Why I left Instagram (as a business owner)

A few weeks ago, I permanently closed my business Instagram account. 

It was a decision I had been mulling over for months, but like a kid who can never escape the social pressures of junior high, I kept tuning in, kept playing the social capital game, kept trying to fit in to the Millennial-powered platform, and then, I pulled the plug. 

And it was the best decision I ever made. (Business hyperbole, of course)

Once I assuaged my guilt over leaving a platform that everyone told me should be the key to growing business, I reacquainted myself with my natural critical theorist and got to work. 

What was it that made me hate Instagram? 

Why was it so draining of my energies and my esteem? 

Why couldn’t I make it work for me in the same way that the proverbial everyone else could? 

If I were entrenched in the modern notions of the day, I’d preface my answer with a trigger warning>>>BRUTAL HONESTY IS ABOUT TO ENSUE. STOP READING IF YOU’RE NOT PREPARED TO HATE ME. 

But I’m not issuing that trigger warning. 

Instead, I’m extending an invitation to a conversation.

“Here are my thoughts on this,” I’m saying. “Maybe I’m flawed in some areas, and if so, let’s talk. But please, let’s not fight like two starving wolves over the last leg of dead buffalo.” 

Here’s my answer: I couldn’t find a way to break free from the vortex of personality-centered branding. 

  • The follow me and I’ll show you how to move past 4-figure months into 5, 6, or even 7-figure weeks.
  • The “I was lost, but now I’m found” origin story that turns my entire understanding of evangelism upside down. In my own worldview, I am NOT a Messiah, so positioning myself as such feels icky, to put it kindly.
  • The me-centric branding that subtly reinforces the power of female sexuality in a world that is desperately trying to push against that glass ceiling. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how or why female entrepreneurs continue to leverage their sexuality for profit. For those of us who are more modest, this line becomes a bit more blurry: We may not sprawl ourselves out in the most seductive pose and use an unapologetically sexually-nuanced post to draw in likes and comments, but we’re still forced to resort to physical imaging in ways I’ve yet to see the most successful male entrepreneurs do. 
  • The artificial authenticity that shows up through vulnerability posts, curse-like-a-sailor-because-I-can-and-I-do language, or the “personal” posts sent out to an audience that the entrepreneur doesn’t actually know because she’s scaled so large that she’s built a fortress of a team around her and doesn’t interact with the real-life entrepreneurs who have boots on the ground. 
  • And the finger pointing, tearing down, ripping apart of fellow entrepreneurs who happen to be a little too human in a quickly evolving world. . . because if we can create a bully-pulpit of entrepreneurship and place ourselves at the top, then people start talking about us, sharing our ideas, and elevating us to the top of the social circle. It’s Darwin’s social economics on full display. 

What I’ve seen (and experienced) out of social platforms is that they teach the singular premise that to have an audience, you have to do all the same things we teach our kids not to do in school. 

And I know that this isn’t completely true, because I’ve seen some of my fellow peers step into the social world and be highly engaged, highly authentic, and highly relational. But as I weighed my desire to be a relationship-centered business owner against the near-mythical call of a constructed world of social capital and network, I knew that my design. . . my very DNA. . . wasn’t structured to support my survival in the business world of Instagram. 

And here’s what I’ve come to believe since my departure: If you want to be a relationship-centric brand, then grab hold of the tree trunk and hold tight because you’re about to face some strong headwinds. 

Relationship-building is HARD WORK, and if you don’t quite believe me, just step outside of your social platform world for two minutes and think about the friends (and the audience) you have IRL. 

  • Do they know exactly how to connect with you? 
  • Have you created offers that are optimized for THEIR success rather than offers that have been scaled for your quick profit? 
  • Have you tuned in to listen to their definition of success, or are you defining it for them through the promise of 5, 6, and 7 figures? 
  • Are you peeling back the layers on the best (and worst) parts of who you are in order to connect? Or are you doing it to raise eyebrows, turn heads, and bait for clicks and likes? 
  • Are you so hyper-focused on being perceived as the expert that you’ve forgotten how to roll up your sleeves, trough through the mud, and help those you intend to serve? 
  • Are you a champion of genuine authenticity – the kind that makes space for others to grow and change, trip and fall, rise and expand?  

I predict that as we continue to traverse deeper into the third millennium, we’re going to continue to talk more and more about the need for authentic connection. We tend to talk about the things we need most in life, and because we’re humans, we tend to try to build easy paths to discovering those things, too. 

But there is no easy path to building relationships that last. 

One client of mine is a chaser. She sees the people she knows need help, and then like a lioness on a hunt, she creates moments of proximity until a connection is finally made. 

Sometimes, that connection takes moments. 

Other times, it takes years. 

But her mission is driven by her purpose, and she knows she’s been placed in this world to transform it through relationship. 

And I believe she isn’t alone. 

I think we’re all here for the central purpose of relationship. It’s the key to everything. 

Not carefully curated images. 

Not perfectly worded posts. 

Not personality-driven branding. 

Rather. . . relationship-centric branding. 

You first, me last: It’s the rule written into the very dust of our universe, and yet we continue to push against it, hoping that we can pull the apple from the tree and discover a magical pathway to riches and glory. 

And this is perhaps one of the greatest lies of modern entrepreneurship. 

There is no magical pathway. There is only connection, and if you can figure out how to spark that in a true, authentic way. . . then your success will truly be immeasurable. 

Over to you. What do you think?