How to succeed: After 5 years on Instagram, this is everything I know to be true (and positive)….
For about a month now, I’ve scribbled thoughts about Instagram in my workbooks, on random pads of paper and even in notes on my iPhone. I’ve written little a-ha moments to myself, thoughts for others and creative ideas for the future. But, as I was reading back over all the notes, specifically for crafting this piece, I found myself reading what appeared to be a manifesto on a social media platform. Bizarre that, or is it? We are at a point in history where therapists’ offices are filled with people who are depressed and the new main culprit points right to our phones. Now, it should be said here and now that all thoughts you are about to read are my own. They have come from my own findings, as well as my own interactions with PRs, social media influencers and the general public. Trust me when I say that there is seldom a conversation in my life being had these days that doesn’t reference Instagram in some way. At the moment, it’s mostly about how the algorithm is ruining lives. How did we get to a point where we are letting a social media platform dictate how we feel about our lives based on what they decide to do from one day to the next with a mathematical equation?
Brace yourselves. I’m laying it all out here. Every thought, every emotion. But, I don’t think it will be what you expect. So, stay with me here until the end. There will be a few twists and turns, and a few suggestions, but I’m taking the high road. Are you ready? Let’s get stuck in.
How about we start this off as we intend to finish? Feeling good about Instagram. Truly, Instagram is a miraculous place. It’s an outstanding application that allows you to perfectly curate a world you want to see and share, down to the nitty grittiest of details. And guess what? You’re in charge of that world. Sure, there’s an algorithm that helps to define what you see on a day to day basis. But, that algorithm is also working off of what you like every second you’re on the application. It isn’t all that bad and certainly not the big hairy monster it’s made out to be if you really think about it (But, yes, it’s crappy when it comes to not letting you see all the posts you want to see… no arguing that and it needs to be improved. Instagram are you listening?).
That all being said, let’s now properly get into the meat of it all…
Over the past five years, I have been down two pathways of thought in relation to how I feel about creativity in posting on Instagram. The first road is simple to describe. This is the path in which everything starts to look the same. We are all looking at miles and miles of content daily as we scroll through Instagram. We can’t help but be influenced by what we see. The tables overflowing with food, the walls of flowers in coffee shops, the poses on beaches and the flat lays of makeup. At some point you just have to admit that you can’t exist on social media without being influenced by it and the end result has been a lot of accounts that look exactly the same. I call these the “vanilla accounts.” You know the ones. You could look at hundreds of them and, without a face in the frame, never be able to distinguish one from the next. The filters, colours, and even facetuning, are almost identical. But, the pictures are beautiful and they are accounts that are pleasing to follow, so we do.
The second road is the path to pursue, in my general opinion. These are the “groundbreaking” accounts. They are the people that you can pull out of a crowd with a single image. They are the ones providing inspiration for the vanilla accounts. They are the ones providing inspiration for absolutely everyone on Instagram. These are people that are taking motherhood, fatherhood, reading, writing, painting, dressing, decorating and more, to a level that we’ve never seen before. Their pictures aren’t always pretty, their captions can sometimes make you cry more than watching ‘Steel Magnolias,’ and their videos are often of the most brilliant everyday moments that everyone has but no one has actually ever captured before. The bottom line here is this – these are the people that make you feel something. These are the game changers.
You can be a game changer. All it requires is you just being you. It really is that simple. The vanilla accounts, in my opinion (and I mean no disrespect in saying this), are the people who are not here for the duration. They are a dime a dozen, truly. The game changers are the innovators and the pavers for the future of creativity. They are certainly going somewhere and fast. Be this person with your account. And here’s how to do that.
This is advice for everyone on Instagram, not just influencers or bloggers or blaggers. I truly believe this is, in equal parts, the trick to happiness and success on Instagram. Ready? It’s big. Actually, it should be the most basic advice of all time. It should be the first thing you thought of the moment you decided to even get into Instagram. Here we go, and I guarantee I’m about to tell you the same thing your mother told you on the first day of school.
Put your best foot forward. You can never ever be unhappy with your best effort.
This is true, so true. If you post anything, knowing that it is the best you can do, it has to be something that you yourself are proud of. And let it end there. And I’m serious about this. You need to let go of the constant monitoring of likes, comments and follower growth and allowing that to dictate how you feel about yourself. Just like all those body positive gurus will tell you, “you are more than just a number on a scale”. Replace ‘scale’ with ‘Instagram’.
Before we go any further, let’s just go ahead and say what so many people are already thinking – numbers these days truly mean absolutely nothing anyway. People buy themselves into Instagram fame. They buy followers, likes and comments (yes, apparently you can now write your own comments for other accounts to post so it looks like you have engagement). When the main tool we have as a measuring stick is something that can be purchased, we no longer have a measurement do we? Sadly, so many people, including big companies and PRs that pay these people because they have so much “influence,” don’t even understand that the vast majority of what we all think is real is actually just a giant facade. Please, please do not ever give into the pressure to buy your way into fame. If I can impart one piece of advice that you take away from all of this, I hope it is that. Not only is it costly to keep up this facade, but imagine how it must feel going to bed every night knowing you are a fraud. It must be terrible. But, more than anything it must be terrible to feel you need to do that to make a name for yourself. If Instagram were to disappear tomorrow, what would their lives be? And folks, we live in a digital age… it could happen. It could all just vanish.
Ok, now that we’ve kicked the giant elephant out of the room with the number frauds, let’s get back to you being your best instagram self….
It comes down to this: If you felt compelled to post a picture of a toilet paper roll on your bathroom floor because it meant something to you, well just post it! Do share with the world why it is that said picture is something that means so much to you, but swing it up there. Be random. Be totally random. The more random, the better. Be creative. Spend time thinking about what you want to share, whether it be with hundreds of thousands of people or a dozen. People are giving you space in their daily visual upload and I do believe you have to take some real care with that privilege. Don’t just throw up some second rate, non emotive photo that you randomly took and don’t really care about and expect other people to care about it. At the same time, don’t go copying the style of 12 people you follow on instagram, and expect your follows to get this random message you are displaying. Be you. You will define your own feed if you just stick to your guts and post what is unique about yourself. It’s really as easy as that, folks.
Now, saying that, there are a few tips and and tricks to making this whole picture world a bit more a pleasant space. I feel like people are so down on Instagram at the moment. And rightly so, as there are a hell of a lot bullies, bad people, trolls and individuals who do really want to bring the world down a level. They’ve always been there, they will always be there. It’s sad but true. So yes, you know who you are, you’re getting a mention here. If that is you, can I make a suggestion? A kind word goes so much further than a negative one. Leaving a positive comment can mean so much to an individual that it can completely turn their day around.
When Instagram first started, I used to look, every morning, at the hashtag #selfie. I made it a point to comment on 20 random peoples pictures to tell them how beautiful they were on that morning. I didn’t do this to get ahead. I didn’t do this to get them to follow me. I did this because I know the power of positive. It made me feel good making someone else feel good. And Instagram is a great platform for support. Give what you would like to receive. Throw positive comments out there like glitter and I promise you, your experience on Instagram will be forever changed. Also, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised by who you might meet.
Speaking of meeting, do meet people! Instagram is an incredible place to meet like minded individuals. Obviously, all the usual rules apply when meeting strangers. I know we’re all adults here, so you know what I mean. But, over the years, I have met incredible FFG readers in the most random places, as a result of Instagram. I’ve shared photo frames, cups of coffee, walks through Hyde Park and more with people I’ve met on the Gram. Hell, I even have a few people off Instagram that I’m sure will be standing up next to me at the altar one day should I ever choose to get married. It’s good to bring things to life. Not everything is meant to stay digital forever. Who knows? Maybe your future husband is a comment away. Just putting that out there.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper and talk a bit more about your community and the power you have in its creation.
So, this world you’ve curated can be pretty special. It can be the place you keep in touch with your friends and family as their life unfolds in fair off lands. It can be the place you follow a globetrotter who allows you to create dream boards for future travel. It could be the place you follow a celebrity, because you are an avid reader of People magazine but don’t want to wait weekly for the scoop. Instagram is your live life magazine. And here’s the great part- nothing at all is set in stone.
You get to choose every day who you follow and who gets to play a part in your life. You also get to unfollow people who don’t deserve to have your attention. And I do believe the best thing you can do for yourself is to be an incredible editor of the people who you give time to. Here’s my one and only tip on that, and a tip I apply daily and religiously. Do not follow people that give you a sucky feeling. Sorry for the crass word there, but it fits. You know what I’m talking about. These are the people whose posts you see that make you feel inadequate, jealous, sad or just generally not good about yourself. Your stomach is pretty good at telling you who the sucky people are. Unfollow them right now, even if they are your best friends. It is written absolutely no where that being friends with someone means you have to follow them on Instagram. And if they choose to give you a hard time about not following them on a social network, they aren’t worth having as a friend. Trust me on this one.
I still curate the people I follow on a daily basis and I’m harsh about it. That doesn’t mean I won’t refollow people in the future. It just means that when I follow or unfollow accounts, it’s what I want to see at that time in my life. Here’s a good example. At the moment, I’m not feeling great about my body. I’m not feeling bad about my body, but I’m not too keen on seeing bikini pictures on a regular basis from bikini bloggers, as a result. It is what it is. It gives me the sucky feeling. So, when someone goes to the bikini pics as their go-to share, I tend to unfollow them. I’m not into the whole showcasing of the perfect physiques these days. It just depresses me. And that folks, is as honest as it gets. At the same time, when I’m going through a real interiors phase, which I am right now, I follow interior designers by the dozens. After I do up my house and move on from that, chances are I’ll probably unfollow a load of people because I’m not as keen as I once was. Whatever I choose to do, I’m in control of what I see. I am constantly curating. I’m curating my happiness, just as some of us are curating our depression. BE BRUTAL! KILL THE SUCKY FEELING.
Ok, I can’t end this piece with the words, “kill the sucky feeling.” I know already I’m going to get some harsh critiques for not finding a classier word to use in its place. But, it is what it is and there isn’t a better word, let’s deal with that. So, instead of ending it there, I’ll end it here, with a single thought. And I do need to end it, as I could lecture forever. Alright here we go: Instagram is what you make of it. You will get out of it exactly what you put into it. I know that much to be absolutely true. So why not make it an incredible experience?