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My Toxic Relationship with Instagram – 10 Lessons I Learned from Taking a Break!

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Who here feels like they’ve been personally victimised by Instagram?

Well, all jokes aside. I took a break from travel blogging last year. Well, it was more than a break actually. It was a lengthy hiatus!

As I scrolled through my Instagram feed, looking at beautiful content from such talented creators, and then looked at my own photo that I was editing on my computer. I couldn’t help but compare.

I was trying desperately to reedit and perfect it, cursing myself in the process for not being more creative. I just didn’t feel like it was enough. 

My following was stagnated, my likes and engagement was dwindling. My reach was equally poor and only around 10% of my audience was actually seeing my content. I had hardly any WiFi on my travels in Egypt, so I couldn’t catch up with other people’s content or post my own.

I was anxious that my followers would drop as I wasn’t engaging enough. Yet, I’d see people wildly growing their accounts daily.

Instagram felt like a toxic relationship. Something I knew was bad for me (at the time) but I couldn’t let go.

As I woke up at 6 am the next morning to bust my a** off chasing that perfect light to get ‘the shot’, I thought to myself ‘what’s the point?’. Who’s going to see it anyway? It will probably tank and all of this effort was worthless.

So, I stopped. Not creating photos as I love doing it. But, I stopped spending all of my waking hours on Instagram trying to grow, come up with hashtag strategies, and beat the algorithm.

It felt good to just travel and be in the moment again. I stopped posting to Instagram and my blog didn’t see a post for two months. I felt like I was going to give it up.

best luxor itinerary

Taking a break from my toxic relationship with Instagram, was the best decision I ever made

But, there was a positive outcome from leaving my toxic relationship and taking this break from Instagram. It made me do a complete 180 and realise three things;

  1. My purpose for starting a travel blog in the first place and why I’m on Instagram
  2. Instagram is not my only platform!
  3. That I miss the positive connections I make with likeminded people on my channels

So, when the New Year rang in. After I cried a few tears and received a few pep talks from the likes of Gary Vee and Tony Robbins on Youtube (thanks guys), I decided to get back on the saddle and take the bull by the horns.

I made a promise that I wasn’t going to devalue myself on metrics but make myself accountable for the value that I provide every day. Not just on Instagram, but on all of my platforms.

I vowed that I would never let Instagram make me doubt myself as a creator again. Here’s 8 reason’s why;

places to visit in cairo
Cairo is the worst for gold scams

1. Most of all, I remember my purpose and why I’m doing what I do

When did I decide that creating content was all about approval? That likes and followers outranked my purpose?

That taking the perfect picture was more important than providing value to my audience?

Truth is, I don’t know. But, what I do know is that I had fallen into a hole with it.

In this world of blogging, influencing and instagramming, everything relies on the metrics.

It’s no lie that people with more followers get more opportunities. But, with it being so easy now to buy followers and cheat your way to the top, it can be frustrating when people who are building an organic audience don’t get a look in.

Having the perfect (super expensive) flowy dress and the perfect hair. Buying hats. Getting that perfect light. Going to the same bloody locations as everyone else to take the same pictures.

Choosing to visit a location based on its Instagram worthiness, even when the experiences of other ‘less worthy’ places could make you so much richer.

When did travelling become about the shot?

Taking a break from Instagram not only made me realise why I do what I do, it made me realise why I started blogging in the first place. My blog has always had a purpose; to empower women to travel. From now on, I will always work with that purpose in mind.

best tombs in valley of the kings

2. Instagram is not real life

When things went wrong when I travelled, instead of being honest, I tried desperately hard to pretend everything was okay.

I was a woman travelling alone in Egypt and, at times, I was more frustrated than I wasn’t. I got extremely sick, tired of being cat-called by men, and had more than a few hiccups when travelling. I lost a lot of money and I was even scammed out of $250!

But in my vanity, I didn’t want to talk about those things online. I wanted to make it seem like everything was fine, that I had the perfect trip. Create some whimsical fantasy that I had the best time.

Earth to Sophie, where is the value in that?!

Do I want it to happen to someone else that travels there? No! I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. So, why bend the truth?

Instagram is not real life…!

That blogger that’s being sponsored to stay in a 5* resort, probably stays in a £2 hostel the next day as they’re broke.

The person you envy that looks like they’re constantly jetting around the world, probably lives with their parents and latergrams the sh*t out of their content.

That picture that looks like a perfect picture-worthy picnic just fell onto the ground with minimal effort probably took hours to prepare.

So, I decided that with this New Year to start being more authentic with my posts. I wrote about problems on my blog. I started to be honest and ditched the ‘fake it til you make it’s BS. I started to bring value.

It’s only halfway through the month of January but I’ve already had messages from girls thanking me for my informative blogs. People that were inspired by my journey. People that appreciated my honesty. More than I ever had last year.

All these things, reminded me that being open and honest about our lives and journeys can really help others. Isn’t that why we have blogs in the first place?

toxic relationship with instagram
This looks perfect, but it was so misty just 20 mins before – I couldn’t even see the view! I had to wait two hours in the sun..

3. The numbers of likes on my Instagram post does not devalue it’s quality

I’d take down pictures off my Instagram if they weren’t popular, I’d panic if it wasn’t gaining traction in the first hour, I’d be so frustrated if the picture tanked.

I’d curse the algorithm, tell myself it was because Instagram favoured certain countries like Santorini. That I was shadowbanned or convince myself it was because I posted ten minutes after my optimal posting time.

Even worse, I’d feel guilty about taking downtime and that I should have been spending it on the platform.

The amount of likes on your post does not devalue its worth.

We get so wrapped up in the likes and hearts as online artists, we often forget that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because it isn’t liked as much as your last post, doesn’t mean that it’s worthless to your audience.

A post doesn’t always have to be just about the picture either, the caption underneath holds just as much weight. Sure, some people won’t read it past the first sentence. But many will and value your truth.

So, make it count. Reach out, break through the fourth wall of the phone screen and engage with people! Provide them with insight or tips. You never know how it could help or inspire someone until you try.

things to do in luxor at night

4. Whether I have 5 followers or 5 million, people follow me for a reason

In my desperate attempts to grow as quickly as possible, I would be online for hours engaging.

I made the mistake of doing large loop giveaways that I will never do again. I’ve never bought a follower in my life but my it can be tempting! Just remember, people that rise up quickly, often come crashing down.

I feel we often get so wrapped up in our make-believe audience we haven’t received yet, we forget about the people that have been rooting for us from day one.

The people that show support every day, that saw value in our accounts way before our big successes and enjoy following the journey with us not the destination.

Like anything in life, we don’t stay where we’re not valued and the same applies to your audience. Your following may not be growing as quickly as you want it to, but show up and give people a reason to keep following your journey every day.

During my break, I realised this more than ever. I’d get messages from people asking if I was okay, they were worried about me as they hadn’t seen a post.

Those messages touched me more than they’ll ever know. Truth is, I wasn’t okay.

But, it made me realise that I was abandoning people who care about my journey and it was so wrong to forget that.

What not to do in Egypt

5. I cannot control the algorithm

Ah, the algorithm. A mystery game that we all love to try and solve.

How do I get my photo on the explore page? Why does my hashtag reach get 50 one day and 5,000 the next? Why isn’t anyone seeing my content? All of these questions have plagued me until the early hours.

It feels like a sick game Instagram is playing with us. 

And people are taking advantage of it. So many people sell courses now to teach people how to beat the algorithm on the gram. I’m sorry, but that’s all bull. No one knows the algorithm apart from Instagram. In fact, it changes all the time.

Staying with your posts and replying to comments for the first hour, putting your own comments into the picture to help it boost and the amount of saves you receive seems to work in theory. But, we can never know.

On the flip side, there’s also the matter of security. As there’s a rise in bot activity and companies who buy engagement, Instagram is cracking down hard on it.

They’ll block you if you’re liking pictures too fast, or commenting the same thing over and over again. Only show the content to your audience and not have you visible in hashtags or show it new accounts.

Remember, the algorithm is out of your control. 

We cannot change it, but we can control how we react to it. Keep showing up and carry on shining with your content and power through. It’s frustrating, but we cannot stress over things out of our control.

why you should visit alexandria

6. For Instagram, it’s all about money

Nothing is more depressing than seeing that ‘promote your post’ ad in your Instagram feed.

Or Instagram telling you a poor-performing post is ‘doing better than 90%’ of your other really well-performing posts and so you must promote it.

It’s like a foretelling that Instagram has put you in the sh*t pile. May the odds be ever in your favour.

A lot of us as creators set up business accounts. That way, we can see our audience and analytics. It allows us to put an email as a contact and there are numerous other benefits. But, it also comes with one downside.

Since Instagram was taken over by Facebook and started to place ads within our feeds and stories. With over 1 billion active users on the platform, all those eyes watching has become a serious money maker.

Just like the ads you see on TV, Instagram has allowed businesses to pay to advertise to anyone that uses an Instagram account.

But, that also means that as a business account owner we’re constantly asked to pay to promote.

Our content is only being shown to around 30% of our audience. So, to the others, we’re constantly asking for post notifications to be switched on, announcing in our stories when we have a new post up or even setting up engagement pods to strengthen engagement.

A lot of people on Instagram feel that promoting posts is the only way. What if we do what social media wants us to do and promote, we’ll somehow win them over.

Whichever way we handle things It’s all business and about making money from us.

Like it or not, that’s the world we live in online. When I realised that, it didn’t make me feel better. But, it allowed me to understand it a little more and realise that it’s out of my control.

Photos of yourself when travelling solo

7. I have my blog (which is my baby) and other platforms which I can control

Before I started blogging, I didn’t even have an Instagram. I only started one as I knew that social media was a necessary evil of promoting my blog.

I was a complete newbie to it and even had to watch tutorials on how to use it. I’d let that ship sail by in 2010 and I was on catch up mode.

I never wanted my Instagram to be my main source of audience. Reason being is I don’t technically own my Instagram. If the platform went down, so would my following. All that work would go into thin air overnight. I’d have nothing.

No, I started off solely with my travel blog as I love writing and sharing stories. I love sharing travel tips and pretty photos was just a way to support that.

But, then along the way, something changed. Maybe it was because I was being offered paid collaborations through my Instagram or I could see that a lot of Influencers were getting sponsored trips through their accounts. Either way, I knew Instagram was a weak link I needed to work on.

I abandoned my blog in favour for Instagram, spent so much of my time on that platform that I completely neglected the others. I completely forgot the reason why I started this journey in the first place.

When I started to write on my blog again. It all came back. How cathartic writing is for me, how I find it more rewarding to share a blog post I created than to get frustrated over a single photo and its performance.

Before my Instagram break, I treated my blog, Instagram and other platforms as separate entities. But, this year, I want to start bringing them into synergy with each other. My blog being the centre of what I do and the social media accounts to support it. Like it should have been.

packing list for egypt

8. Because my chapter 1 cannot be compared to someone else’s chapter 20

I could read that quote about the moon and the sun shining when it’s there time a thousand times over and it still won’t get through.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves as creators when we’re constantly around beautiful creations from talented creators we aspire to.

But, we also need to be honest with ourselves. Of course we’d all love to be the one who defeated the odds and didn’t take years to build a brand. We’d love to own that overnight success story. However, that’s not often the case.

As cliché as it is, we only need to look at famous people and their journey’s to the top to see success isn’t instant. H

arrison Ford didn’t become an actor until he was in his way in his 40s, J.K Rowling was rejected by hundreds of publishers before someone gave her a chance with Harry Potter and even Einstein was was told his theories were whack.

We cannot compare our first chapter with someone else’s chapter twenty. All we can do is enjoy the journey and keep creating. Doing what we love and improving on it everyday. Don’t be afraid to try something different, be bold as a creator, stand out from the crowd.

visiting the pyramids

9. Because Instagram is a positive community and I love the connections that it brings

Out of all the frustrations that Instagram brought me, there was a positive side; the positive connections I made with likeminded people each day.

On my break, the thing I missed most was connecting with people.

Whether that be speaking to my followers or people I followed by comments and direct messages. Or, watching the raw behind the scenes of their travels on their stories.

I forgot how grateful I was to be able to connect with so many people all over the world in an instant.

We often find comfort in where we fit in. Where what we do doesn’t sound as crazy to the outside world looking in. A safe place where you’re not alone. Instagram is like that place for me.

Getting up at sunrise while I travel, taking pictures of myself with a tripod, having a flower bath, getting annoyed with tour groups who stand in the way of your shot. All of those things seem insane to outsiders and holidaymakers. But, other bloggers and creators just get it.

Jordan Pass Review

10. Because I love doing what I do and I won’t give up on my dream

I don’t know for sure when it happened, but when I was in my toxic relationship with Instagram all my other talents were forgotten.

I forgot about my travel my blog that was bringing in thousands of readers a month, my blog was featured in a magazine, I was sponsored on press trips through my blog and that I had other followers on different platforms.

None of that was good enough if my Instagram was failing, so I was going to give up. It sounds stupid now. But, looking back, I genuinely thought I wasn’t cut out for it.

Totally ridiculous! Plenty of bloggers get along without an Instagram account. People who are geniuses at SEO receive millions of unique viewers a month and make a good livingonlinewithout even touching the ‘gram.

At the end of the day, I love what I do; travel blogging!

So, I’ll still chase my dream of travelling the world through my blog. I’ll never give up and I won’t insult myself by devaluing my work based on one platform ever again.

My story and anyone else’s is enough and it’s important to remind ourselves of that.

mena house hotel cairo

Top tips for managing your relationship with Instagram

If any of this rings a bell with you or you’ve found yourself in a similar situation with Instagram; know that you’re not alone. Even the biggest of influencers have down days and are uninspired as their content isn’t getting the exposure it deserves.

I’m aware that it’s not just bloggers and creators either. Studies suggest that Instagram is the worst problem for our mental health with the need to constantly portray an upbeat image.

I’ve now put some rules into place to help with my relationship with Instagram. Here’s some tips from my experience;

Limit the amount of time per day you’re spending on the Instagram. You can use ‘Your Activity‘ to see the hours you spend on Instagram per day and set time limits on it.

Have a no posting day, this will give you a small break and make you more refreshed for the coming week. I chose Saturday’s.

Spread out your engagement times throughout the day and around your schedule. This way it won’t feel like it’s taking up so much of your free time.

Block or unfollow people and stories that make you feel negative about yourself. 

Don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not. Being different is your power and no one can take that away from you. Remember, you can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t change for approval.

aswan to abu simbel

Remember, you’re not alone

So, why am I spilling my guts out and sharing my most raw moments with you on the internet? Well, I believe that the more people talk about it and share their frustrations, the more it will make the community stronger.

I cannot promise myself that I won’t get frustrated again or compare myself to others on the platform. But, I can say that my toxic relationship with Instagram is over and a much healthier one has been put in its place. One with purpose.

Instead of questioning why I even bother with Instagram, I now think of what value I can bring in my little slice of the internet.

Remember that you’re not alone. In fact you’re far from it. There’s a massive community out there that go through the exact same thoughts and feelings about it as you every day.

If you resonated with any of this post, or know someone that could need a reminder; you have my express permission to share my story around. I’m not embarrassed, in fact, I’m proud of my journey and that I didn’t let fear get the best of me. I’ll never stop chasing my dream.

Or, reach out! I’m always here to connect and would love nothing more than to hear from you.

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My Toxic relationship with Instagram


Wednesday 9th of February 2022

Sophie I love this blog post and it's exactly what I've been feeling with my relationship with instagram (which is how i got to know you over the years). I feel like i'm constantly stressed with it and as much as I've been saying for years I want to be a blogger it's always taken a backseat with the time I would spend on IG. This year I've decided to switch gears, not really care much about the numbers, use my IG as a portfolio to show what i can create if I want those brand deals, but ultimately I want to really focus on making my own blog the best it can be.

Sophie Pearce

Thursday 10th of February 2022

Hi Denise, I totally agree! I've found since I've concentrated on my blog I've been much happier as it allows me to be creative and in control. I think Instagram is a great app in moderation, I just hate the way it's so addictive, has so many changes, and hurts mental health with the constant comparisons! I'm glad you've decided to take the leap with blogging - you won't regret it :) Sophie x


Thursday 9th of December 2021

Thank you for being so open! This is a huge wall for many creators, entrepreneurs, and business owners. I'm currently on hiatus from social media to focus on my own mental health and the reason I started my business in the first place: to connect people with the world through authentic experiences – not just instagramable ones.

Sophie Pearce

Friday 31st of December 2021

Hi Alexis, I totally agree! I have to admit that I still feel a lot of this now especially during these hard times. I try to avoid social media as much as possible! I think that it's so easy to compare and convince yourself you're not good enough. But, actually, Instagram is just a highlight reel and we see about 10% of what's going on in someone's life. I now concentrate on a few platforms rather than just one and I love to work on my blog more than anything! Sophie x


Wednesday 24th of February 2021

Absolutely love reading your blogs! Carry on doing you x

Sophie Pearce

Thursday 15th of April 2021

Hi Amy, thank you so much! I hope you're well and safe. Sophie x


Sunday 10th of May 2020

I have just deactivated my Instagram for the third time this year, typically I only seem to last a week before I reload it haha. I’m hoping to stay off for several months this time. I feel as if I lost myself in it and I haven’t been working on my own creative content. Thank you for sharing this article, it resonates strongly with me!!! :-)

Sophie Pearce

Monday 11th of May 2020

Hi Ilona, I totally know how you feel! I also take regular breaks off Instagram now as I feel that it restricts my creativity too! I'm working way more on my blog at the moment and I find its SO much better. I'm glad you liked the post and take as long as you need off the platform :) Sophie x


Saturday 26th of January 2019

Good and thoughtful post. Your photos are beautiful. As you say, we have much more control over storytelling and blogging than algorithms.

Sophie Pearce

Saturday 26th of January 2019

Thank you Sue! Yes I totally agree. We have to keep reminding ourselves. Thanks for stopping by. Sophie x