Last year, I spent about 6 months shooting, and posting to Instagram at the quality level and consistency of a professional, full-time “influencer.” While I’m proud of how great my content was, and while posing for dozens of photos constantly gave me incredible self-confidence, those 6 months just about ruined my mental health.
I started in December of 2017 and by June of 2018 I was completely spent. I can pinpoint the exact photo that marks the burnout. I posted it on June 8th of 2018. Up until this day I had been posting once a day, every day, like clockwork. I was spending hours on social media, commenting, liking, interacting to get organic likes on my photos up, and man were they up. I got 800-900 likes on a photo. Getting likes was like some sort of cerebral high for me.
Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t take it anymore. The next photo I posted came a month later. And after that, three months. I dropped off the face of the Internet in the blink of an eye. I went through such a ridiculous internal struggle with myself — wanting to keep up the beautiful feed and facade I had built for myself. My perfectly curated life online. But, I also wished it away. I also wished I had never “gotten a taste” so to speak.
It took me a long time to work through my issues with this. I know it seems superficial. It is superficial. They say that there are studies out there proving that high social media usage is linked to higher levels of loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. As someone who spent half a year living like an influencer, I can understand why.
The polaroid project…
When my sister came to visit for Thanksgiving last November, she told me about a friend of hers who had a polaroid camera. All their friend group knew that anytime they came over, the polaroid was free-for-all. The only rule was that it was to be used to capture real moments — nothing curated. No selfies. Candids.
He kept all polaroids, good or bad, and kept them in an album. Because of this, their friend group had documentation of their greatest, realest moments. Watching the sunrise at 5 a.m. after an all-nighter, staying in to drink on the couch and watch movies under tons of blankets.
They sounded like the kind of pictures I wanted.
I had an old Instax Mini camera from my college days still, so I started documenting. I adopted the same rules. My friend group quickly jumped on board. I ended up asking for a new instant camera for my birthday — the Instax Square — and I’ve been snapping as many photos as I can remember to take ever since.
I ecstatic that my photo collection is growing and our friends love coming over and looking back on our memories. Even though it’s only been 5 months’ worth.
Before and After…
There is such a stark contrast between my life and my photos during those 6 months I spent carefully curating everything and the photos I have from these past 5 months of trying to be as true-to-the-moment as possible. It’s not just about the way the photos look, but the feelings that they invoke.
These polaroids are the pictures I’ve been wanting. These polaroids make me feel some type of way. I hope that in the future I don’t ever abandon this hobby. I hope when I am old and gray I am drowning in polaroids, in total bliss.
I think I am going to start sharing some of them soon, with their back stories.