At first it might seem silly that, to me, taking a month off Instagram was big enough a deal to provoke me to write my first blog in a year. There are people reading this who regularly go more than a month without posting and go days without checking the app. I however had something akin to an addiction to it. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that I checked Instagram close to 100 times a day. I craved the likes and follows I would get; and if they weren't flooding in, I would just post again. In an effort to stay relevant, I'd just re-post images. In the weeks leading up to my month off nearly half of my photos were recycled. I also started to notice something startling about my motivations to do the things I love. I jokingly use the phrase "do it for the gram" quite often, but after some time it stopped being a joke internally.
when I started out as a photographer, Instagram was barely a part of my life. I went out everyday to take photos because I loved it, and that was it. I did things primarily for the experience, but then came along feature pages, engagement groups, color schemes and consecutive days when I'd gain in excess of 100 followers. It's a pretty crazy feeling when you see that one of your images has been featured to a page with 11 million followers. At first it's a validating feeling, but after a day or two the notifications stop rolling in. Then after a couple weeks you've posted 15 new photos and none of them get featured. All of a sudden your self worth takes a hit and you start asking questions and taking negative notes about your work.
"why aren't my new photos taking off like my old ones?"
"I haven't posted anything good in weeks."
"why is it only one photo of mine gets reposted? Am I a one hit wonder?"
"I worked really hard for that photo and no one featured it. Guess that work was pointless"
Of course, in most situations those aren't healthy observations; but every time a thought like that drifted through my mind, it made me want to go out, get new content and post more in hopes of getting featured again. Thus, I did things for the gram. Hikes became more about getting content than finding contentment in the outdoors. I started measuring the success of a trip not by the good times, but by how many consecutive days I could go without reposting an old photo after the trip was over. Eventually the emotional negatives of trips started outweighing the positives and I fell into a slump.
On the 4th of July, a notification appeared telling me someone commented in one of my engagement groups. The person said that they were going to do something called "dry July" and among other things they were going to give up Instagram for a month. It was an appealing thought, and I decided that I was gonna jump on the train and see where it took me. The first few days were hard. I deleted the app to stop me from breaking and I kept on accidentally opening the Spotify app which had taken its space. Then about 5 days in, I stopped caring about Instagram. I actually stopped caring about most things. I had no reason to go on trips if I couldn't post the content, so I just stayed at home most days and watched you tube. Then at about the 2 week mark I felt suddenly inspired to go on a long solo backpacking trip. The next day I drove out to Tahoe and began hiking up to the summit of pyramid peak.
It was liberating being outside, alone, with no agenda. The only plan was to hike a ridgeline. What happened after that was up in the air. I brought my camera, but didn't plan any photos before hand. Usually before a trip I go on google earth to find angles and preplan shots. This time there was none of that. I went on the trip because I wanted a new experience. I spent hours next to a fire at night watching the milky way traverse a dark sky devoid of light due to the new moon. At no point did I think about posting, or how I could use the moment to get likes. I took photos for a short period of time, but spent the majority of the evening just enjoying the beauty of it all. The next day was casual. I finished the ridgeline, dropped down through a gully into a snow field and frolicked around in crampons just because. I hiked back to my car and felt clean. Not physically, but I felt like I did the trip for a pure reason. It was refreshing.
By the third weekend the passion for photography was back. First and foremost in my mind was getting out of the slump that I was in and experiencing life again. I went to Yosemite and got a job at Glacier Point. I'm beyond stoked to move back to the valley and get back to doing the things that gave me my nick name. Except this time I'll be spending less time documenting them and more time living them. I'm not planning on stopping using Instagram though. I'll still post probably 5-7 days a week and maybe I'll even repost a photo occasionally. This time though I'll come back to it with a different purpose. Not to boost my ego, but instead to hopefully inspire others and keep an up to date gallery that companies I'd like to shoot for can reference. Hopefully I don't slip back into the way I was before, but if I do and you notice feel free to slap me right in the face and tell me to take some time off.