How much do you use the Instagram app on average? Have you ever wondered? Can you measure the time you spend every day scrolling through the screen, leaving likes, reading notifications? It’s very likely that an important part of your day will just go there, among those square images. But is there any way to avoid getting sucked into this black hole?
An essential app
Instagram is still in 2021 the social network of excellence for us photographers. Although organic coverage is in constant decline, and for this reason it is increasingly difficult to “become someone” without investing money in sponsorships, Instagram is still the most exploited virtual space by those who work with photos, or would like to do so.
The evolution that the app has had over the years allows many uses: the posts feed can become a portable version of our portfolio, stories can be used to strengthen your personal brand (or trivially to show some behind the scenes), reels can become trailers for our works… There are endless interpretations available. All beautiful? Unfortunately not.
Addiction to social media
Instagram is an established social network. Like all established social networks, it bases its economic existence on advertising revenues. The more a spot is seen, the more the platform gains. And the more a user is with eyes on the screen…well, the easier it is to earn money for Instagram. Here the problems begin: all the user experience is designed to make sure that you are naturally led to want to stay as long as possible on the app. The interface, the photos it chooses to show, the way it shows notifications, everything is designed to attach you to the screen. If you want to know more, I recommend the movie The Social Dilemma.
So what to do? Leaving Instagram to break down the risk of developing an addiction at source is not an option. Today not being on social media is synonymous with oblivion. Yes, there will be some niche photographer who works and thrives without even having an internet connection. But in 2021 are exceptions. Rarity. Unicorns. People who have a lot of inspiration from those who use social media. Fortunately, there are techniques to survive social addiction. Let’s see them.
If I was to summarize in a word what it takes to avoid getting trapped in a scroll-update-like loop, I would choose “discipline”. After all, we can trace everything back to that: since we use (or would like to use) social media as a work tool, let’s do it with discipline. Let’s get some rules, see which ones.
Step 1: Measure
The first thing to do is to figure out how much time we actually spend in front of Instagram, where we basically do three things:
- Create and publish content.
If you are a photographer, your images should already be ready when they arrive on your smartphone, so the creation part in the app is virtually nothing. The publication itself takes relatively little time, just to choose the hashtags and a description of some words (apart from particular cases).
- Interact with the community.
Just publishing maybe was fine 5 years ago, now if you do not participate in the conversation that develops around your content and those of others you miss a big slice of opportunity. It’s actually a form of networking and for this it can be a strong help in your career as a photographer.
- Explore the content.
This last point is the most at “zombie-mode” risk: it is easy to start shaking through the feed and completely lose contact with reality. And paradoxically, this is the least important activity to boost your photographic career!
Luckily for us, now all mobile operating systems have a counter that tells us very precisely how much time we spend using each individual application. On iOS you will find Settings / Usage Time / View all tasks. If the time you spend on Instagram exceeds 60 minutes daily, you may have a problem. When you pass the 2 hours there’s a problem for sure.
Whatever the case, now that you know, it’s time to regularize the situation.
Step 2: Limit
Whatever the activity that occupies your time the most, the first thing to do is to fix a daily limit beyond which the application no longer opens . As I mentioned before, an hour is more than enough. This can be done in two ways. The best one is definitely the software block: in the same section of the counter that we saw before you find the option to set the maximum usage threshold. Once you reach this threshold the app will no longer can be opened (clearly you can do it by going to remove the block). The second way is less rigorous: it is to fix slots along the day when you will open the application. I personally prefer this route, but obviously it all depends on your willpower!
Step 3: Program
After limiting use, rationalize your time. This is done by grouping the similar activities, specifically the one of publishing. Here again we have two ways: by staying on Instagram, we can take advantage of the possibility of saving the drafts of our posts to create a decent amount at once (I usually prepare at least three), and then fix several reminders in the following days. At that point you will only have to publish the post at the time chosen, in no time. Even more powerful is the actual post programming, which is done through Creator Studio or Business Manager, on Facebook. In order to use these powerful tools, however, you have to have a creator or business account: it’s worth it!
In the end
One last tip: disable all notifications. These leverage the FOMO, but you will rarely miss opportunities if you don’t read the comment on your last post instantly. You create a lot more opportunities if you don’t get unnecessarily distracted by the work you’re doing, I can assure you…
Using the Measure-Limit-Program approach, you will certainly be able to reduce and rationalize the time you spend on Instagram (but also on other social networks, the approach does not change), and you will have more free time to devote to other projects. Now it’s your turn, good luck!