When I was five years old, I would spend my school playtime in a quiet corner away from all the other children, reading my favourite book out of the book collection box. If I wasn’t reading Aesops Fables, I would stand at the side of the playing field and imagine I was running a sweet shop - all by myself. I didn’t need anyone else to play with, and I valued that break time between lessons as a time to explore the worlds of my imagination.
I’ve always known I was on the introverted end of the extroversion spectrum, even if I didn’t know what is was called back then. If you’re reading this, you probably think of yourself as an introvert too. We’re not anti-social, and we’re not necessarily shy - we just don’t need quite as much outward or social stimulation as some of our peers. I’m not going to spend the rest of this article defining introversion, but suffice to say, we simply need a bit more alone time to recharge.
Navigating Instagram as an introvert
On the face of it, Instagram and other social media platforms offer a wonderful opportunity for introverts: interacting with people from the comfort of your own home, in your bed, at random times of the day - what’s not to like? However, just because social media interaction is done via a screen, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be energy draining for us introverts.
For some of us, you’ll put just as much thought and energy into constructing a sentence on Instagram as you would when communicating with a person in real life. In fact, you might spend more time and energy, given that you’re probably hyper aware that your words are likely going to be read by multiple people. So, if you’re like me, it takes aaages to construct a post, or even a simple comment. I can spend 15 minutes agonising over a sentence, because I’m worried that I’m not getting my point across or that the recipient might take my comment the wrong way.
This thought and energy we put in, coupled with the fact that social media is always on, means that it can all get quite exhausting pretty quickly.
What can we do to succeed at social media as an introvert?
So what can we do if we want to build a social media presence, but don’t want to risk getting burnt out? Below I’ve written a few of the mindsets and methods I use to approach social media, in the hope that some of these might be helpful for you too. I can honestly say that these help me use social media in a meaningful way for me, and this means that I keep going with it.
Define success for you
Firstly, think about what ‘social media success’ looks like for you. This will be different for each of us. However, I wouldn’t recommend relying on metrics (e.g. ‘get 10,000 followers’) alone, because guess what?, you’ll just move the goal posts when you get there. Instead, think about how you want to feel when you use social media. Ask yourself:
How do I want to feel when I publish a post?
How do I want to feel when writing that post?
How do I want to feel when I interact and engage with others?
For me, this means feeling purposeful when I post, and acting from a place of sincerity and generosity when I comment and engage with others. I would rather make meaningful connections with a handful of people than get 100 likes on a post from people who are never going to tap the like button on anything else I do again.
Spread the love, one meaningful comment at a time
Remember that Instagram is a place where you get to form connections with your fellow human beings. This means ‘talking’ to people, not at them. You can do this in your captions, but where this will be really appreciated is when you take the time to have a conversation with someone - either by replying to their comment, or commenting on one of their posts. It sounds obvious, but this was a big lesson for me, and I am still working hard to practice it.
There’s still a part of me that feels awkward around what often seems like ‘making small talk with strangers on the Internet’. But I need to remember how great it feels when someone takes the time to comment on one of my posts, or respond to one of my comments. If I want that love, I need to be prepared to give that love back, ideally tenfold.
Meaningful engagement does take time and energy. I struggle with myself when I can’t think of anything smarter to say than ‘this is beautiful’, because my ego wants to offer something that sounds slightly more intelligent! But I kind of have to let go of this - people still appreciate it when you go to the effort of showing your appreciation for them. If I can act from a place of generosity and sincerity, I find my words come out more naturally. And even if the words are no more insightful than ‘your work is beautiful, thank you for sharing it with us’, I can feel okay because I meant it from the bottom of my heart.
Create a routine - for content and engagement
Apparently people like routine, and they like us to post consistently. So choose a posting routine that works for you and your life. If you can manage one day a week, then make the most of that time to share the best content you can, and try stick to a routine so people know what to expect from you.
It can also be a good idea to set aside specific time to intentionally engage with others on the platform. Establishing a routine allows us to mentally prepare ourselves and also build in a rest period afterwards. As we start to make a habit of it, posting and engaging both become easier with practice.
Allowing yourself time away from social media
My routine has built-in breaks from social media. I am not on Instagram every day, and I honestly don’t want to be (my life vision does not involve using social media every day). Allow yourself time off if you feel you need it. Build in breaks if you’re the kind of person who needs time to recharge. Your output and engagement when you do post will be so much better and more authentic for it.
My Instagram growth is definitely slower than others, but I don’t mind - because I value plenty of other things above speed of growth. I need my social media habits to be sustainable in the long run, or else I’m going to get burnt out and start building up resentment for giving away too much of myself. I would much rather stick to a schedule I feel I can manage.
What does social media success look like for you? If you’d like to share your experiences you can find me on Instagram or send me a message here. Also, I’ve written from my experience as an introvert, but I’d love to hear from any extroverts too - do you find social media challenging in the same way, or is it different for you? I’d love to know your thoughts :)