted ice cream cones, and hours spent lounging around on your best friend's sofa. It's itchy knees from tumbling down grassy knolls and windswept hair from long bike rides along the backroads of town. It's morning cartoons and and at least 37 lectures from your grandma reminding you to be home for dinner at 6 pm sharp. It's all this and so much more. And although we've grown up and adopted careers and families, that feeling- that longing seems to linger well into adulthood. Those memories of brighter days and livelier moments entice us as we meander through the sweltering days of summer.
I used to despise this time of the year. Here in the valley of Northern California, June through September means intolerable heatwaves, massive wildfires with noxious air quality, and overall grumpier populations of folks trying to make it through. In fact, some days, I still find myself with a scorned expression uttering under my breath those three acidic words: "I. Hate. Summer."
This year, I thought I might try something a little different.
Instead of spending four months engulfed by overheated tempers and ridiculously frigid hours of air conditioning, I decided I needed to find a way to reconnect with that part of me that DID love summer. But where was she? How far down under the rubble of angst and bitterness was she buried? How would I ever attempt a rescue mission? I wasn't entirely sure, but I knew I had to start somewhere, so I started in the most unlikely of places: social media.
I will admit. It was challenging in the beginning. The feeling of resistance is always jarring at first. But with persistence, I gently started easing off my exposure to social media and all of its blatantly angry and distracting conversations. Did I really need to see the millionth baby announcement, when I myself, have struggled for years with searingly painful infertility? Nope. I sure didn't. I also didn't need the relentless, political fingers pointing and accompanying rage. Or more guilt about how another species is becoming endangered due to the willful ignorance of humankind. Simply because I already carry enough guilt and education in my own life about my and everyone else's actions. (The plight of an overly sensitive, emotional introvert and daughter of a wildlife biologist and game warden.) No need to pile on.
The second bit came when I stopped posting regularly on Instagram. This proved tougher than I would've imagined. Small businesses such as mine tend to use Instagram as our main marketing platform and to drive traffic to our websites. Instagram itself, in the past 7 or 8 years has become part of the lifeblood that envelops the maker community. But for some it seems, the daily posting and never ending interactions are becoming like any other addiction. People have forgotten how to survive without it.
I, at this point, needed to take a giant step back and reevaluate. What was really happening here? Was I, like so many others, falling victim to the machine that has become social media? Perhaps. However, this really wasn't the majorly impervious dilemma I was making it out to be. It really wasn't. This was actually quite simple. If it's making me miserable...STOP and walk away.
So I stopped. And absolutely walked away.
Did my engagement drop? Of course.
Have my follower numbers stalled out? Absolutely.
Am I losing any sleep over it? Hell no.
The interesting thing about quitting social media (save for the once or twice a week I check in), is that life becomes clearer. Your purpose is drawn back to reality. You interact with people face to face. You inhale the richness and fullness that you had forgotten existed. New experiences present themselves and you're almost always one hundred percent more willing to jump up and offer, "Count me in!" You become a more willing participant in the human experience. And in my humble little opinion, this value far surpasses any dollar amount I might make from a million screen hours sunk into an incessant online presence.
Not to mention the INSPIRATION that comes with a clear mind. Work seemed less work-y and I was able to revisit why I own a small business at all: TO MAKE ART AND HELP PEOPLE. Whew. I had almost forgotten!
It's time to take back those nostalgic feels and reclaim the joy we've lost. Find the moments, the people, the places, the foods that make your heart sing. Let your inner child compel you into making the best of a crummy situation.
So I propose one simple question:
There's still a month left of summer--how will you spend your remaining days and what brilliantly amazing stories will come from them?