I still remember my first time logging into Facebook. Fall 2005, I was a sophomore in college and living in the dorms. Back when Facebook was only for people with a college email address. Everything was different then ... we spent hours on our computers, writing papers, researching, chatting on AOL instant messenger. Social media before it was called social media was for socializing or trying to figure out if that guy in your 10:00 am class had a crush on you or if he was just asking to study together to ace the next test.
Then I started this business and suddenly, people were messaging me on Facebook, asking for family photos. A wedding photographer. I was sharing photos and things started growing. I created my website and started a blog. I started an actual Facebook business page for my photography and it felt real.
Social media started becoming more about business and revenue and money-making instead of connecting. I mean, maybe it's still about connecting. But things started to change a few years ago for me, when social media strategy was a buzz phrase. The spreadsheets and the insights, numbers and graphs became overwhelming.
Then, two summers ago, I wrote this blog post about leaving social media for a little while. It was about 30 days at first. Then turned into about 60. All the while, I was knitting and quilting and doing embroidery and realizing that inside, I'm an 80 year old who wishes she lived in pioneer times with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I embraced it!
If I'm honest, I haven't been the same since.
During the 7 months between our engagement and our wedding, I had a few conversations with my husband about quitting social media. They mostly went like this:
Me: I think I'm going to quit social media.
Him: You know I'll support anything and everything you do. I quit Facebook 2 years ago.
Me: (Deactivating my Facebook account)
Him: I don't want to post about our kids on social media at all. How would you feel if you were 25 and found your parents' posts about your dirty diapers, your tantrums, your teenage years, etc?
Me: (Removing Instagram from my phone) I agree. I think I'm done.
I did a few Instagram stories about contemplating the idea and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Almost shockingly so. I contemplated it some more.
A month later, we went on our two week honeymoon adventure out west. I turned off my phone for much of the trip and removed social media and email from it too. The day my husband went out for a bike ride, I walked to the bookstore in town and did what an English major would do: I picked up about 20 books and read the back cover and the first few pages. The 4 books I didn't want to stop reading, I bought. Then I went to the restaurant next door and took a seat on the patio, telling the server, "I'm going to be here for about 4 hours reading. Don't worry about me, but can you bring a carafe of water and the hummus plate?"
The book I was reading? The Unsettlers by Mark Sundeen. Stories about non-conformists, sustainable living, being pioneers in a modern contemporary age. Going back to the land. Living without computers, smart phones, cars, electricity. It was well-written and honestly? I went back to our AirB&B, exclaiming that we should sell our possessions, buy a farm and figure out our lives. My husband was oddly in agreement.
No, we are not doing those things. But, it did shift something in me, causing me to do more googling about minimal living, organic farming, bringing the sewing machine out from the dusty second bedroom and starting to create again.
All of this combined with taking on a full time position with the nonprofit I did contract work for last year. This is the best decision for our family and for me. I came home from our weekly programs last fall to exclaim to my husband (notice a trend?), "You won't believe how magical today was!" and I'd proceed to tell him story after story. After a day or two of this, he reminded me that I hadn't been that kind of excited for a long while.
And I realized he was right.
Let me say this: this business has brought me immense joy, excitement, encouragement, pride and frankly, income, over the past 12 years that I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. I wasn't a kid who ever really dreamed about what kind of job I'd have when I grew up. I thought maybe I'd be a teacher. All I knew is that I loved books, I loved crafts, I loved being indoors and holding babies. I sort of fell into photography and was grateful enough to have a few mentors & family members who pushed & encouraged me along the way, through school and through these years of business.
The joy I feel holding a client's day old baby during their newborn session is comparable to the joy I feel when I'm elbows-deep in my garden, comparable to the smile that I can't wipe from my face when I'm watching a room of 40 adults and 40 kids meet each other for the first time, knowing they'll work together for the next three months, building a relationship that has the power to change both their lives. It all feels joyous and wonderful and magical.
These feelings are not the ones I have when I peruse social media channels or plan my Instagram posts for the month ahead. It doesn't feel magical to post about feeling magical when you feel everything BUT magical. The rollercoaster of emotions, of self-doubt and constantly feeling the need to check for comments and likes ... the comparison that creeps in feels the opposite of wonderful.
At my therapy appointment last month, I walked in and did not stop talking for a full 30 minutes. I strapped my therapist into my rollercoaster ride and after 30 minutes, she asked me if I was done. Because she had some things to say and one of them was this: you need to stop the chatter. Find calm. Meditate. This ride in your brain needs to slooowwww down. You are approaching burnout if you keep believing you can do everything. You cannot. Choose like 3 things and do those things well. And the comparison game? That stops if you stop it. If you remove the channels that lead to it.
I deactivated my personal Facebook page a few weeks ago. A client who I loved working with for their first child's one year package emailed me last week, announcing they were expecting twins and would I be available to photograph the newborns later this year? My heart skipped a beat! I was overjoyed and crying and doing cartwheels at my desk.
I realized that I would have known this news already, had I been on Facebook. She even mentioned not finding my personal page there. I felt about 5% guilty, then continued to relish the joy of her news.
If I'm honest again? I haven't felt that kind of sheer joy about news in a long while. Of course, seeing positive news on social media is exciting, but it kind of takes the fun out of a surprise. You feel like you're learning about it on the same level as everyone else and it feels less special.
Friends who have revealed their baby news in person is an experience I won't ever forget. Seeing my cousin's new baby in a group text outside of social media was so blissful. Looking through actual printed images in our wedding scrapbook feels so ... vintage.
But it also feels so right and makes me feel calm. I like the feeling of prints. I don't like the feeling I get when I realize I've been scrolling for more than 5 minutes.
If you've made it this far: congrats! Let's meet in person and I'll treat you to ice cream!
The last few years have felt a lot like Keeping Up with the Joneses, the Kardashians and all the things. It has to stop somewhere, sometime, right? And I realize that I'm really the only one who has the power and control to say when.
So, I'm saying it. When? Now.
I am quitting social media for an undetermined amount of time. I don't know the details and I'm not putting a deadline on it. I just know that I will keep my Facebook business page and my Instagram account on-line, but I won't be posting actively.
I do want to continue to write and tell stories of business, life and everything in between here. It feels a bit silly for me to hold an English degree and see a year between posts. Ooops! I want to share photos from sessions I've loved, bar & bat mitzvahs that I'm proud of and stories of my clients-turned-friends. They say that your website should be a place you showcase the work you love the most, and that's what I'd love to spend the next unforeseen amount of time doing.
And if I'm honest? I'm going to be getting my hands dirty in the garden, because you can't hold a smartphone and be in the dirt at the same time. I want to ride bikes with my husband before there is a child strapped to us somehow, to finally face my fear of coasting down a hill without riding the brakes. I have an embarrassing amount of fabric in our house that is aching to be made into something gift-worthy, beautiful and treasured. And the people who stood alongside us on that warm November day when we said our vows? They deserve to see our real faces and hug us in real time, just like we deserve the same.
This decision has not been one I've come to quickly or that I think of lightly. In fact, I've been writing and re-writing this blog post for over a month! Probably because it's not easy to say you're doing something different or choosing a new, unchartered for you, kind of path.
It's what's best for now, but it's maybe not forever? Creating this space in my phone, in my daily routine, in my business and in my life has lent itself to a lot more meditation and contemplation. Real life coffee meetups and beers cheersing to good news and new journeys. Farmers market mornings and game nights with friends.
[Listing those things makes it sound like I was on social media most of the day. And honestly? Now that I haven't been scrolling for a few solid weeks / almost a month, I look back and realize that I really was "online" for most of a 24 hour period. YIKES.]
I share this not out of wanting a high five or praise or attention, but just because I don't feel good about posting daily for months and then crickets. This is a story I want to tell and it's a story that's working for me now. Maybe it doesn't work for you and social media fills you to the brim with positivity, constantly! Or you use it as a business tool and that's it. Either way: you have a choice.
In the early years of my business, I had a bookmarks folder called BLOGS I LOVE. And I'd put in the blogs and websites of photographers, writers and makers I most admired. When I took to poke around and read what was new, it was like meeting an old friend for coffee, chatting and catching up in their warm living room. I loved it! I get such an energy from reading other people's stories and words. Throw in a few images that really resonated and bam! A winning combination.
I'd be surprised, delighted and honored to be found in your bookmarks folder. There are dozens of possible blog posts I could write, filled with images that mean the world to me. I want to show you vintage photos of my family side by side with photos of clients from today, to prove that literally nothing but the tool has changed. I want to talk about the struggles of solo business ownership, tips and tricks that have worked for me and how, only after 10 years of business, I finally feel confident to share my pricing because I realize, deep in my heart of hearts, that what I can offer is worth it.
Ultimately, I want this to be a space for positivity, hope, community, love and growth. And to showcase the idea that I've had written on our chalkboard for months: little by little, good things do grow.
See you soon, friends!