I, like 800 million other people around the world, really like using Instagram. But I won’t tell you I ‘love’ it, for love is reserved for more important things.

I have spent much time and hard earned money on courses that promise to teach you how to become successful on the platform, and much of what I have learnt has been extremely useful not just in terms of Instagram, but in figuring out why I’m so drawn to visual inspiration, what it is that catches my eye and more importantly (for this is SOCIAL media) whom it is that I hope to connect with. And I have made many connections. Several of the events I’ve hosted at the barn this year have been a direct result of connections I have made with other small business owners via Instagram. I enjoy daily conversations with like minded people who are generous in sharing their feedback, answering random questions that pop into my head and genuinely feel like the best colleagues I’ve ever ‘worked’ with.

But, and this is a big but, social media can be totally overwhelming. It can so easily take over one’s life and too quickly become the most time consuming element of small businesses run by solo entrepreneurs, many of whom consciously choose a life of self employment in order to benefit from the flexibility doing so offers to family life. I fear that while many experts are highlighting the dangers of too much time spent on social media for children that there is little being said about their parents’ equally worrying use. How many parents working from home, freelancing or running their own businesses in order to spend time with their children, are (in reality) as absent as any parent working elsewhere in everything but physical presence?

The perceived wisdom around Instagram’s rules of engagement suggests that we should be using statistics to monitor exactly when the majority of our audience are online, and posting our content then; that we should then remain on the platform for a period of time in order to ‘engage’ with those who like and comment on your post, no dump and run style posting despite Instagram’s recent change to allow scheduled posts. It’s true that this is the time when many kind, helpful, inspiring and entertaining comments are exchanged. But how many of us are doing this while trying to cook supper and listen to partners and children share news from their days?

I know that I’m guilty. I kid myself that I’m listening as I scroll, like and comment, but often find when I stop that I genuinely have no idea what was being discussed with me. Car journeys as a passenger  pass without conversation while I ‘catch up on social media’ thinking it’s time well spent. TV programmes and films have to be paused so I can be given an explanation of what just happened because I wasn’t really watching. It’s a bit shameful actually. I know it would be better to be fully present when with my family, but I don’t want to miss all the action on Instagram either. If you follow my blog you’ll know that working on my photography is an important goal, and I really want to continue benefitting from many inspiring accounts on Instagram, and indeed sharing the fruits of my labours there.

Call me a cynic, but I’m inclined to think that the days of large and rapid account growth on Instagram are, for the majority of us, over. Sure, there will always be exceptions, but the number of users on the platform are a bit of a giveaway. More than 800 million people! I’m not suggesting that it’s impossible to grow an audience of people who a) are interested in your business or life and b) whom you enjoy engaging with, but I just think we all need to accept that it will take time. Time perhaps that should be factored into our working hours. What if we only posted when it was actually convenient to dedicate an hour to being online? What if we created a greater separation between our physical and online worlds? What if we all did this? Could we change the culture a little?

I think that amongst those 800 million people there is a small tribe for each and everyone of us, it’s just that we’re now in ‘needle in haystack’ territory so patience and tenacity is required. These are not two of my greatest characteristics but I’m working on it! I’m going to plod along in my own sweet way, not ignoring all the advice, but certainly trying to play the game in a way that is more convenient to me and my family. I don’t think there are any perfect solutions, but let me know what you think?

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and have very much enjoyed reading many others’ thoughts on overwhelm and social media. My online friend Huma wrote a beautiful piece about dealing with overwhelm here and Mel Wiggin’s thoughts on social media very much chime with my own.

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