Why I Deleted Over 3/4 of my Instagram Following

Yesterday I did something very radical in the eyes of pop culture: I deleted over 3,000 of my Instagram followers, and changed my once very public account to private. I initially was not planning on giving any explanation as to why I did this, but a lot of people reached out to me thinking it was a cry for help (side note: thank you to those who reached out, it really means a lot to me, but how crazy is it that in today’s day and age when we change our social media people immediately assume something is wrong!?) so I figured I should explain, and let people know that I am A-OK.

When I started college last year I had around 800 followers on Instagram give or take. I’ve always had a love for photography, and being in Hawaii, one of the most beautiful places on earth in my opinion, I was absolutely going to take pictures! What started as a hobby unexpectedly and quickly ended up turning into a business within a few months. I began shooting with photographers for fun, which turned into paid modeling through Instagram. I was getting reposted by huge accounts, which led to me getting discovered by companies who I worked with to create and promote content.

Within a year, I had more than quadrupled my Instagram following. I had amassed 4,000 followers, but not without hard work.  I spent countless hours shooting photos, editing on lightroom and photoshop, interacting with other accounts, and scrolling through Instagram for inspiration. I was hooked on both the adrenaline that comes from likes and follows on social media, and the rush of creativity that the industry provided me with. I absolutely LOVED what I was doing, but it did not come without a price.

Photography was once a hobby that gave me peace of mind and a creative outlet, which I desperately need, but once I started taking pictures and modeling for money and likes instead of for fun, that happiness was taken away from me. I would work so hard to capture the perfect moment on camera and be so excited to share it, and then when I posted it on Instagram if it didn’t get a certain number of likes I felt like all of the work that went into that photo was for nothing. I was creating art, and feeling bad about it; a picture of me in a bikini that took 5 minutes to take would get 4x as many likes as photos that I took a considerable amount of time to plan, take, and edit- and that felt awful.

The more followers, likes, and comments I got, the more brands I got to partner with, and the more I got compensated, so that’s what I aimed for. I was constantly checking the statistics on my profile, my photos, my engagement rate, etc. I was, as many of us are nowadays, essentially seeking validation from people I didn’t even know. I was basing my self worth off of how many followers I could gain from a post, and even if a photo was successful, it was never enough, so I kept going. I wasn’t sure at what point I would finally be happy with how many people were viewing my work, and so I just trekked on blindly without an exact goal, but no matter how many likes and followers I gained, I never felt satisfied and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I would get 1,000 likes and it still wasn’t enough; I still wasn’t enough.

Eventually it got to a point where scrolling through Instagram, which was once very entertaining to me, just made me upset. I was comparing myself to everyone else constantly, whether I purposefully meant to or not. This feeling still hasn’t gone away, and i’m sure many of you who are reading can relate. I’d go through periods where I would delete all social media apps off my phone for a while, feel better, but somehow always ended up redownloading them a few weeks later. I was addicted. 

About a month ago all of my hard work finally paid off, and I was able to sign with a modelling agency here in Hawaii. On one hand it was a weight off my shoulders- I no longer needed to be partnering with brands because I had an agent who would now set me up with modelling gigs, but on the other hand, I still did not feel validated. I never felt like I was good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc. and I thought that maybe if I could get enough followers, then one day I would finally feel fulfilled.

Yesterday I just hit a breaking point, and realized that social media was never going to give me the feeling of validation that I craved so very badly. And not only social media: friends, my boyfriend, family- there is only one person in the world who can make me feel as though I am enough, and that person is me. So I changed my Instagram from a personal blog to a private account, and deleted pretty much everyone I don’t know personally. I’m sure eventually i’ll freak out and be like “WHY DID I DO THIS” but for now I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Trying to impress people I don’t even know really does no good, and now that I am with an agency, Instagram modeling just doesn’t make sense for me and my mental health anymore. I love creating art in almost any form, and I will continue to do so because it is a passion of mine, but I no longer feel like I have to present my life as some perfect facade. It’s not healthy to constantly be checking up on what everyone else is doing. We as humans are more connected than ever, and we have not yet discovered the repercussions of this, but what we do know is pretty rock solid:

1. Social media has negative effects on our mental health. There are COUNTLESS studies that have proven this, so I do not feel the need to cite any source; there are tons.

2. Social media is addictive. I’m sure no one needs convincing of this.

3. Likes, comments, and followers are not the same as friends, and are not a support system. They feel temporarily good, due to the release of dopamine that our brain has been found to emit. Receiving attention on social media has the same effect on our brains as alcohol, nicotine, and drugs, meaning it can make us feel really GREAT, but also really bad. It is because of this reason that it is so incredibly addicting, and think- you can’t buy a beer or cigarettes until you’re 21 (of course there are exceptions) but there is absolutely NO restriction on social media. Even babies use iPads now!!!

At the end of the day, I LOVE social media, and I LOVE instagram, but I recognize that it isn’t always great for me, and that is why I felt I needed to make this decision for myself. I already feel immensely better, and if you are struggling through something similar, know you are not alone.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this little slice of my life.

Bela

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