#Write31Days: Simplify Your Instagram / by Rachel Nordgren

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Raise your hand if you feel like you're in a tumultuous love/hate relationship with Instagram.

*raises hand*

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume I'm not the only one. Some of y'all chatted with me yesterday on Periscope about Instagram and about how social media (and Instagram in particular) feels all at once inspiring and encouraging as well as depressing and icky.

Instagram: The Good

Something we all love about Instagram is community, encouragement, and inspiration. Especially when you fill your feed with people who bright light into your life and point you towards Jesus.

It's also a great way to quickly jot down thoughts or work out ideas without having to create a full fledged blog post.

Instagram: The Bad

There's a love/hate relationship with styled photos. On the one hand, they are fun to create and super pretty to look at. For me, creating styled images forces me to take photos with intention and it challenges me as a creative. But, styled images can also feel disingenuous and prenentious, or discouraging to someone who doesn't have tons of time and resources to spend on photography.

Also, let's get real: it can suck up a lot of time if we let it.

Instagram: The Ugly

Three of the main feelings a lot of us can have about Instagram: comparison, judging, and jealousy. Instagram can bring up the ugliest of junk in our hearts in a hot, hot second. And the images and words of a near-stranger can throw our entire day into a straight up funk.

"Why doesn't my life look that perfect?" "Why didn't I get that many likes?" "Why does her house look like it could double as a West Elm showroom?"

"She's such a fake." "I would never post that many pictures of my kids." "I can't believe how pretentious she is."

"I wish my desk looked that nice." "My husband has never brought me flowers for no reason." "I wish my kid wasn't such a hot mess."

Here's the thing: social media isn't the problem. Instagram isn't the problem. We all know that, right? Our sinful hearts are the problem. Our jealousy, envious, wicked little hearts are the problem. The fact that we willingly put these people in front of our faces every day and then complain about them? That's the problem.

That all being said, we can simplify our Instagram habits to remove some of the temptation for jealousy and judging and envy, and to have a healthier relationship with Instagram in general.

How to Simplify Instagram

1. Unfollow. Unfollow. Unfollow. This is the quickest and simplest way to simplify your Instagram feed. If you find yourself habitually having feelings of envy or icky judgemental thoughts about a certain person, unfollow them. Take that out of your feed.

As a general rule, I unfollow brands and businesses before I unfollow people. I don't need Forever 21 telling me about their latest sale or one more social justice campaign firing up in my feed. It doesn't mean Forever 21 or that social justice organization is bad (far from it!) but I don't need to invite that information into my mind every day.

2. Set Boundaries. Unfollowing someone doesn't mean that you never have to see their lives again. I still check in on some of the profiles I've unfollowed, but here's the difference: I'm making a conscious choice to engage with them, instead of them passively consuming their content.

As an entirely self-imposed rule, I only follow around 200 people. I've found that to be manageable for me, and I've curated who I follow. Everyone who I follow has earned their spot in my feed...they are people I've connected with, respect, and/or add value to my day.

Maybe 200 is outrageous for you. Maybe 500 is more like it. Or 15. Whatever it is, having a general idea of how many people feels manageable in your feed helps you keep your feed curated and intentional.

3. Take Breaks. Again, this is a super simple and efficient way to simplify your relationship with social media. Some people take off on the weekends, or don't check social media on the evenings. Sometimes I will intentionally let a whole day during the week (a whole day, you guys! *hint of sarcasm there* ;) ) go by without checking Instagram.

I want to enjoy Instagram, and it's hard to enjoy things you're chained to.

This is a conversation I really, really want to continue in the comments. Can we do that? Because this is a common struggle, and it's something I think we can have a lot of healthy victory in.

A must-read: Erin Loechner's Post: The Apple Slice and Social Media Envy

Big thanks to Cassie, Katie, Nadine, Martha Kate, Anna, and Callie for helping me think through this on Periscope yesterday!

What do YOU love and hate about Instagram?

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You can read all posts for the 31 Days series here.