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Intentional Attention — Online

6 min

I’ve been consuming and posting content on Instagram since it launched in 2010.  Creating my first handle coincided with a transition in my personal blog, from documenting an Etsy-based side hustle to moving to London with my then-boyfriend now husband.  I found tremendous pleasure in sharing personal photography, current work, musings, and anything that inspired and excited me.  Alo

ng the way, Instagram became a habitual supplement to the connectivity and engagement that blogging (and the blogging community) provided.  Writing and sharing became my way of adjusting to and thriving in, new homes overseas.  First, in London, England, and second in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Back in the States, my husband and I welcomed our first child. Six months later, I opened a retail store.  Writing and creating for my blog completely stopped.  All the energy and time I could muster went into nurturing my two new beautiful babies: the human one and the business one.  Instagram took center stage for my input and output (consumption and creation) since it was fast and easy, and I could even do it while nursing my daughter (definitely not healthy for me, in retrospect).  I told myself, “this is the new way to stay creatively engaged and fulfilled,” while whispering, “I miss you” to my blog.

In January 2020, I began to feel that my attention needed a drastic shift.  I felt restless and unhappy with what I spent a lot of my time doing and giving headspace to.  That thing was Instagram.  I used it for the store since I was our full-time social media manager, photographer, content writer, etc – the platform was the main lifeline to our audience, or so I thought. My reason for using Instagram was business related, and I did enjoy the creativity and purpose that came from it.  However, it’s also how I justified my time spent on the app, even when it wasn’t for professional reasons.  I was consistently diving into the rabbit hole without a plan and creating unnecessary distractions in my day.  Distractions from myself, my family, and the real world around me. Nearly 2,000 individual posts later, I was over giving myself so freely to Instagram as it gave me less and less ROI on my personal life.  My interest in broadcasting without a purpose was waning.

As I mentally prepared to transition from Port of Raleigh in early 2020 (the plan was to sell the business or find an operating partner; closing the store became the only option after the pandemic began), I wondered how I could continue to work within the creative/design/retail world without using Instagram…a lot or at all.  I felt fatigued by the pressure to self-promote, and I’d lost my appetite for the endless scroll, which had come to feel like a virtual and emotional crapshoot where The House always wins.  Always.  I wanted my time and attention back – it was time to be more intentional online and off. The unfounded belief that Instagram was the only way (or at least the best way) to experience digital connectivity with people, stay in the know, and move forward with my work/business/career, needed to be dispelled.

Purposeful destinations for time spent online became my new focus for both input and output. I signed up for newsletters from writers and businesses I wanted to hear from and began visiting a diverse group of websites for news, design happenings, and inspirational and educational reads on a daily basis.  It felt so good to spend time outside the social-media tunnel, to go slower and deeper with options that had been there all along.  I also began to explore new destinations for creating that felt more aligned with who I am and am becoming.

Once the store closed (and my professional reason for using Instagram was over), I deleted the app from my phone cold turkey.  Months later, I re-installed it for one single post that felt close to my heart.  Today the app sits in a silo three swipes away from my home screen and rarely sees any action.  Boundaries have been drawn, and headspace has expanded.  I decided that if I’m going to use this tool, it would be for professional input and value-based output.  And I must always step in with a plan.  For example, I currently use the app or desktop version to view a company’s profile for research and client work as needed, but that’s about it.  It’s not that I’m opposed to using it socially; it’s just that I need more out of it…especially after experiencing all the positives that have come into my life by actively not participating.  Do I miss the casual social updates from people and businesses that Instagram facilitates?  Miss isn’t the right word, but yes.  But at the same time, I’m up for the challenge of catching up with people in other meaningful ways.  For businesses, I know that I can connect with them elsewhere too.

As someone who used the platform to grow their small business, I understand (and am thankful for) how useful and beneficial Instagram can be.  It’s an incredible tool in the connectivity toolbox, so long as you’re creating value AND receiving value back.  There are many people who thrive on constantly and consistently sharing themselves and their work through social media.  I’m not one of them.  It took years to realize that while I am social and enjoy sharing things digitally, the manner and pace with which Instagram works just wasn’t working for me anymore.  I want more quiet. More slowness. More focus.  I went down a similar road by abandoning Facebook five or six years ago, and I’ve never looked back (I was an early adopter of that too).  By not consuming and creating frequent, quick, and casual updates, I’ve found that for me, there’s actually very little to miss and so much more to gain.

I’m far from being alone in experiencing a shift with social media.  You might have personally considered some or all of the above at some point (especially last year) and taken your own course of action.  Between the pandemic and social and political unrest, scroll by scroll, more and more people have lost their appetite for this once shiny new app.  Even brands began questioning their own reasons for being on Instagram.  My two favorite examples are Bottega Veneta and Keap Candles. The former went completely dark. Unannounced.  While the latter shared a very thoughtful message as to why they were choosing to exist and do business beyond the platform.  Both acts were refreshing and exciting.

I had unknowingly joined them when I made the decision to opt out and focus on a new corner of the digital world.  This new corner, this new output, is what you’re reading now.  AM Notes is a blank slate and is free of expectations.  It’s a fresh start stemming from things that I’ve consistently loved and enjoyed sharing…writing from a personal perspective, creating and curating content, celebrating design in all aspects, and considering how we experience our everyday through thoughts and things.  

This space helps answer the questions I started asking over a year ago about how I could operate and thrive professionally without relying on Instagram. And while social media and content publishing platforms are forever changing, I have re-connected with where I started years ago.  This blog format feels just right (once again) for fulfilling a deep desire to create, share, stay connected, and perhaps, even inspire some people along the way.  Yes, AM Notes is using a platform that someone else designed, but the use case is different and clearly defined.  No longer concerned about the algorithm and social media-based behaviors,  AM Notes makes it a joy to create for whoever finds it.  Even better, for whoever chooses to receive it and spend time with it. It’s not a bag of tricks…just a good ol’ website and newsletter.  And ain’t that nice?!


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