Updated: Feb 25
23/12/2020 - London - Tier 4
In this blog I will speak about my social media addiction and how it affected me. The pro's and con's and hopefully shed some light for you because it might help you become more aware of how social media can affect you but coming from an artists perspective.
A few weeks back now I hit a wall several feet tall, some of it work related and some of it was personal. From where I was standing this wall looked like it was getting higher and higher to climb. Upon some reflection in lockdown two I realized that I'd placed this wall in front of me somewhere deep within my conscious. I had been carrying this problem around with me for years now and it was time to settle it once and for all. I had a few sad days regarding some personal issues and then WHAM the obstacle revealed itself to me in clear visible daylight. Upto this point I had accepted that this obstacle HAD to stay there because It was how I made a living so I didnt question it. But today was different. It slapped me in the face - I was addicted to social media.
I had known for quite a few years earlier that I spend a lot of time on instagram and facebook and kept on stumbling across stories and videos online of people doing social media detoxes but the same narrator kept coming back to me every time I would read one of these stories or watch a video. "You can't take a break for too long you got bills and rent to pay". Over and over and over again for years this voice would come into my head until finally the voice disappeared completely. Like many tattoo artists I thought I had to have instagram if I wanted to be successful with it and to build up my client base. In the beginning I felt like I had to have social media and that without it my chances would be zero and this is what I'm finding out right now, and that is, it is certainly not the case at all.
Anyway so i'm sitting there and im checking my instagram chat for messages and 0 showed up. I find out my last screen time is 11 hours. To which now I think is insane but this was kinda normal for me seeing as it was how I make my living, publish tattoo ideas and build my business up. Also a huge factor for me using it so much was chatting to friends. A lot of my friends talk via social medias and not text very much as a lot of them live abroad and all around the country and I had made a lot of group chats so I can keep them all in one place. (My idea of digital minimalism, haha) In the last months I never used facebook much but a lot of times in the past I had accounts, deleted them after a few months and then signed back up to them. Sometimes staying logged in for years. I think the longest was 7 years. So I was sitting at home completely drained and full of self doubt and just feeling a little sad because a few days before I had some sad news which i didn't plan on happening so my mental clarity was completely fogged at this point. So I kept checking my phone and I had no new messages. I then found myself refreshing the message log over and over and over again, frantically and then it hit me like a slap in the face. I was dependant on social media and that it was distracting me from feeling my situation and my issues in that moment. I was scrolling for 5 minutes and then refreshing the chat because I didn't want to sit with the emotion and feel it and observe it. So I would disappear down a rabbit hole, clicking this clicking that and the next thing I know 2 hours have gone by and it felt like 15 mins! After I "woke" from this social media spell i felt like one of them zombies you see on the tubes on the london underground. i realized right then and there this thing was stealing my time. Something needed to change...I was distracting myself away from the things that really needed my attention.
i just want to be clear up until this point I knew i spend alot of time on it but I never realized how much I use it to distract myself from a situation, especially a negative one. I knew of course people do it in awkward situations at a meal or something like that but i had never realized it with myself in a such confronting way before. So what did i do? I stopped what I was doing, lit up the ipad and started researching social media addiction. And yes there were plenty of rabbit holes I dived down after this lol this was the start of my new journey to be social media free lol. Man that sounds so hipster lol (pukes).
After hours of research which quickly turned into days I thought I was set and ready to delete everything once and for all and to get my time back! Until... the narrator came on loud again in my head shouting "don't be stupid man, how you gonna pay your rent, you'll lose business and you'll lose friends, and you won't be able to look at your favourite artists again". And i'll be honest right now, this narrator wasn't shutting up, it was repeating itself on and on all day long. And to a certain point he was right? He for sure had a point? But i was past all that I had enough evidence in front of me to make me aware that social media was addictive and stealing my time. I tried my hardest to block out the narrator and listen to that quiet voice in the back of my head that said listen to your gut. And my gut said that its stealing my time and that I don't need it.
So a few days pass and i'm writing lists of pro's and con's in my journal and im weighing out the consequences if I delete it completely or If I keep it but rarely use it. I soon came to the decision that I wouldn't be able to just login and use it occasionally because I realised I had been on instagram for several long years, I had built my following up to 20k followers in that time and that amongst talking with my favourite artists, friends and building my business there would be too much temptation for me to use it "once in a while". After all instagram is built like a slot machine, upon each swipe on your feed you don't no what's going to pop up next.
Here is part of the small list I wrote in my journal. These 6 points are just a few of the things I realized while preparing to leave all my social medias and some of the things I wanted to happen after deleting them.
1 - I'm not building up someone elses platform anymore. I decided to keep my website and put all my energy into building this up. That way i have 100% control over my content, what I see, what I choose to share to the world and be distraction free.
2 - Build more intimate bonds with my customers / friends and family phone calls / emails and texts. I usually took appointments via emails anyway but I also took a lot of bookings via direct messages on social media in the beginning. I think too many artists nowadays are too easy to reach and there isn't much bonding going on with customers and the artist, sure there is some but I wanted stronger bonds and long lasting friendships to come from my customers so this point was huge to me. Customers who really want work by me have to scout me out on google and message me via my website rather than use someone else's platform that is designed to be addictive. And these are the customers who I want to build deep meaningful friendships with. People that really care about my work as much as I do. People who are willing to go that extra mile. After all, when we tattoo people we leave a little bit of ourselves with them.
3 - Less self doubt and comparing myself to other artists. This point is huge and I could write several pages on just this point. I cannot express to you the amount of times I have finished a tattoo I really loved then I would upload it to instagram, a few hours would pass and then id scroll down or get a message from a friend sending me a tattoo they had seen that they thought i would like and I would compare myself so much to that artist. Most of the time not in a good way either!!! this is HUGE with tattoo artists. I feel this subject needs to be talked about more in this industry, so many amazing artists could be helped from this one topic. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER ARTISTS OR ANYONE ELSE. And believe me even when you stop using social media it doesn't go away, it takes ages to go away so start now! Comparing yourself to others is a complete hijack of your brain and only leaves behind self doubt, depression and not being satisfied with your work. Breaking a 7 year instagram habbit wont stop overnight it takes time so don't waste anymore time and stop comparing yourself now. It's taken me about 5 years to really understand this one point don't waste any more of your precious time.
4 - More time to create what I want to create. Like a lot of artists I like to paint a lot, create digital art and I have other hobbies to. Social media is designed to distract you so you spend as much time online as you can for various reasons. Social media robs you from the things you really want to do in life by rewarding you with likes and friend requests that feed you chemical rewards in the brain which have vibrational effects in your system leaving you addicted to it. Then 2 months roll around and the things on your to do list are stacking up and seeming all the more harder to reach and your more depressed than when you wrote the list because you can't seem to: get off social media, judging yourself, comparing yourself to this artist or this person and this leaves you de-motivated to even start your to do list. Or to even get out of bed in the morning!!! Trust me I no this feeling all too well. The thing you must realise is, its a choice to stay on social media, it's a decision, a decision a lot of us have been manipulated into yes but it is our decision at the end of the day.
5 - To focus more on my craft - Studying is a big part of any craft and tattooing is no different. Anything you want to get better at you need to study for and when you work all day and come home to then spend all night on instagram you leave no time to study and actually get better. Thus in a few days or weeks you feel burnt out even if you haven't done anything or you just don't feel motivated to get out of bed in the morning. I've learnt that progress equals happiness. If your not studying or perfecting your craft on a regular basis or perfecting your hobby or passion you won't be happy. And that's exactly what social media doesn't do, it doesn't make you progress in the things you need to learn. It tries to keep you distracted from them things. Yes it can source some inspiration that will make you progress but not for long, it will distract you sooner or later, in my opinion anyway.
6 - Last one from my list is to connect back with myself. Like so many artists we all get caught up in drama whether we want to hear it or not social media helps to promote the drama. Connecting back with myself meant; more self love, self appreciation, to heal, work on more self trust and to become more humble again. Don't get me wrong looking at other peoples work can be very inspiring and good for you sometimes but looking too much like most of us do, in my opinion it only brings self doubt and depression and you CAN become very unhappy in the long run especially when it comes to your own work. You could say social media is kinda like a vampire. It can suck all the creativity right out AND YOUR TIME if you look at it too much but there's a huge difference...you don't no it's happening to you for ages!
Now of course this is just some of my reasons. I have many more reasons but there mainly sub categories within these 6 main points. Maybe I will write another blog or make a video about this subject because there is so much discuss. Social media plays such a huge roll in modern society now a days and we base our whole lives and reputation around our social media following its really sad. I'm not for one minute denying all the positive sides of social media I'm just explaining how I felt on this particular day. So here I am, I've weighed out my reasons why to quit, the positives that I want to come from it and a few negative things that will happen from it (in the beginning) So I pull out my phone, click instagram and go to "permanently delete my account" Oh boy did that narrator come singing. Louder and louder and louder. All fear based. My thumb's hovering over the delete button and I froze for a minute. I couldn't do it. I can't explain it, it was like a movie, like when the bomb technician is about to cut the wire. It was so dramatic just like that lol now I look back I laugh at myself but at the time It was terrifying. So I just ignored the voice and clicked delete. I had told all my customers friends and family I would be leaving before deleting it and I saved all the email addresses and phone numbers I needed. But oh my god the relief. I remember the feeling was amazing. I think it was so amazing because it was half being relieved and half being terrified If I had made the wrong decision but then my gut spoke to me and reassured me I made the right decision. I just read back my reasons for quitting which i wrote in my journal and it all made so much sense to me. And here I am now with no social media and feeling full of life and alive!
Most of us are so used to sharing every thought we get with the world that nothing seems to personal anymore. Well that's how I felt anyway. I can only talk about what i know from my own experience. We get so used to people sharing everything with us that we eventually want to share back with them. I cannot express to you how powerful the feeling is knowing that you don't have to perform to the world at a certain time. You don't have to respond to a message right away. You don't have to put this on your insta story right away. The feeling that you can leave your phone at home and go on a nice walk or see a sunset and its personal just to you and you get to keep that memory just to yourself forever. Without anyone knowing. It's very powerful and moving.
Since quitting social media I've realized a lot of things. Mainly things about myself but my awareness has also heightened when i see how much other people use it. Some people, like i was are real prisoners to it. It starts to own you instead of you owning it. I used to panic for example if i didnt tattoo in a few days, incase i need the money, or if i had no bookings for a few days or even a few weeks id panic incase I need money so I would spend a lot of time on instagram to try and sell one of my designs. Now its the opposite. I post a new design on my website and If someone emails about it they email about it, I don't beat myself up about it anymore. I keep designing until someone gets one. I've learnt to let go of always thinking about "what if I need money" and start living to live life itself. Its not living when your constantly worrying about how your gonna get paid incase something happens. Now i focus 100% on my passions which is tattooing and body mod, keep strengthening my bonds with my customers and everything goes from there. If i don't work for a few days or few weeks now i don't beat myself up like I used to. I don't compare myself to other artists anymore. Well we all do a little but nowhere near the same amount as I did before because i'm not looking at other peoples work anymore. I'm solely focusing on bettering my own work. I just live life and instead of sleeping in bed until late I will get up early to paint or do something productive. Just because your a tattoo artist doesn't mean you have to tattoo everyday. Sometimes I have a lot of customers, sometimes It quietens down. It doesn't matter to me anymore. It's more important what you do everyday than what you do every month. As long as I'm making progress everyday whether that's designing new bodysuits or researching something to do with tattooing or something to do with my industry I am happy. Just because I don't tattoo for 3 days doesnt make me any less of a tattoo artist compared to people booked up for 2 years. Everyone is different. And this is the huge insight I had from quitting social media. So simple but for me its changed everything. If I have no bookings? I live my life, go swimming, go on a long hike, I get into nature. There's nothing nature can't fix. Someone once said "there's no wifi in the woods but your get a better connection".
Another thing I've learnt to look at differently is money. Money holds you back as an artist period. If you want to paint you need money to buy this and that before you can create something. But when all your income comes from instagram and you feel like you need to constantly be on it because your afraid that if you take a break from it no matter how short for, you wont be able to eat or pay your rent, your really stuck. I mean really stuck. At that point your not in control at all. Your being controlled by it and by the illusion of money itself. Your a slave to social media at that point.
Since quitting all social medias I've learnt to take my own advice and jump more and more often and that there is no loss in going forward. Money is an illusion and it should not rule over your creativity or make you panic about surviving. It does sometimes of course worry you, worrying about survival is a natural part of life and i'm guessing if you're reading this your human too lol so its natural for humans to worry but worrying in itself is a choice you decide to make. Whether you chose to worry or not life is still going to play out, it won't slow down just because you decide to worry about money. You always have a choice. It's always up to you.
I wanted to also take this time to tell you about all the positive things that can come from instagram addiction lol...The amount of great people i've met and such great customers i've had the privilege to tattoo has been amazing. As i say there is a lot of good that can come from social media, especially visibility and business wise it can be very good. I've been able to travel all around the world because of friendships made via instagram but what you've got to remember is if your thinking to leave social media all this is still possible with or without instagram! You can still travel, you can still tattoo abroad, you can still build relationships with other people abroad because you have your website and your work is available for the world to see. You can just include your website when emailing studios for guest spots and use business cards and old fashioned word of mouth. There's so much power in that. Instead of creating a false sense of yourself online and getting your ego stroked on instagram. There is always a way around things.
I just don't think im the right type of person to use these tools every and now and then. before i quit I thought about paying someone to manage my instagram for me but i didn't like the fact that I wouldn't have 100% control of my audience and my replies to messages. If you are ready to take the step to quit all social media but you don't want to lose your following you just don't want to use it then i definitely recommend you looking in personal assistants to look after your social media accounts for you. It just wasn't for me. I get to distracted talking to friends and am easily led away from my main intention by everything you see on there now a days. Now I try to have more phone calls with my friends and customers to try be a little more human again instead of a robot all the time. Long phone calls with friends are the best because it deepens that bond and I feel phone calls or text messages with customers are usually more private and intimate rather than sending a rushed instagram message. That's my opinion anyway.
There's some things I miss on social media but its not much. If your planning on quitting social media and taking the leap to addiction free living then you'll learn this fast: NO ONE WILL MISS YOU. This hits you pretty quick in the beginning. One of the main reasons people put off deleting social media for so long is because of the fear of missing out on stuff and they feel like people will hate them for leaving and they will get a bad rap for it. IT'S NOT TRUE. PEOPLE WON'T MISS YOU. There too busy being zombies and scrolling through the next interesting thing they see. Just like a bad hand dealt on a slot machine, no worries just pull the handle again for a another spin! This is the harsh reality. The first few days are tough, intense loneliness sets in and even though everything is deleted and the app is gone you keep reaching for your phone several times a day. Sometimes several times an hour if its in your pocket! And the thing that hits you the most is you got all this free time now. This can be so overwhelming for some people that a few days later they give in and download instagram again.
Social media and smartphone addiction is real guys. I personally think that in the future social media addiction will be seen just as dangerous as smoking amongst children. Children with social media addiction growing up will have social problematic mental disorders in consequence to having social media at such a young age. It will be the same like in the 1930's when they thought smoking was good for you. Like there are some people out there who let there children have social media and in the future I think a lot of people will look back and think "my god i can't believe they didn't see the dangers of social media back then, can't believe they let their kids have it". Any technology that's created has consequences. If something makes your life easier? think to yourself what consequences are there for me using this piece of technology. Its powerful when you start becoming more aware and listing the consequences.
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this blog, I will definitely do an update video or post in a few weeks or months because it's something i've grown a little passionate about since quitting and seeing all the benefits so i'm interested to share my thoughts with others because you never know who it can help out there. Someone might be going through the same thing as I did but as an artist they feel obligated to stay with social media even though its draining the life out of them!
Thanks for reading guys
All the love